The Art of Encouragement

The Art of Encouragement

As I write this a very good friend of mine is struggling with wave after wave of hard news. Her husband has been laid off from a job he held for 27 years, she had a suspicious mammogram, their home AC has gone out, and they had to put down a family pet. No tragedies, yet, but plenty of hard stuff—the stuff that makes you ask “Why, God?” or “Are You there, God? Do You notice these things? Do You care?”

I want to offer comfort and support to my friend. I hate that things are hard for her right now, but I struggle with knowing how to do that. I don’t want to offer clichéd encouragement and sympathetic “I’m praying for you” messages that feel like I am speaking from a life that’s not touched by the struggles she’s facing. Do you ever feel that way? Or maybe you’re on the other side of the equation, as the one needing comfort and just wishing your friends would understand what you need. Here are some things I have learned about how to offer comfort and support to loved ones facing hard times:

Find a verse or song that I can pray over them, and let them know. I’ll usually text something like: “Isaiah says that those who wait on the Lord will have their strength renewed. I know you’re so tired right now, but I’m praying that God will renew your strength.” I have both sent and received messages like this, and just knowing someone is standing on God’s promises for you when you feel weak is a great boost.

Offer distraction. Sometimes the battle is long, and you just want a space that’s not all about your struggles. Ask your friend to go on a hike with you, go out for coffee, join you for dinner or a movie, or anything that gives a little reprieve from the struggle. Be a place for them to recharge.

Do something thoughtful. Drop off a meal. Take their kids for an afternoon. Pay for their groceries. Mow the lawn. Take the time to call and chat or mail a card. Small deeds of kindness are powerful and can renew hope and strength.

Be the cheerleader. When your friend has a job interview or gets good news from the doctor, celebrate with them. Be a part of their journey.

Over the course of our lives and relationships, we will have ample opportunity to be both the encourager and the struggler. We will learn to “comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God,”1 and help each other keep going even when we feel weary.

1. 2 Corinthians 1:4 NIV

Marie Alvero

Marie Alvero is a former missionary to Africa and Mexico. She currently lives a happy, busy life with her husband and children in Central Texas, USA. 

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