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10 Ways to Show a Suffering Friend You’re There for Them

10 Ways to Show a Suffering Friend You’re There for Them

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends…” (John 15:12-14)

Community and friendship are not only important parts of human life, but of the Christian life. The closer we grow towards others, the more likely we are to experience their burdens alongside them. Jesus calls us friends, and commands us to love God and each other. Loving our friends is important when they suffer.

May we have the faithfulness to lay down our lives for our friends when they need us the most. Without being asked, or needing recognition, let us be the kind of friends Jesus set us in each other’s lives to be. Loving and kind, trustworthy and faithful, servant-hearted and compassionate.

Here are 10 ways to show a suffering friend you are there for them.

Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Prostock-Studio

  • Two women having a serious conversation

    1. Listen

    “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15)

    When a friend is suffering, sometimes the greatest gift we can give them is an attentive ear to listen. Instead of allowing our minds to jump ahead with advice and well-meaning condolences, simple stillness and quiet as we hear what they need to say can be comforting and healing. It’s a comfort to feel heard and loved regardless of the situation at hand. The love of God has the power to permeate any and every moment of suffering. There may not be anything we can say to our friend or do for them to lessen their pain or improve their state. We may not understand what they are going through, be able to relate to their pain from our own past experience, or provide advice from our own journey, but we can always lend a listening ear with the intent to ensure our friend knows they are loved and heard.

    2. Pray

    “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him and who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:26-28)

    Prayer is powerful. God promises He hears and answers our prayers. He knows our hearts better than we do. In fact, when we don’t know what to say, the Bible reminds us the Holy Spirit translates our cries for help to God! When we tell a friend who is suffering that we will pray for them, it’s important to follow through.

    So often we say we’ll pray as a comforting sentiment, but lack the follow-through to storm the gates of heaven on our friend’s behalf. Instead of informing a friend we’ll pray for them, stop and pray immediately. From then on, remember to pray each day, and every time we think of them.

    Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Prostock-Studio

  • 3. Speak Life

    3. Speak Life

    “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

    People endure all different kinds of suffering, from physical pain to mental anguish, reeling from loss and frozen in fear and doubt. One way to battle the weary effect of suffering is by speaking life to our friends. We can ask God to give us verses of Scripture to pray for our friend, and send those words to them via call or text.

    When we go out of our way to tell our friends why we appreciate them, and list the wonderful attributes about them, it can break through their pain for a moment and give them hope. We can’t always changes someone’s circumstances, but we can always speak love over the people God has placed in our lives. When people are in pain, as Christ followers it’s our job to be Jesus to them. He loves others through us.

    4. Communicate

    “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:1-4)

    God is faithful to comfort us, through time in prayer and through seeking Him in Scripture. But we aren’t just meant to consume comfort. It’s reciprocal. We love, because we are loved. We forgive, because we’ve been forgiven. When our friends are suffering, it’s important to keep the ebb and flow of conversation and communication going. When someone is sorrowful, they may not reach out to us to let us know exactly what is going on or how they are doing. Some feel they are a burden to others, and others may not want to lay their burden on others who may worry about them. It’s important to take the initiative when we know someone is suffering to keep in touch with them as they travel through a hard season. Phone calls, face-time, texts, even letters. God will always be honored in our efforts to make sure our friends know they are loved, especially in seasons of suffering.

    Photo Credit: © Getty Images/gpointstudio

  • 5. Move

    5. Move

    “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

    Communication is important when friends are suffering, but so is movement. Jesus called us to “go!” The gospel isn’t just the word of God, it’s the way we bring glory to God with our everyday lives. I remember when a friend of mine called to tell me the terrible news of her house catching fire in the middle of the night. Listening and encouraging in a moment of heartache and suffering like that is important, but so is action.

    We as a community started to move on her family’s behalf, collecting donations and providing for their physical needs. There are many different seasons of suffering that call for various missions of movement, such as elderly neighbors who are suffering from loneliness need visitors. During a pandemic, we may have to get creative, but we still have to find a way to move.

    6. Remember

    “The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.” (Psalm 9:9)

    When tragedy strikes, we often jump to the scene of suffering and move into action. But as time moves on and the next wave of suffering strikes, we forget to circle back around and remember those who are still in seasons of long-suffering. Some people may hang around on our prayer list for months and years on end. Let’s not just stop there.

    When we pray specifically to God about how to help the people in our lives who are suffering, He is faithful to guide us. It’s important to remember to keep praying, because prayer is perhaps our most powerful weapon in the war we wage against suffering. Faithful prayer on our friend’s behalf will lead us to our next steps in reaching out to our friends when they are suffering.

    Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Silvia Jansen

  • holding hands offering peace in injustice

    7. Service

    “Give me a sign of your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame, for you, LORD, have helped me and comforted me.” (Psalm 86:17)

    There are many things we can do to serve others while they are suffering. I know a mom in my neighborhood who went grocery shopping for several families while they were in quarantine during the pandemic. Another man I know offered a friend a ride to work each day while he didn’t have a driver’s license to get there on his own. If we are open to hearing God’s call on our everyday lives, we will begin to notice those who need our acts of service. The local church always has a food drive to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, and minister to those in need, both locally and globally. The pandemic has made all of those things a little different, but they are still happening. People are still serving those who are suffering. Jesus calls all of us friends, and we are called to help friends in their suffering.

    8. Faithfulness

    “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17)

    Faithful friends are hard to come by. When we get caught up in trouble or become a burden in our suffering, sadly many of our friends fall by the wayside. But there will always be a few who will remain. There is a woman in my Bible study group who has stuck by her friend who is going through a season of long-suffering. She has faithfully asked all of us to pray for her, kept us updated on her situation, and let us know how we can specifically reach out to help and support her. When we can come alongside someone who is dealing with a season of suffering society deems unworthy or shameful, we are operating in the love and light of Jesus Christ. He came to save and seek the lost. When we stick by our friends faithfully through seasons of suffering, it’s not only our friends who feel His love, but many others witness His light in our lives.

    Photo Credit: © GettyImages/fizkes

  • 9. Privacy

    9. Privacy

    9. Privacy

    “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)

    There is peace in knowing we can trust someone with our privacy, especially in seasons of suffering. When we come alongside our friends to listen and serve them, sometimes the most important notion to them is that we will guard and respect their privacy. Some sufferings are not for everyone to know.

    Jesus tells us to go into our rooms and shut the door when we pray. We don’t have to announce or pat ourselves on the back for helping our friends who are suffering. In fact, unless it’s a case where they’ve said it’s OK for us to activate our community to help provide physical needs for them, or even prayer, we should always honor our friend’s desire for privacy.

    10. Keep Christ Center Stage

    “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7)

    Above all, when we seek to help our friends in their suffering, it’s important to keep Christ in the center of all we do. We can so easily be distracted by the need to solve someone’s problem or overwhelm them with help. Human hearts are fragile, and every situation requires the care and caution we find in our compassionate Savior. When we are diligent to meet with God in prayer and His Word daily, we can be assured He will faithfully guide us with the wisdom and perspective we need to make sure our suffering friends know we are there for them. In all we do, and every relationship, there is so much more than what we see on the surface. Each of us are made to bring glory to God in and through all we do. When that’s our aim our heart, we extend the comforting love of Jesus to friends who are suffering.

    Photo Credit: © Unsplash/Priscilla Du Preez

    Meg BucherMeg writes about everyday life within the love of Christ at megbucher.comShe is the author of “Friends with Everyone, Friendship within the Love of Christ,” “Surface, Unlocking the Gift of Sensitivity,” “Glory Up, The Everyday Pursuit of Praise,” “Home, Finding Our Identity in Christ,” and "Sent, Faith in Motion." Meg earned a Marketing/PR degree from Ashland University but stepped out of the business world to stay home and raise her two daughters …which led her to pursue her writing passion. A contributing writer for Salem Web Network since 2016, Meg is now thrilled to be a part of the editorial team at Salem Web Network. Meg loves being involved in her community and local church, leads Bible study, and serves as a youth leader for teen girls.