Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, ESV)
Friends! Everyone needs a few good ones. Life would be rough without the love and support they offer. Someone recently asked, “Who are your friends?” It was an interesting question, and I paused for a moment before responding. I finally told her four or five names.
Levels of Friendship
It’s easy to name casual friends, those who move within the same circle as we do. But when a problem arises at midnight, we would be more likely to call a close friend, someone we are comfortable with and trust completely. If we are going to pour out our innermost thoughts and needs, we will go one step higher and call a deep/intimate friend. The higher up the friendship scale, the lower the number—but these people are the keepers. They are there for you whenever needed.
Once upon a time, in a place unnamed, within my circle of friends was someone we will call Abby. She was friendly and fun to be with . . . but! It became a joke among us, “Oh, Abby’s calling? What does she need now?” She always seemed to need a special favor, often caused by procrastination and poor planning on her part. Relationships were something to use for her advantage. That is not how true friendships work.
Recently a friend called, and I noticed a sadness in her voice. Finally she shared that her job was being eliminated and she would be unemployed within two weeks. She wasn’t asking for help, but I could hear the confusion and despair she felt. What could I say or do to help her? You may have faced a similar situation. You flounder for the right words, never quite certain you got it right. Here are some things I’ve learned that may help the next time this happens.
Ways to Help a Friend in Need
Listen with compassion. Sometimes just being available to listen is more valuable than any words we offer. We often worry about not knowing the right thing to say when all they really need is to know someone cares.
Ask, “How can I help?” There may be practical ways you can assist. You cannot fix their problem, but you can support them as they seek solutions. Remember, though, you may need to set boundaries so their problems will not emotionally deplete you. You are there to help, not carry the whole load.
When possible, guide them to appropriate resources. This may be as simple as showing them how to research answers on the internet, get a book on budgeting from the library, or recommend someone with skills in their area of need. If it’s a spiritual problem, encourage them to seek pastoral help.
Keep their confidence. Do not betray your friend’s trust by telling others. They must be the one to decide who should know and who shouldn’t.
Continue to encourage them. Stay in touch and let them know you are concerned. A short phone call, text message, or greeting card are all ways to say I care.
Pray for them. The One you can tell about your friend’s need is the Lord. And if you tell someone, “I’ll pray for you” then do it. It is not a meaningless phrase we tack onto the end of a conversation. It is a promise to hold them up in prayer.
Lord, make me a good friend—one who is trustworthy, confidential, and kind. Give me wisdom when supporting a friend in their time of need. Most of all, help me to show them that the best friend they can ever have is You.