As I watched my friend approach, tears welled up in my eyes and I got a lump in my throat. As we ended our embrace, I put my hands on her shoulders and looked her in the eyes. I told her I was so thankful for her friendship during this difficult time. A close friend of mine had died in a car accident—a sudden and unexpected loss. It was all I could think about, day in and day out. It was the first time someone close to me had passed away. I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye.
Those few months after my friend’s death would have been a lot more challenging if it hadn’t been for supportive friends like Courtney. Through the ups and downs of life, it is relationships with others that bring us through tough times and help us face life again.
It’s important as people of faith to stand with our friends through difficult times. We can show them the love of Jesus, whether or not our friends are believers themselves. In the Bible there are examples of friends journeying through life together, such as Ruth and Naomi or David and Jonathan. We can follow these biblical examples of friendships and journey through life together, through the good times and the bad.
Here are five ways to journey with a friend through a tough time:
Be there for your friend, in whatever capacity they need.
When I have gone through difficult times, I really appreciated it when friends just asked how they could help. Whether that be sitting with me, talking things through, praying with me or just trying to get me to do an activity I usually enjoyed. I always felt cared for when friends tried to help. Genuine friendship where friends journey with people through difficult times is always needed. Ask your friend how you can help; don’t assume you know what their needs are. An honest conversation, saying you want to help and asking them what they need help with is always a good way to start.
Have a non-judgmental attitude.
Everyone deals with difficult circumstances and grief differently. Some people avoid negative circumstances and don’t want to confront problems. Others may focus on their problems more than their blessings and their outlook on life may be affected by this. It is important to be a consistent support in your friend’s life, whether or not your style of dealing with problems matches theirs. A non-judgmental attitude is much more helpful than criticizing someone’s actions. Being a friend through thick and thin means being a friend even when you would have done something differently.
Give your honest opinion.
When someone is going through a rough time, sometimes it can be hard to make important decisions. It’s helpful if you as a friend are honest about your opinion of the situation. Whether it has to do with making medical decisions for a dying parent or repairing a broken relationship, honest and genuine advice is always helpful. It can be hard to give a friend advice if you feel it may not be taken well. Sometimes giving a friend advice is just what they need to help them through a situation. However, sometimes it’s not the right thing, so be open to that feedback when giving advice.
Offer practical help.
Asking a friend what they need in practical terms can often be quite helpful. People sometimes don’t think about this element when a friend is going through tough times. Making dinner can seem like a huge task when dealing with grief or loss. Making food for someone who is in a crisis may seem insignificant at the time, but people do appreciate you caring for their physical needs. Giving someone a ride to the hospital or visiting them there is another good example of practically being there for your friend.
Give emotional and prayer support.
Emotional support is also important for people going through difficult times. Showing empathy and letting your friend know you’re there for them is important. Sharing stories of similar things you’ve gone through can be helpful to a friend to show that life does go on after a crisis. Praying for them and their situation is also important, you can pray with them or on your own on their behalf. Prayer is powerful and always needed in difficult life circumstances. Prayer can bring a calm and peace to people and circumstances that nothing else can.
The main theme is that you need to meet people where they are. That may be sitting with them in silence, listening to them or accompanying them to an appointment. The point is that you are there for your friend through a tough time. Being able to say that my friends were with me when I was grieving as well as when I’m doing well is a powerful thing and something that I’m thankful for.
It’s important to stick by your friends during hardships. The storms of life are hard to weather alone, but together we can have the strength to get through them. If my friends hadn’t been there for me when my friend passed away, I don’t know what shape I’d be in. Since they showed their concern and helped me through the situation on a practical, emotional and spiritual level; I came out of the situation sad, but not broken. My friendship with Courtney and other friends were strengthened through this ordeal. Be the hands and feet of Jesus to your friends who are struggling, and your friendship will the better for it.
Andrea Jongbloed lives in Abbotsford, BC, Canada with her husband. She works as a community mental health outreach support worker with Fraser Health. She has lived successfully with bipolar disorder for 18 years and is passionate about mental health recovery. In her spare time she enjoys the outdoors, particularly sailing.