Friends, it would be so nice to be able to offer you a simple checklist to follow when a friend is hurting. “Do this, this, and then this.”
But the truth is, every situation is different, and every person is different. What is comforting for one friend might be horrifying to another.
“Your friend’s situation is unique, so remember to approach her as a unique person. If she’s fiercely independent and stubborn, make gentle offers of assistance and be patient. If relationships energize her, arrange a lunch out with friends to lift her spirits. If she cherishes order and organization, perhaps you can love her best by cleaning and organizing her pantry or kids’ closets. Consider honestly the closeness of your friendship with her, and be careful not to force a level of intimacy with your offers of help that might make her uncomfortable.”Marissa Henley, Loving Your Friend Through Cancer
While I appreciate articles and tips found on the internet about how to help a grieving friend or someone going through depression or battling cancer, we must be in prayerful discernment about how to best show our support. There is no one best way.
Some people want you to ask about how it’s all going; others don’t want to talk about it at all. Some want help with meals and such, while others don’t. Some would welcome a visit with a friend, while others would prefer privacy and space to process and pray.
Questions to Consider
So as you prayerfully discern how to best support your friend, here are some questions to consider:
- What was your friendship with her like before she was diagnosed or experienced loss?
- What is her personality like? Does she value quietness and time alone, or does she constantly surround herself with family and friends?
- Is she good at asking for what she needs, or might she need some grace and patience as she figures that out?
- How much time did you spend talking with her or hanging out? What did those times look like? What might need to change now based on her situation? Get together more? Less?
- Does she like public displays of affection or care (i.e., hugs, big prayer meetings) or would she rather be more private?
As an introvert who is pretty private in nature, I probably wouldn’t take it very well if lots of people showed up at my door when I was sick or having a hard time. I’d much prefer cards, text messages, or emails from individuals, letting me know they were praying for me and thinking about me. That’s not to say God wouldn’t work in me to be more accepting of personal visits, but naturally speaking, I wouldn’t be fond of it.
Many people appreciate meals, which totally makes sense! It lightens the load around the house, especially when children are involved. But some in my family are picky eaters (including me, ha!), so this probably wouldn’t work as well for us.
Trust God to lead you as you care for your friend, and trust the role that He has for you. It may not seem like much, but every act of love is important.
“No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us” (1 John 4:12).
You can read about the Three Circles of Friendship that Marissa talks about on our previous blog post. It will help you determine how to respond based on your level of intimacy with the person who is hurting.