Helping Hurting Friends

(This post was originally posted July 27, 2007. It was corrupted when our site was hacked, deleted, and now reposted.)

Do you know how to be a source of spiritual strength to a friend or loved one who is going through a crisis?
None of us is exempt from the testing times of life! Unfortunately, too few Christians have disciplined themselves to become mentally, spiritually, and emotionally prepared for the tough times. They are a little too short-sighted to get it done. When things are going well, they don’t see the need for the kind of preparation that requires discipline. And when the crisis comes (and it will!) they are woefully unprepared! But, in spite of everything, the times of testing do come. And other Christians may need you to help them find the spiritual resources they need when they are going through the fiery trials. Frankly, nothing we can say or do can be a total substitute for someone else’s lack of personal preparation. But, if we ourselves are prepared, we can be instruments in God’s hands to help.
Do you know how to do that?
Here are some tips that may help.

Don’t Say Too Much Too Soon!

Often, especially in the early stages of a crisis, people aren’t ready for (and cannot absorb) teaching or instruction. They just need to know that we are aware of the crisis and that we care.
They may need for us to just let them “unload” in order to help them sort out their own confusing thoughts. It is good to be a patient listener during this time. Do not try to shut them up! If they make statements seem way out of line (e.g., rash decisions or accusations), just gently say something like, “I think you may feel differently about that later;” or “I’m not really sure that’s correct, but we can work that all out later;” or “I would suggest you give it a little time before you make that decision.”
Of course, as you listen, it is good to ask for clarifications and explanations. It proves that you care and that you are really trying to listen. If you say things like, “Wait a minute. I’m not sure I’m following you here. Say that again?” they will know you are trying to understand.

Pray Audibly with Them Right Away

One of the most powerful things we can do for someone who is hurting is to pray for them. Of course, many Christians say, “I’ll be praying for you.” It seems like the right thing to say. And as far as it goes, it is good. But it is even better when we say, “May I pray for you right now?” You can do that face-to-face or over the phone. It is good for them to hear your voice asking God for His mercy on their behalf. It also gives them a chance to get focused on God and to bring their situation to God themselves, as they agree silently with your prayer.

Begin the Prayer with Quietly Spoken Praise to God

Beginning with a time of quietly spoken praise to God is powerful. It helps both of you keep perspective. In your own words praise God for His perfect wisdom to know what is right and best, His perfect power to do what is right and best, and His perfect love that enables us to know that He cares about every detail of our lives. Praise Him for His constant presence.

Confess Our Inability to Understand Everything That Happens

Of course, God knows that we don’t understand everything yet. He wants us to learn to trust Him when we can’t understand. It is good, in prayer, to simply say that to Him. (e.g., “Father, You know that we cannot understand all of this. But we trust You. We trust Your love and wisdom… etc.”)

Pray Scripture!

This is so important! Praying God’s Words back to Him on behalf of someone who is hurting is incredibly powerful!
Of course, this means we will have to memorize the appropriate Scriptures! This takes time and discipline! But over a period of time, we can commit many of these verses to memory. Not only will God use it to help others, but those same Scriptures will be powerful in our own lives when we go through our own crises!
If you haven’t read the posts on Scripture Memory, now might be a good time to read them! The first of the three Scripture memory posts is here.
If you would like some help in finding appropriate Scriptures to memorize and pray during a time of crises, we have included some of these on our AboundingJoy web pages. You might find verses in the Fiery Trials pages especially helpful. Of course, these represent only a few of such passages. You may wish to us your Bible study software to find many others.

Provide Other Resources

At the right time (ask God for wisdom about the timing), it would be good to offer resources that might help your friend through the crisis. For example, you might print pages from the Fiery Trial section of our web site, or pages from other helpful web sites you might find. You might offer a page of Bible verses and encourage him or her to choose one or two to commit to memory. You may wish to offer a book written for people going through similar crises. You might offer a helpful sermon (tape, CD, DVD or mp3). There are times when a hurting Christian needs personal counsel from a well-trained Christian counselor. But most of the time, they need is a caring Christian friend who can help them develop a deeper appreciation and better understanding of God and God’s Word!
Why do we need to do all this stuff? Because God gave us this Word…
“Bear ye one another?s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” (Ga 6:2 AV)