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We have likely all experienced that awkward moment when a friend or family member is going through a difficult time and we are at a loss for what to say to her, how to comfort her.
We want to offer help, comfort, healing. We want to speak words that will minister to her soul, but we become self-conscious in the face of the serious struggle with which she is dealing.
In an article for Relevant titled “Here’s What to Do When a Friend is Depressed,” Erin McNeely talks about a difficult time she went through and three things that her friends did (or didn’t do) that comforted her and were a genuine help in her time of need.
Firstly, Be available without added pressure.
Going through depression or any type of pain, whether physical, mental, or emotional is tough--so tough that we need others to come alongside us and bolster us up, but also so tough that sometimes we just need our space and time to think and process.
If you are having difficulty knowing how to help a friend in need, let that person know you are there, but also be sensitive to her need to grieve by herself. Assuring her that she is not alone and that you are just a phone call away can be extremely comforting.
Secondly, Ask, don’t tell.
When someone is struggling, we want to be able to offer words that will lift that person from her distress and convince her of God’s love and purpose. But we must remember that “The Bible is certainly our guide for life. But the answer for mental illness is not a verse or two taken out of context”, as John UpChurch states in “5 Things Christians Need to Know about Depression and Anxiety.”
Sometimes the best way to minister to someone who is hurting is to listen to her talk about her pain, her emotions, her struggles. Asking the person to share what she is going through takes the pressure off of her and you, since she won’t feel pressure to maintain a facade and you won’t feel pressure to grasp at the perfect words of wisdom.
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Thirdly, and lastly, Say something, even if you don’t know what.
Building off the second point, this means that you don’t need to have the perfect thing to say to be able to comfort someone. God can use you simply if you are present in that person’s life and if you are willing to help. McNeely writes that one of the most comforting things someone said to her was, “I’m not sure what to say, but please know that I hate that you are having to go through this.”
Be honest. It will let the person know you know how sensitive the situation is, how fragile her heart is because of the pain. Reach out to friends and family in need, even when you think someone else they know can be a better comfort than you. You don’t have to have a Ph.D in counseling, you just have to care and to be available.
Publication date: September 2, 2015
Veronica Neffinger is the editor of ChristianHeadlines.com