When a friend is struggling, I desperately want to do all I can to help.
I want to support them, to encourage them, and to remind them of our hope in Christ that I sometimes even lose myself.
I’d bet that you would agree with me here.
But how do we do this practically? How do we really help when someone we love is struggling?
For many of us, we get stuck on our desire to help and forget to open our eyes to what is truly needed.
And if you’re anything like me, you get yourself in situations where you’re spouting out advice that wasn’t asked for or offering up a short-lived answer that doesn’t help.
God knows our desire to help is there.
And yet when we jump into a friends discouragement with a “fix-it” mentality, they are often left feeling more alone and discouraged than before.
Job knew this feeling all too well.
In his immense suffering, his friends came to help. But their “fix-it” approach resulted in their arguing, scolding, and questioning Job’s heart.
And this left Job feeling more discouraged than ever.
"How long will you torment me and crush me with words?” -Job 19:2
This left Job to beg his friends to stop.
“Will your long-winded speeches never end? What ails you that you keep on arguing? I also could speak like you, if you were in my place; I could make fine speeches against you and shake my head at you. But my mouth would encourage you; comfort from my lips would bring you relief.” -Job 16:3-5
Our motives may be good, but how we act on those intentions has the power to cause more hurt than healing.
Job’s friends began by doing the right thing. They sat in silence for seven days, allowing Job space and time.
But the moment that Job opened his mouth, his friends were ready with their advice and their solutions.
All he needed was a listening ear. A word of comfort or encouragement as he sought to continue in his blameless ways.
Think about a friend that may be hurting in your life right now. Have you spent time with them, offering up a listening ear?
When we listen, we offer up the space to process the hurt.
In some of my darkest moments, I was too afraid to face my hurt alone. All I needed was the very presence of a friend to walk beside me as I opened doors to my pain.
Having a friend beside us to listen can bring us the courage to face the unimaginable.
When we do this for a friend we can listen to their hurt and pray silently for them as they process their pain.
When we listen, we create a space for God to heal.
I know that often I open my big mouth because I want to help heal my friends. I can’t stand seeing them in pain. I want to help. I want to heal. And so my words plow through the moment and often fall short of what my friend needs.
Our words to heal always will fall short because God is the only one who can truly offer that healing.
I’m not saying that God doesn’t work through us. He can take the words we say or write and offer tremendous healing.
But this can only happen when we are in touch with the Spirit’s leading and Scripture’s truth.
And there will be many times when there is no answer. When our understanding is too finite, too small, and we have to rely on the Lord to heal.
This is why it is so important to be in constant prayer, seeking the Lord’s guidance and the Spirit’s promptings.
The next time you seek to support a hurting friend, it is important to do these three things.
1.Pray that your motives would be pure and that your heart would be in the right place. Ask God to show you when to speak and when to simply listen. If you ever doubt whether or not to speak, it might be time to pray again.
2.Read Scripture, study Scripture and know Scripture. We have the opportunity to stand beside a hurting friend. We have the opportunity to help them to stand against Satan as they seek to offer their hurt to the Lord. It is so important to know the Truth when we are walking with a friend through a time of suffering.
3.Discern the Spirit’s prompting. Ask that the Holy Spirit would guide you and be prepared for the conviction to speak, but more importantly be prepared for the conviction to be silent and to listen. As we spend more time seeking out the Holy Spirit’s guidance in our life, we become more aware and more attuned to the convictions and promptings. Take time to grow in intimacy with the Spirit.
I have had many friends over the course of my Christian walk who have sat with me and listened to my deepest hurts. Those friends have been the ones to offer the space and time I needed to find my hope in Christ and to develop a trust and peace in the Lord that surpasses all understanding.
What have you done to hone that listening ear to help a hurting friend in need?
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