Hi, my friends. Welcome back to Let’s Encourage One Another. Whether you are listening as you drive, as you do chores around the house, or as your little one naps, I appreciate the fact that you are here.
Before we start, I wanted to remind you that registration is open for the Mighty KidMin Conference. This will take place online on Saturday, April 24, from 11am to 8pm Eastern. It’s free to attend live, and then you have some great options to grab the recordings or VIP bonus pack.
I’ll be speaking at 6:30pm Eastern about Walking with Kids in Their Hurt. For those of you who don’t know, I was a children’s ministries director before I stepped away from that to focus on my work here at Love Does That. But honestly, I’ve been involved in children’s and youth ministry since I was in junior high: teaching Sunday school, leading small groups, serving as a youth director, leading Vacation Bible School and Arts Camp. And I’m so excited that I get to join these two passions together—kids and encouragement—and talk about how to love kids who are going through hard times.
If you’re interested in attending the conference, I’ll have the link in the Show Notes below. This is an affiliate link, so if you use it to buy any extras, you’ll support both the Small Church Summit and Love Does That.
If you have any questions, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. My name is spelled K-A-R-I.
Now, last week we talked about a few different ways to practice hearing God’s voice. And the reason it’s so important for us to grow in discernment is because we need God’s help when it comes to encouraging and caring for those around us. It’s not a one-size-fits-all answer. Our needs are different. Our personalities are different. Our situations are different. What would be encouraging for one person might be humiliating for another.
And so we come to God with a posture of openness for what would be most meaningful to our friend, and not just what is most convenient for us.
Now, in future episodes, we’ll talk more about how to encourage others when we have limited time and resources. But today, we’re going to explore some things we can do to discern God’s guidance when it comes to reaching out to a certain friend.
If you have a friend who is currently hurting, I invite you to keep her in mind while we talk, and see if God brings any insight or ideas as to how you can best care for her in this season of her life. And here, I am more focused on inner circle or middle circle friends—those we see regularly and do life with. So this isn’t necessarily someone we barely know. It’s someone we have some sort of relationship, whether that’s being family, or good friends, or someone you see every week at church.
Now, if I asked you to describe your friend, what would you say? Most of us would be pretty short in our response, commenting about a few key descriptors and then ending there. But I want to challenge you to push through that. Essentially, you want to think about everything you know about your friend—likes, dislikes, personality, schedule, and more—and I’m going to walk you through some questions to help you discover as much as you can.
But before we really even get started, I have to ask: Has your friend already expressed how she could use some help right now? Many times, our friends might have a hard time communicating their needs, but if she has already done so, I don’t want you to gloss over it. Start there. Has she asked for meals? Make her one. Does she need help getting her kids to practice or school? Can you help? If so, let her know. Does she need someone to come clean her house up a bit? Would she be comfortable letting you in? Maybe you can do that.
Sometimes I feel like we wreck our brains trying to find a way to care for our friend when the answer is right there in front of us. Let’s not make it too hard.
But, let’s say, she hasn’t communicated any needs to you. What do you do then? This is where we’re going to reflect on what we know about our friend and how we might support her during this time. If you have a piece of paper, you might want to jot some answers down. This will help at the end as you’re praying about the best way to reach out.
Question #1: What is she going through right now?
So for this question, you’re taking a look at her specific situation. How is she hurting? Did she receive an unfavorable diagnosis? Is she struggling with depression? Going through a divorce? Did she just get notified that she is being let go at work? Did she just become a caregiver for an aging parent? Does she have a child who needs extra help at home or school? Maybe she just lost a loved one—someone she wasn’t expecting to lose so quickly.
What’s going on? How has her life changed? Where does she need help right now? Write down as many details as you can about what life looks like for her right now in light of her struggle.
Question #2: What is her personality like?
Personality refers to those thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are special to our friend. It’s part of what makes her who she is. And these details can help you discern how to encourage her during hard times.
For example, does she like surprises, or not? If not, you probably shouldn’t throw a surprise party for her to cheer her up.
Is she more of a private person? If so, be extremely careful in what information you share with others.
Is she organized? Does she like to keep things tidy and clean? Does she like to get together with friends? Does she like to be inside or outside? Does she need time to think things through on her own or would she rather chat it out with a trusted friend?
All of these aspects of her personality can help clue you in to ways you can support her. They are details that matter deeply.
Question #3: What are her primary love languages?
Think back to the five love languages, from Gary Chapman: words of affirmation, physical touch, gifts, acts of service, and quality time. Love languages are ways we best receive love from others. Remember that though all actions can be helpful, some are more meaningful to us than others. So if my love language is quality time and a friend gives me a gift instead, it doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the gift. It just means it may not mean quite as much to me as maybe a coffee date might be.
Do you know your friend’s primary love languages? If so, that can help shape the way you care for her during this time.
For example, if one of her love languages is gifts, finding a meaningful item to give to her would be special and uplifting. It would communicate that you care. If one of her love languages is acts of service, then picking up groceries or making a meal would mean a lot to her.
If you don’t know your friend’s love language, I have an article on the website to help you figure that out. I’ll include that link in the Show Notes below.
Question #4: What are her values?
Values indicate what is important to her. And paying attention to these helps us determine extra special ways to support her.
Family is often a high value, so let’s use that as an example. If this struggle that she is going through makes it difficult for her to spend time with her family, then you could find ways to help her get more time with her husband and kids. Run to the grocery store for her so she can be at home. Take the dog to the vet so she can go to her kid’s soccer practice. Cook a meal for her so she can be with her family after the kids get home from school instead of being in the kitchen preparing a meal. See how that works?
Values are often shown through our actions. We prioritize what we value. So look at her life before this season of hurt came alongside and see where she spent her time and money. That will often indicate what her values might be.
There are more things we could talk about, but those four questions are a good starting point to help us discern how to help a friend:
- What is she going through right now?
- What is her personality like?
- What are her primary love languages?
- What are her values?
And then, we bring these things before God and ask, “How can I help her?” See if an idea or two come to mind. By practicing to hear His voice, like we talked about in the last episode, we become more sensitive to His leading in times like these, where we have a specific question we are bringing to Him.
Sometimes He’ll guide us in a certain direction. Sometimes He’ll just let us choose. I’ll say that many times when I’m reaching out to someone else, I don’t necessarily feel a leading to do it in one way or another. I just know I need to love them and help them know they’re not alone.
Other times, I might send a card that I didn’t necessarily feel Spirit-led when I was writing it. In fact, I might have struggled to find the right words to communicate my love and care, like a toddler trying to communicate something they don’t necessarily have the language for yet. I might have even thought, “This is silly. This won’t mean anything to them.” Yet I send it anyway, and what do you know, it was just what they needed to hear.
Don’t overthink this, my friends. Do your best to reach out in a way that will be special and meaningful to your friend, but don’t get paralyzed into inaction because you couldn’t find “just the right thing.” Just do something and let your friend know that she is not alone.
Until next time…
- Mighty KidMin! Online Children’s Ministries Conference (affiliate link)
- How to Encourage Someone Based on Their Love Language