Over the years, I’ve faced more than a few dark days and difficult moments. In fact, I’m currently struggling through a difficult season in my life that shows no signs of improving. I have some truly wonderful friends, and I’ve been blessed by their support and love.
However, one thing that I’ve noticed in my life is that people don’t always know how to support people going through tough times. At times, even the best intentions can sometimes lead to the wrong word or action. So I’ve put together a list of a few ways to help a struggling friend in the hopes that it might help someone else.
- Acknowledge the situation. Sometimes the best thing that you can do for someone is to sit down next to them and say, “Well, yes, this does suck.” Don’t try to pretend that everything is happy and perfect. (This can often backfire on you.) Don’t just sit there and offer platitudes. Often when I’m dealing with a hard situation, the most helpful thing that anyone can do is what my roommate did last Thursday night. She laid down on the floor where I was already sprawled and said, “Well, this sucks.” This shouldn’t be the only thing that you do, but it’s a good place to start.
- Find out what your friend needs and wants. You may know your friend well, and you may be well acquainted with their situation. However, sometimes it is worthwhile to ask what they need or want. Odd as it might seem, the friend who offered to go with me to get my nails done and eat dinner with me did a lot more towards comforting me in my sadness than the friends who’ve promised to pray for me. I love knowing that others are praying for me, and I know that the prayers will do me good. But in my current state of mind, the person who sits down next to me and spends time with me (even if they don’t really say anything) is fighting on the side of the angels.
- Acknowledge their love language and use it to your (and their) benefit. My love language is acts of service followed fairly closely by quality time. For me, it means a great deal if someone does something for me. For example, I felt very loved recently by someone who told me to take a break from what I was doing to focus on something else that was consuming my thoughts. Maybe your friend’s love language is gifts. They might really appreciate a small gift that acknowledges that you notice them and that you care about them. Find a way to show your friend that you love them.
- Be there. You might live far away. You might be busy. But find ways to make sure that you are available to your friend in whatever ways you can be. For me, nothing is more painful than when I’m struggling and I’m reaching out to people for help but no one reaches back. Make sure that your friend knows that they are valued and that they are not a burden. You may not know what is going on in your friend’s head. You may not know what the brain weasels are telling your friend. But please please please try to help your friend in his or her fight against the brain weasels. (They’re a lot like Wormtongue.) Brain weasels are truly terrible things, and in my experience, they are almost impossible to ignore. They’re lying liars, but they’re really good at convincing people that they’re telling the truth. And one of their favorite lies is “You’re alone,” which they follow up with “No one wants you.” Please please please make sure that you (and others) are combatting those lies in your friend’s life.
For those of you who are trying to help your struggling friends, thank you. They may not say that, so I will. You may not see the immediate impact of your actions, but I believe that you will someday. Above all, just keep loving your friend. They need it-probably more than you can understand.