“What do you need? What can we do for you? How can I help?”

Those questions are overwhelming for both the person asking them and the person answering them. When you’re doing the asking, of course you want to help out your friend who is going through a difficult season….but how? And when you’re being asked that question, the only thing that comes to your mind is, “Sleep. I need sleep.”

When there is a local or national tragedy where there is loss of life, therapy dogs can be called upon to help humans mourn their loss and to comfort them when they need it most.

Lately in life, I’ve been on the receiving end of that question. My life is in survival mode, and while I do need help, I hate asking for it and never know how to verbalize my needs. Thankfully, I have amazing friends who have taught me lessons in how to tangibly love the next friend in my life who needs help:

1. Just Do It

It’s more than a catchy slogan. Very few people are going to tell you exactly what they need. Frustrating? Yes. But it feels so bossy to say, “I’d like dinner for 2 on Thursday night, and my grass will need to be mowed on Saturday.”

So show up anyway. One of my friends organized a mass effort of this recently. Back to back to back to back, I received texts that said, “Check your porch, I dropped off muffins!” and “I made you enchiladas. They can stay in the freezer until you’re ready to pop them in the oven and eat them,” and “My freezer is overstocked with homemade waffles, so I’m bringing you a bag, and you can’t say no,” and “I’m grabbing us some pizza and ice cream and will be there in an hour.”

I know this can feel pushy and intrusive. But even if you don’t know someone well, you can still find ways to go from asking “What can I do?” to “I’m doing something.” Try one of these:

  • “I’m running to the grocery store for myself and wanted to grab you a few things. Any specific requests? Fresh fruit? A rotisserie chicken?”
  • “On Wednesday, I’ll be near your house. If you want to leave a key under the mat, I’ll take your dog for a walk.”
  • “I want to help you, but I don’t know how, so I just Venmoed you some money. Use it for food delivery when you don’t feel like cooking or for whatever else you and your family needs.”

2. Get Creative

Some of my favorite gifts have been the ones I didn’t see coming. After a long hospital stay, the WAY-FM girls went in on a massage for me. Wally has gotten me a pedicure before (from a professional. He didn’t do it.) One of my friends got me a stuffed toy that is specifically meant to help you get your frustrations out by slamming it against a wall. So many gifts have come that didn’t necessarily serve a specific “purpose,” but they made me smile.

Even if you’re not the cooking type, there are still ways you can help. Sometimes providing the relief or the humor is just as important as the food and other necessities.

3. Keep Texting

I’ve had to say “no” to a lot of things when we’re in the middle of hard times, but it still feels so good to be invited.

Even if you KNOW your hurting friend can’t join you for girls night, or won’t be able to see that movie this Friday, or keeps cancelling your playdates, keep inviting them anyway. As much as I hate saying “no” to things, it’s much more painful when people essentially give up on me and stop including me in the group text.

Additionally, keep texting your hurting friend just to text them. They may not always answer, but I promise that they’re seeing every single encouraging message or funny gif that you send. It may be exactly what they need in that moment, even if they’re too underwater to reply right away.

4. Be Uncomfortable

If you haven’t checked out Kelly’s post on what to SAY to someone who is hurting, I highly recommend giving it a read. It’s much-needed advice on how to verbally comfort someone.

I love her post because so often, we get stuck in our trite expressions that don’t actually help others. We feel like it’s our job to make others feel better.

But it’s not.

I’m going to say it again, because I think it’s that important: it is not our job to “fix” our hurting friends. Our job is to listen to them, to cry with them, and to love on them. Sometimes, that comes at the cost of our own comfort. Be ok with that. Just be there to take on a few pounds of their heavy burden with them.

5. Pray

Make praying for your friend a part of your routine, and let them know that you’re praying for them. It truly touches me when people tell me: “We pray for you every single night” or “My 4-year-old just asked if we could pray for you, so we did.”

Don’t be afraid to be specific either: “We’re constantly praying for answers for you, but today, we also prayed that you could get some good rest tonight.”

I realize that “just praying” can feel like you’re “not doing anything.” But sometimes, there is nothing you physically can do. When you feel helpless, take that and turn it into a cry to God to help your friend.

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