Hey, my friends. Welcome back to Let’s Encourage One Another.
Okay, so I’m starting this episode with a confession: I am a bookworm. I’m actually one of those nerds who, since 2015, has kept track of every book I’ve read.
Anybody else? Anybody?
My sister, a fellow reader, once sent me a cartoon with a caption that said, “Bookends? There are actually people who don’t own enough books to fill the shelf? Weird.”
There is no doubt that I have a soft spot for books. In fact, that’s one of the hardest things for me to say no to, when one of my kids asks for a book. I want to encourage a love of reading and learning in them, and so we have plenty of books around our house for them to read or look at.
So, as an avid reader, I wanted to share with you three of my favorite books when it comes to encouraging and caring for others. It is my hope that, if you want to learn more, if you want to dive into a specific caregiving situation or biblical truths about encouragement, that I can point you toward a resource that will help you do that.
Because, my friends, I don’t know it all. I don’t pretend to. And there are so many good resources out there that can help us do this encouragement thing well. I want to share some of those with you today.
Okay, so going in reverse order—I’m saving my absolute favorite for last—here are my three books I highly recommend about encouraging others.
Loving Your Friend Through Cancer by Marissa Henley
First is the book Loving Your Friend Through Cancer, by Marissa Henley. I was first introduced to Marissa when she did an interview on the Don’t Mom Alone podcast with Heather MacFadyen.
In both the podcast and her book, Marissa shares about her own experience of going through cancer as a mom. She gives you an inside peek as to what it’s like to have cancer and is honest about what someone go through might need from you—and what they might not.
And that is one of things I loved about her book. She is very honest and vulnerable. Because she shares not just as a cancer survivor, but she has actually walked alongside others who had cancer, and she did that before she got it. So she knew what her friends might be going through when she received her own diagnosis.
But amidst the honesty and vulnerability, she is also extremely compassionate and truly wants to help you, as the reader, go through this season well.
She starts the book with this:
“I’m so sorry you picked up this book. Can we start there? Let’s begin by acknowledging the reason you’re reading this. Your loved one has cancer, or you have cancer—or you fear you’ve made friendship mistakes in the past and you want to be prepared next time, because you know cancer won’t stay away from your circle of friends for long. I desperately wish no one ever needed to read this book—I hate cancer. But until we cure cancer or Jesus returns, we need to struggle through this together.”
One of the biggest points that sticks out to me from her book is the idea of circles of friendships, from chapter two. She shares that we have outer circle, middle circle, and inner circle friends. The closer the circle, the more intimate the relationship, and thus, the more personal of way we can support them. It’s all about knowing our role as their friend or acquaintance, and figuring out what that might be.
It’s important for us to keep this idea in mind when we think about caring for others. I can support my husband in a way that no one else can, simply because I’m his wife. My care can be more personal.
However, if I’m trying to encourage someone I barely know, my support will be more general: preparing a meal for them and dropping it off rather than bringing it into their home and eating with them. Do you see the difference?
In her book, she writes about how to love your friend through cancer—or really, any difficult season—by looking at their physical, practical, emotional, mental, and spiritual needs. I love the examples she shares. And each chapter ends with some reflection questions to help you figure out how to apply it in your own situation, plus action steps to consider as you get started. It’s amazing.
So if you have a friend who is going through a difficult season, I highly recommend you pick up this book.
The Art of Comforting by Val Walker
Second on my list of favorite books is The Art of Comforting, by Val Walker. I actually read this one first as a library book and then I think I offhandedly mentioned that I’d love to have it for myself, and my mom bought it for me. So sweet.
The subtitle of this book is What to Say and Do for People in Distress. I’ll be honest: the first thing I actually noticed about it were the deckled edges of the pages. As a lover of all things paper and books, I loved just holding it in my hands.
But the content… you guys, the content was so good, so practical. She covers topics like when people resist our comfort, speaking words of comfort, using art to comfort, compassion fatigue, and how to comfort yourself even as you comfort others.
Let me share with you one particularly helpful quote, though there are so many to choose from.
Val shares an example of when she was having a hard time and was talking with her friend Morna. She writes, “Morna offered me something that few professionals or lay people are willing or even able to offer: she allowed me to fall apart in her presence. She didn’t judge me, diagnose me, hire me or fire me, bill me, instruct me, save me, or heal me. She wasn’t trying to be absolutely unconditionally loving or saintly. She wasn’t even trying to make me smile. She just sat with me amid the mess in my kitchen, the mess in my life, and the mess in my heart. Unfazed by all this mess, she sat there and held it all together with her mere presence.”
You guys, I love that, because it speaks so directly to the power of just showing up and being there for our friends, without feeling the need to say or do anything but be present with them in their pain.
Okay, I said one quote, but I’m actually going to share another one. I like this one because it helps us understand our role as comforters.
She writes, “Think about what a cast or a brace does for a broken arm or leg. They hold the broken part of our body in place until that part can get strong and grow back again. They support and hold us together until we can stand up, or walk, or run again. A comforter’s embrace does the same thing, holding us together when we feel broken.”
She notes that comforting means “to be strong with.” And she points out that, as comforters, “we can help to bear the weight of our loved one’s distress.”
What a beautiful image, isn’t it? And it leads us right into our last book.
Becoming a Stretcher Bearer by Michael Slater
The third and final book is Becoming a Stretcher Bearer,by Michael Slater. You guys, this one is probably THE foundational book to me, the one that helped spark the call on my life to help those who are hurting.
My grandpa led us through this book in Sunday school back when we were in high school. I think it was high school.
Becoming a Stretcher Bearer speaks to the ministry of encouragement by using the story of the paralyzed man on the stretcher and his four friends who carried him to Jesus and lowered him through the roof so he could be healed. You can read that story in Mark chapter 2.
I loved the way that Slater used this Bible story and related it to our own ministry of caring for others. It got stuck in my heart, this idea of carrying our hurting friends to Jesus. We are stretcher bearers.
And if you’ve listened to the podcast or heard me speak before, you know I often quote Michael Slater: “To hurt is bad enough, but to hurt alone destroys people physically, mentally, and spiritually.”
That, my friend, is really the heart behind this podcast. The heart behind Love Does That. We want to make sure that no one hurts alone, that they have someone to walk with them through their season of grief and heartache.
That’s why I offer spiritual direction to women who are hurting, sitting with them in the questions and the silence.
That’s why I want to equip you to walk with a loved one who needs your compassion and support. I do that through this podcast, and also through the Courageous Care Masterclass—which is now available. You guys, don’t wait to grab that. You can get the basic class and go through it on your own or you grab the class and a one-hour 1:1 call with me to learn even more and make sure you know how it all applies to you and your season of life and your relationships. I would love to talk through that with you. Just go to lovedoesthat.org/care and get that.
I don’t want any one of you to walk away from here feeling like you don’t have what it takes to help someone else, because you do. God will equip you. He will strengthen you for the task. He will give you the courage you need, the knowledge you need. Trust Him in that and reach out to your friend.
So grab the class, but also grab this book by Michael Slater. If you can. I actually have the version that came out in 1989, but there’s a newer one that was retitled The Stretcher: Bringing Hope and Healing to a Broken and Hurting World. I’ve tried to order that, but it never actually shipped, so… try to get it if you can.
I have the titles for all three books in the show notes below. I encourage you to find a copy at your local bookshop. I’m all about supporting small and local businesses when we can.
If you have a favorite book about encouraging others, I’d love to hear it. You can share it in the comments on my Facebook or Instagram post, or just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One more thing before we go. I want to let you know that this Friday, September 10, Laura Howe from Hope Made Strong is hosting her Church Mental Health Summit. It’s free to attend live. There are so many incredible speakers lined up, I really don’t know how I’m going to choose which ones to attend.
If you’re in church ministry or leadership, or if you have a heart to learn more about supporting those around you who are hurting, I would love for you to join me in attending this summit. You can grab your ticket at lovedoesthat.org/mentalhealthsummit. That’s an affiliate link, so if you happen to upgrade to grab the recordings, you’ll support my ministry here at Love Does That as well as Laura’s work at Hope Made Strong.
Okay, that’s all for today. Thanks for being here with me, my friend. Until next time…
ARE YOU READY TO C.A.R.E. COURAGEOUSLY?
Grab the Courageous Care Masterclass at www.lovedoesthat.org/care.
- Book: Loving Your Friend Through Cancer by Marissa Henley
- Book: The Art of Comforting by Val Walker
- Book: Becoming a Stretcher Bearer by Michael Slater
- Podcast: Don’t Mom Alone episode 235, Supporting a Friend with Cancer
- Church Mental Health Summit from Hope Made Strong (affiliate link)
Friend, I’d love to encourage you as you encourage others. Here are two ways to get started:
1. SHOP ENCOURAGEMENT + SYMPATHY GIFTS
These are prayerfully-crafted gifts you can share with those you love as tangible expressions of care. Let your friend know she is not alone.
2. SCHEDULE A SPIRITUAL DIRECTION DISCERNMENT CALL
Interested in spiritual direction? Schedule a complimentary Discernment Call where we’ll talk about what’s weighing on your heart and identify next steps you can take to discern God’s direction.