How to Help Someone in a Hard Time
by Craig Gurr - Family Pastor
As the Family Pastor at Harvest, I spend a lot of my time talking to, visiting, and praying with people that are going through difficult seasons. For some, this could be a terminal illness; for others, it could be a major surgery. A trial can range anywhere from a hip replacement to a devastating cancer diagnosis. It could be a drug addiction or a broken relationship or having someone close to you walk away from the Lord.
It's highly likely that you or someone you are close with have endured a trial. In fact, you may know someone going through one right now. And you might be asking yourself - What can I do? How can I support them through this? You might look at their situation and think that there is little you can do to help. While it might seem intimidating, let me assure you that it's much easier than you may think. Here are four steps to help your care for someone during a crisis:
1. Be there for them.
The most common thing I notice during visits is people feel alone. They think they have all these friends and family around, but when tragedy strikes, nobody seems to reach out. It often gets to the point that the trial itself takes a back seat to the loneliness and confusion of answering the question, "Where did everybody go?"
So, with that said, the first thing I'd encourage you to do is just be there. Remember that they are in pain; they are the one that is hurting and the best thing you can do is simply be there. Don't worry about fixing the situation or saying the right thing - just be present. Find out when you can go visit them and make it happen. Remember the crisis is not about you, so simply go visit and love them while relying on the Lord to provide hope.
2. Encourage them with God's Word.
Okay, so you know that you need to be there, but what do you say? Many people have communicated to me that they are afraid to go and visit a loved one because they don't know what to say. They think they need to have the perfect words or the perfect gift. Listen - the best gift you can give them is your friendship and the best words you can give them is from God's Word!
Now, using God's Word to encourage someone doesn't mean having five different verses you found pertaining to your friend's specific crisis and then clinically reading them out loud to your friend. What it means is preparing your heart by being in God's Word before you make the visit. When we see someone struggling, we want to provide hope! The only way to provide real, lasting hope is to show them that their only hope is in Jesus Christ. And there's no better way to do that then to direct their eyes to God's Word!
Here are some verses that I have found helpful during times of suffering:
Philippians 4:4-9 - Lays out a roadmap for how to handle anxiety and stress.
Romans 5:1-6 - Shows us how suffering can produce hope.
1 Corinthians 10:13 - Believe it or not the problem at hand is common and God will give you the strength to endure it.
3. Stay there with them.
"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man, God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." 1 Corinthians 10:13
Your loved one may be tempted to give up or lose hope during their trial. Be the friend that stays there to help them endure. Romans 8:28 says, "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." Be the friend that reminds them that God has a purpose for the difficult circumstances we may face.
How long should we stay there with them? The reality is that sometimes a trial can last a long time. John 13:34 says "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another." Jesus loves you. And He calls us to love each other like He loves us. And part of that means to love with patience. Be patient just as Christ has been patient with you. Be the friend that breaks through and continues to show Christ’s love regardless of how long the trial goes!
4. Pray for them.
"Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer." Romans 12:12
Prayer is the most important thing you can do for a friend during a trial. Unfortunately, we have a very bad habit of minimizing prayer. I can picture a Facebook post right now where someone is posting an obituary and it is followed by a stream of "Praying for you" replies, Of course, it's comforting to know that an army of people are praying for you. However, there is a big difference between saying, "I will pray for you" and "I just prayed for you and I love you".
It's also important to ask them how we can be praying for them. We have a tendency to get lazy with our prayers and we forget that God wants to hear them. We need to cry out to Him with a desperation and expectation that He will answer them. Then we can model this and pray with our friend. Be bold and cry out to the Lord on this behalf!