We’ve all been there — a late night call or frantic text from a friend asking for prayer. A breakup. The loss of a job. An accident. The death of a loved one. A frightening diagnosis. Life is uncertain, and unwelcome events like these qualify as a crisis.
Beyond saying, “I’ll pray for you,” some of us may feel at a loss as to how to help when tragedy strikes. Seeing people in emotional pain is uncomfortable, and it’s tempting to believe they need privacy or would prefer to be left alone.
However, crises typically make us feel isolated — like we may be the only one who has experienced such pain. Having others come alongside us can provide critical care and comfort during dark seasons.
What can I do?
During one crisis a friend asked me, “What can I do?” I appreciated the question, but sometimes in the throes of suffering it’s hard to think of an answer. Having experienced several crises over the years, here are five meaningful ways others have helped me.
Check in often. When I went through a recent trial, multiple friends checked in with me daily via text. “How are you today?” “How can I pray for you?” “Is there anything I can do?” Checking in reminds your friend that he or she is not alone. Reaching out need not be elaborate. A Bible verse, a few sentences of encouragement, an article link or short prayer can help the person in crisis feel supported and cared for.
Send a song. During a difficult time, multiple friends sent me links to songs that offered hope and encouraged me to cling to faith. One friend sent me a text saying, “How are you feeling today? I’ll pick you a song. Just think of me as your emotional DJ.” I added the songs to a playlist titled “Music of Hope” which I played regularly. Some days I woke with the lyrics of one of the songs running through my mind.
Take food. I don’t know what it is about a giant pot of chili and cornbread or a pan of homemade brownies, but in hard times, food provides comfort. It also expresses God’s desire to nourish us and provide for all our needs. Psalm 34:8 says, “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” The person in crisis often can’t calm his or her thoughts enough to think about putting together meals, so providing a dinner can lighten the load.
Do something practical. One way to tangibly help someone in crisis is to simply take on a task. When we were in the hospital with our infant son, several friends made sure things were taken care of at home. When we finally returned home (on December 23), church friends had decorated our house for Christmas and stocked our fridge with groceries. Offering to do a practical chore such as mowing the lawn, grocery shopping or making calls can relieve the person’s mental load and provide needed moral support.
Send a card. Few things are as uplifting as receiving a handwritten card or note in the mail. I have been blessed many times by an encouraging note that arrived at just the right time (and a card is also a great vehicle for a gift card). In a world of digital communication, receiving a piece of mail you can hold, display on the counter, and read repeatedly offers a particular kind of comfort.
Help and hope
When people we know walk through suffering or heartache, the most important thing we can do is point them to the One who can do “more than we ask or imagine.” But we shouldn’t do this in a trite or preachy way. One particularly hard day in my own crisis, I pulled a bright yellow envelope out of my mailbox. The card had come from an out-of-state friend who I knew was praying for me. When I opened the card, a coffee gift card fell out. “This is for connecting with a friend or taking your daughters out for a special date,” she wrote.
I appreciated the tangible gift, but her next words were lifegiving: “I love you and am praying that you freshly remember that you are loved and cared for far more than you can imagine by a God who has no limits in what He can do.”
Her reminder that I could trust a big God gave me fresh hope to walk the path He had set me on. It assured me that I was not forgotten or alone. Remember: God is near to the brokenhearted, and your prayers, words and practical care may be something He uses in a sufferer’s life to help communicate that nearness.
Copyright 2022 Suzanne Gosselin. All rights reserved.