I don’t care who you are, or what your story is, you will eventually find yourself in a tough time. When that happens, you will learn for yourself what support from others is appreciated, what is not, and what support you would have loved to have received. You can then ask yourself; how do you best feel supported in hard times?
Until that day, you may find yourself wondering what you can do to support others, especially during difficult times. A good support system can make an incredibly hard situation so much more bearable. When others come around you in times of difficulty, you know that you are not alone. That is what community is for.
RELATED POST: Why is Church Community Important?
Simple Support in Tough Times
Recently, I have been in the position to receive support from others. This is the first time in my life that I have been on the receiving end of this, and I tell you, I am learning a lot. A lot of what I can do better next time. A lot of what I’ve done so wrong in the past.
My husband, Bruce, just had the second of three surgeries that he will have in a six-month period. This one though, has put him in bed for six weeks. He can use crutches, but because of the next surgery he has yet to have, it is excruciatingly painful. This has left me to manage it all – the household, the kids (and their education), taking care of all his personal needs, and running shuttle to and from all the kids’ activities on my own. I am stressed, worn out, and stretched thin.
I don’t know what I would do without those who have checked in and helped out. It is from their examples that I have learned how to be better when the roles are reversed.
What is Practical Support?
Practical support is simple support that helps in a tangible way. This might be physical or emotional, there’s no real rule that you need to follow.
Not knowing what to do is sometimes the biggest culprit in holding back from supporting a friend. In these times, God has told us to ask Him for help in figuring it out.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5
If you are still stuck, hopefully these ideas will trigger your creativity in practical support:
1. Show Support by Listening
Sometimes, the greatest support you can show a friend is to just shut up and listen. As women, many of us process by talking it out. I know that when I am going through something hard, talking about it over and over helps me to sort through all of my thoughts and feelings on the subject. And sometimes, it’s just nice to know that you’ve been heard.
What this does not mean (and honestly, this is where I really struggle when “listening” to my friends), is interjecting with unwanted or unsolicited advice. Sometimes that advice can be nice, but mostly it’s just annoying.
This also does not mean interjecting your own experiences or scary stories. My husband, who just had his knee operated on, does not need someone telling him about their aunt’s neighbor’s cousin who was laid up for a year before fully recovering. It does not help in any way, shape, or form. (Truth be told, for him and his anxiety, you’ve now made the situation 1,000 times worse.)
Sometimes listening can be a lot. I had a friend unload something big on me recently that took me days to process (actually, I think some of that processing will go on for a while). This can be really hard to bear. But please know, you can process with the Lord. You are not alone, and now your friend knows they are not alone as well.
Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2
2. Show Support by Validating Their Pain
Knowing that someone else can see that what you are going through is hard can be super calming. When others recognize that you are in a tough time, you feel less alone.
Personally, I know that when someone verbally acknowledges what we are going through, or when they give weight to the situation, I feel seen. With the right level of gravity, I know that I am not exaggerating my situation, that it is not all in my head. When someone tells me that I have a lot on my plate, I feel justified in my stress and exhaustion, and I feel free.
3. Show Support by Praying
Prayer might seem like a small thing, but it’s quite the opposite. Lifting up a friend in need to the Lord is the greatest thing you can do because He is far more capable than you are. Sometimes we are in a situation where we can’t do more, and that’s okay. Prayer covers all.
This does not mean responding in a Facebook thread that you are praying for them (with all the appropriate emojis), only to keep scrolling without a whisper of a prayer on your lips. Prayer is not a simple platitude. If you say you’re going to pray, pray. Better yet, type your prayer out for them in the comment itself. I have seen this done many times, and I have always found it personally encouraging, even if the prayer was not meant for me!
If at all possible, pray over your friend in person. Sometimes this can be a bit scary, especially if you are not used to praying out loud. But there is nothing like a friend (or friends) laying their hands on you in prayer.
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people 1 Timothy 2:1
4. Show Support by Making an Effort
I have long felt that my true love language is not one of the common 5, but instead is any time effort is made. When someone goes out of their way to make me feel important or known, it sincerely touches my heart.
This can look like so many different things:
This one is easy. Showing your support to a friend in need can be as easy as a text or a phone call to ask how they’re doing. By this simple action, you are acknowledging that they are going through something and that they are not alone.
A couple of days after Bruce’s surgery, a friend dropped by with pastries for our family. She didn’t stay long, but that simple (and super yummy) act of giving told us that we had been thought of.
When a close friend lost her dad, I didn’t know what to do, or how to show her that I cared. She is one who retreats in her pain, and likes to process alone. But I knew that I needed to show up. So, I made an excuse to stop by (I went to Costco and filled up on all of their premade meals to drop off). When I got there, her mom and sisters were there and they were expecting the man from the funeral home at any moment, but that quick drop off allowed me to give her a hug that brought us both to our knees. I will never regret showing up that day.
Being present with another in their pain tells them they are not alone. It doesn’t have to take a chunk out of your day. The alternative is staying away out of fear of not knowing what to do, and there is no support in that.
Sitting in Silence
This one can be the hardest, and yet it is so simple. Sometimes all that is needed is for a friend or a loved one to sit with you in silence.
My sister’s closest friend just lost her son in a horrific way. Sobbing, my sister called me the next day on the way to her house. She was at a loss for how to help the friend she loved so much. What are you supposed to say in these circumstances? You say nothing.
Sometimes, the only thing we can do is to sit with a loved one in their grief. My sister did just that. She showed up, and sat. Sometimes they spoke and shared their thoughts and hurts, but mostly they sat together in numbing silence.
5. Show Support by Creating a Safe Space
Ever hear somebody say that it’s not okay to judge? Well, I’m not sure I agree with that. I believe that the Bible is very clear that we are to judge for ourselves the difference between right and wrong. And we should be able to judge what is right and wrong in others.
I think the better rule to live by is to not condemn. Condemnation is not our responsibility in this world. Ultimately, we have all been condemned to eternal separation from God without the saving grace of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. But it is not our place to condemn someone else because we are under some disillusion that their sin or situation is worse than ours.
When someone you know and care about is struggling because of choices they have made, be that safe place, void of condemnation. Give them someone they can trust. If the timing is right, and you believe it would be well received, encourage them to surrender their situation or choices to the Lord. But do so without the self-righteous arrogance we Christians unfortunately tend to portray.
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:10
6. Show Support by Serving
This is the one we all think about when we think of how to support a friend. We tend to think in terms of “what can I do?” There are many ways that you can do this, however I have found that it helps if you are specific in your offer to help. When someone asks me to let them know if there is anything they can do to help, one of two things happens. I am either too stressed or emotional to try of think of something they can do, or I am not sure what their threshold is and I don’t want to burden them by asking too much.
Rather than asking generically, offer something specific such as making a meal (or organizing a meal train for that matter), offer to take or shuttle their kiddos, or to do their grocery pickup. If those aren’t needs of theirs at the time, they now know what you’re willing to do. It is much more probable for me to reach out to someone who has given me a specific offer than to someone who has thrown out a generic one.
Make sure though, that you offer to do something that you are willing and capable of doing. There is nothing worse than counting on someone in a time of need, only to have that person flake on you.
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace 1 Peter 4:10
7. Show Support by Offering Encouragement
Who doesn’t like to be encouraged? Okay, well some have a harder time with it. But overall, we all long to be picked back up when we are down. But encouragement is not the same as empty platitudes.
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11
An encouraging word can come in person, via text or phone call, or through a note dropped in the mail. Often, we wonder what to text someone going through a hard time, or what to say to comfort a friend. Honestly, it doesn’t have to be profound, almost anything will do.
I prefer to send encouraging scriptures, but I rarely know exactly the right one off the top of my head. When that happens, I turn to my trusty friend, Google. These are some of the search strings that I use:
- Encouraging scriptures for women
- Bible verses about hope in hard times
- Short encouraging bible verses
Or, you can visit this site for a fantastic list of encouraging verses –101 Encouraging Bible Verses – Uplifting Scripture Quotes (biblestudytools.com).
When I send a short message to someone going through a hard time, a few of the encouraging verses I typically use are:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” Isaiah 43:1b-3a
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us Ephesians 3:20 (NKJV)
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3
8. Show Support by Remembering
I recently attended the funeral of the young man that had passed. This was one of the saddest days that I have ever had to endure, and I didn’t even know him personally (or at least not since he was a young blue-eyed, dimpled-faced boy). I was only there to support my sister and her kiddos who were close to the deceased. The large church sanctuary was packed, people coming far and wide to support the family, and to mourn such a tragic loss to the world.
The pastor got up and spoke at the end of the service, encouraging those gathered there to remember this grieving family….to not forget their pain. To me, what he said was profound….an “aha moment” if you will. He explained that many show up in those days leading up to the memorial service. For many, that service means closure; however, that is not usually the case for the family. Those days, weeks, and months following the service are the quietest and loneliest that they will experience. When everyone else’s lives go back to normal, and they begin to move on, it’s easy to forget those who are still drowning.
So don’t forget. Remember those in tough times, especially when they get quiet. If you notice that you haven’t heard from them in a while, reach out.
Even Paul, stuck in his prison cell, made a plea to the Colossians to not forget him:
I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you. Colossians 4:18
9. Show Support by Sacrifice
It’s not easy to be a good support person. Sometimes the support requires a sacrifice on your part. That sacrifice might require your time, energy, money, sweat, patience, or any other piece of you that’s not easy to share.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus Philippians 2:3-5
The sacrifice will not go unnoticed, I promise. If the person you are sacrificing for never knows the depth of your gift to them, God will know. And that is greater than any recognition here on earth.
“Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38
10. Show Support by Knowing When to Involve a Professional
Sometimes the greatest support that you can show others is by knowing when you are not enough. If there is a need for a physical doctor to intervene, refer them to one and offer to go with them if necessary. If there is a need for a licensed counselor or psychologist, help them find someone reputable.
It is important to know though, that even if you’ve referred them to someone more qualified than yourself, your friend is still going to need your support. Do not abandon them like a problem that you’ve just taken off of your plate. Make sure they know that they are still important to you, and that you still care.
What about you?
Personally, when I am struggling to support a friend in need, I find that I need support as well. This is the point of community, isn’t it? Supporting others, who are supporting others, who are supporting others?
It is okay to reach out to your own support system when you are supporting someone else. It is okay to ask for prayer when going into a heavy conversation. I did this myself some weeks back. I was heading to a friend’s house to talk about something going on in her life, and I knew it would be a really hard conversation. In fact, I had been on my knees about it all morning long. I knew I needed a larger prayer support but didn’t want to betray confidences to any mutual acquaintances.
I reached out quickly to a friend in another town and asked her to pray. Then on my way out the door, I received a text from an old friend whom I haven’t spoken to in years. This friend was showing up, texting me encouragement, and promising to pray for my husband’s upcoming surgery. Boom, there it was. I said okay God, and I took the opportunity to ask her to pray for this big conversation as well. And I know that she did. I didn’t need to give either one of these women any details. But they supported me, so that I could support another. This is women supporting women, the way that God intended.