The Art of Community

How to Help Friends Through Hard Times (And How NOT to)

September 22, 2021

We often find ourselves in situations where a friend is going through a hard time, or reveals some trauma in their past that is troubling them in the present.  Knowing what to do, and what to say, in these moments can be difficult.

We want to help you with that in today's episode.

Here is our list:

What Not To Do

What to Do Instead

Make it about you Make it about them and what God is doing

Tell them “God won’t give you more than you can handle” or some other trite, meaningless, and untrue platitude.(“God needed another angel” or even “Everything is going to be ok”

If you don’t have a real thing to say, don’t say anything other than “I’m so sorry this happened to you.”

Lie to make them feel better

Always tell the truth, no matter what.  This includes children, teenagers, etc.

Give advice.  Advice is RARELY what people need, unless they are asking for it.  And even then, it will always be limited in its effectiveness.  People usually have a heart problem, not an info. problem.

They need Jesus, and Jesus most often shows up for people through other people.  If you must speak, say what Jesus would say.

If they ask for advice then give it prayerfully and with grace.

Avoid saying things like, “What you should do is…”

Talk more than you listen.

Ask questions.  Lots of them.  Be an active listener by repeating back to them what they are saying, but in your own words.  If your summary isn’t accurate, apologize and ask more questions.

See yourself in the position of rescuer or problem solver

You are a friend.  Take up your position on the ash heap next to theme instead of the instructor over them.

Assume they will ask for help if they need it.

Try to put yourself in their shoes and think about what practical things would make their situation harder.  Then volunteer to do specific things for them. Ex. Grocery Shop for them, make meals, watch kids, help with finances, run errands, pay for counseling, etc.

Run Away/Get scared away from the hard (this also includes after some time has passed)

Show up consistently.  Even when you don’t know what to do or what to say.  Ask how their day is, ask how you can pray for them, ask what they are learning about God or what God is teaching them during this season

Affirm with the person you are speaking with that you are there to listen no matter what. Ask them to hang out or go out. THere may be times the texts or calls or invitations are ignored but don’t abandon ship. Keep knocking. Consistency in friendship shows them you value them.


Make your help/presence conditional on their response

Sometimes coming around to a good view point takes a lot of time and sometimes it doesn’t happen.  Show up anyway.  Pray and ask God for wisdom on how to share those things.


Be someone people can trust. 

Don’t relate to them based on their trauma or failure

Help untangle the trauma from their identity. Remind them of who they are in Christ

Make them or the person who brought the trauma the enemy

Remember the enemy is the Devil. Help them war against the devil and direct their hearts towards forgiveness of the person.

Be theologically unprepared

Learn what the Bible teaches about suffering: God is in control, God is good, God loves you.

Send helpful scriptures and encouragements that come to mind. 

It is not always helpful to say “Just pray” but rather help with specific scriptures or things to pray 


Give testimonies of God’s faithfulness in your life and the lives of those around you. 


Music by Elisa Cox

Podbean App

Play this podcast on Podbean App