Avoidance for fear of doing the wrong thing unnecessarily destroys relationships.
We all experience seasons of feeling discouraged. We go through difficult situations, or something unexpected happens. We know that hard times are just part of life, and we know that Jesus is victorious in the end (John 16:33), but sometimes, we still feel stuck in the here and now. When we have a friend who is in need of encouragement, we are called to support that friend in a godly way. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 tells us to “encourage one another and build each other up,” and Hebrews 3:13 says, “encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘today.’” We aren’t to let people take advantage of us—Jesus modeled good boundaries—but when a friend needs some healthy encouragement, we can be the ones to offer it.
Don’t let the fear of saying the wrong thing keep you from reaching out. Friends need to know that you care and that you are available. The willingness to be involved while a friend is going through a difficult season is what counts. You don’t have to get it all right or know what to do, but you do have to try. Avoidance for fear of doing the wrong thing unnecessarily destroys relationships. Be willing to be the one to go first, admit that you don’t know what is best to do, and keep showing love. Pay attention to what your friend says, needs, and responds well to. When you reach out in love, you truly can’t do it wrong. “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).
Here are some inexpensive or free ways to encourage a friend:
1. Cards or Letters
In a world of technology, we have begun to forget the power of the handwritten card. The joy and encouragement you can so easily bring to someone by sending them a piece of handwritten mail is a hundredfold the effort it takes to complete the task. When an encouraging note from a friend is mixed in with the bills and junk mail, the impact is felt in the soul. “Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body” (Proverbs 16:24, NLT).
In addition to handwritten notes, a quick text to let a friend know you are thinking of her is always welcome. You do not have to solve all of her problems or be able to fix her pain. You just have to be a friend, and “a friend loves at all times” (Proverbs 17:17). A text as simple as “Thinking about you and praying for you today” or “Hope today is a good one!” can put a smile on her face. If you have a funny story to share or an encouraging Bible verse, text your friends, and it will let them know they are loved.
3. Talk and Walk
It has been proven that exercise impacts mood. Our bodies and our minds benefit from exercise and fresh air. If possible, take a walk outside. If outside isn’t an option, find an indoor place. You could try a gym or even an indoor mall. If walking doesn’t work, you can find a low-impact exercise inside the house– yoga or simple arm movements. Get creative. Most of us can find some way to move our bodies. When we exercise, we are not only caring for our physical component but our emotional one as well. Our moods improve, and we can often think through things with a new perspective. If you have a friend who needs a little pick-me-up, offer to talk a walk with her and see the benefits pour in. You don’t even have to discuss the issue at hand for a nice, long walk to help her with that issue. Just being with a friend can be an encouragement in itself. Not every meeting has to be a problem-solving one. A lovely conversation about anything can relieve stress about something else. “Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up” (Proverbs 12:25).
4. Homemade Gift
If you are crafty, a homemade gift can be a beautiful way to encourage a friend. Taking the time to create something from your own heart and talent shows how deeply you care about a person. Perhaps you paint or draw or write poetry. Maybe you make your own jewelry or cross stitch or create handmade cards. Whatever your talent, friends will feel loved and cared for when you make something for them.
I, for one, do not possess many creative talents. But I have a deep passion for feeding people. When a friend is grieving, discouraged, confused, or just going through a difficult time, you can rest assured that I will bring a meal. It may not be fancy, but it will be intentional. There is a good chance that I doubled the meal I was making for my own family, and it is a guarantee that I thought of you and prayed for you as I cooked. When my family adopted our son with special needs, we were blessed for weeks by friends’ bringing us dinner. It was a very difficult time of transition, but I felt so loved by all of the people who fed us. My older kids and I still say, “Life is good when people bring you meals.” Bonus points when dessert is included!
Sometimes we don’t know what to do to lift up a friend. You are allowed to ask when you don’t know. Just remember that asking “how can I help?” is often overwhelming to someone going through a hard time. She is trying to process so much that she can’t even think about giving you guidance on how to help. A better option is to tell her what you are going to do and then give her choices:
“I am going to bring you dinner. Would you like it on Tuesday or Friday?”
“I will take the dog for a walk tomorrow. Is morning or afternoon better?”
“I’m heading to the grocery store. You can text me a list, or I can pick up a few things for dinner.”
“Would it be more helpful if I took your kids to the park for the afternoon or washed your laundry?”
6. Speak Encouraging Words/Praise
The Bible is full of verses to encourage us, and we can use Scripture to encourage others. We can speak these words to our friends when they are in need of encouragement during challenging times. We should also speak God's Word to ourselves to remind our souls of God’s great love and eternal presence. Here are some of my favorite encouraging verses:
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.” Psalm 34:4-7
"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Isaiah 41:10
May we never forget that in every situation, we have direct access to the Creator of the universe, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the Savior of the world. Prayer is effective. Prayer changes hearts and minds and situations. Whatever you do to directly encourage your friend, do all of it with a prayerful heart, and watch God work.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/DMEPhotography
Megan Moore is a military spouse and mom of 3 (through birth and adoption). A speech-language pathologist by training, she now spends her time moving around the country every couple of years. She is passionate about special needs, adoption, and ice cream.