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Published on October 6th, 2015 | by Discussion Questions

How do you encourage your friends?

LAUREN WRITES: I have friends who get discouraged, who go through hard times, and who need to hear biblical truths, promises, and encouragement. But some of my friends, though professing Christians, don’t seem to care about that sort of thing. They really only want me to say how sorry I am for them. How can I share with them biblical encouragement and comfort when they push it away and only want me to wallow in pity with them?

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  • Well, I’m almost never sad/down/etc, but when I am I don’t really need encouragement bc I know I’ll get over it quickly. So if I’m down I kinda prefer someone just being sorry for me, so I’m kinda with your friends, haha. I’m bad at encouraging (ok, there are some that have told me otherwise but anyways…) so I’m looking forward to reading the responses! =)

  • Hey there Lauren! This is a really great question! I actually feel the Lord calling me to be a counselor…I have LOTS of areas I’m incredibly weak in and I’m only strong in the area of compassion and comforting people because the Lord gave me that gift. So I hope I”m able to help you some, but if I am it’s through the Lord….
    1) Acknowledge their difficulty! It is INCREDIBLY important to tell them you are sorry for what they are going through. Even if what they are struggling with seems illegitimate, at least say something like, “I’m really sorry you are struggling right now.” It’s often easy for us to rush into advice and encouragement, when sometimes what people really do need is a hug and an “I’m sorry.” Ackowledging their pain and hurt lets them know we care about them. Don’t get me wrong!!!! Advice and encouragement are GOOD THINGS! We just have to observe the person’s countenance when we are helping them to determine what thye might need….which leads me to my next point..
    2) Ask how you can best help them. People may just up and tell you “Can you just hug me” or “can you just encourage me” but others don’t know how to express what they need without an invitation. Simply say something like, “I’m really sorry you’re struggling and going through this…How can I best help you as your friend?” they’ll probably tell you what they need…and if they say, “I don’t know” then bring up suggestions and then I”m pretty sure they’ll tell you what they want from you.. ;0
    3) LISTEN! Oftentimes what people really need most is someone to listen to them! nuff said…
    4) Offer encouragement without blaming them…this can be tough especially when we know someone is in the wrong, but be creative! Ask questions that may prompt them to come to the conclusion they are wrong on their own…
    5) share testimonies from your own life: for example, “Oh man…I totally understand how easy it is to become discouraged! I’ve had that happen when ____ happened (share your story). When I was dealing with this, I found that this scripture verse was really encouraging to me!” or something like that…people become more transparent with you when you become vulnerable and transparent with them…
    7) Tell them you are there for them whenever they need you. Offer to talk to them….Let them know you care about them and love them and then let THEM come to YOU! Trust me, when you really desire to help your friends and you make that offer, they will take you up on it! Maybe in that moment, maybe at a totally different time… =)
    8) PRAY for them….Even if they won’t receive scripture, prayer is a powerful weapon! Offer to pray for them right there, but if they don’t want you to, pray for them anyway on your own! =) you can also check up on them by saying, “Hey! I”ve been praying for you! Hope you are doing okay!”

    Truth is, we can’t force our help on people who aren’t receptive to it…that’s why most of my points involve THEM taking the action or putting the ball in their court because when I help people, I want them to WANT my help….! And if we can’t help them face to face, we can always pray for them because ultimately, we can’t do anything! Only the Lord can!
    Hope this is helpful!!! =)

    • I literally just had a situation happen JUST NOW with a friend coming to me for help….she was saying she felt horrible for always dumping her problems on me and felt like a bad friend to me, but wondered if I was free to talk. I asked her if I had done anything to make her feel like she was being a bad friend and then also told her that she was an EXCELLENT friend and that through talking to her and hearing her out, God had used it as a tool to reveal his calling for me in my life….
      In answer to my question about anything I had done, she said “No, it’s all me” and then proceeded to tell me what she’s been dealing with….she realized how she was struggling on her own…!
      And by telling her God had used her in my life, she ditched the idea she was a horrible friend altogether…
      Just thought I’d share this example with you to give real life example of some of the things i was sharing with you! =)
      I forgot to mention also to pray for guidance WHILE you are couseling a friend! that’s what I did just now and other times and God always helps me…but I find when I don’t seek Him is when I fail…why? because I have nothing to offer without Christ!!

      • Danny

        I don’t know if you’d be interested, @disqus_Sh6PyJ3MsP:disqus but “we” have another website related to (and affiliated with) the Rebelution called Revive ( http://www.revivingtheredeemed.org ) We have lots of discussions similar to this, and I think you would really enjoy it.

        • Hey Danny! Thanks so much for the invite…! I have heard of it and looked into it at one point…It’s not that I don’t want to be a part; in fact I really DO! However, I have a pretty busy schedule right now and would hate to get involved and then not be able to keep up with everything going on there and hold to the commitment of being a part. But maybe I should look into it again….It sounds like I might really enjoy and benefit from it! =) Thanks for thinking of me Danny! =D

          • Danny

            No pressure! I wasn’t sure you knew. No pressure to stay on top of everything… or anything except if you sign up for devotions. lol

  • That’s a great question that I’m not sure I can answer very well. So here’s what I’m thinking:
    I’ve sometimes been that kind of person who just wants others to feel sorry for me. (That’s really hard to admit.) I mean, I would say I care about hearing the kind of encouragement that should be given, but I know in my mind that I don’t want to hear it. So yeah. Just a pity party for me. :/ That’s all I want. I think when you’re talking to someone like that, you do need to show that you do care and stuff, but don’t stay there. I mean, don’t just give them the “I’m so sorry” thing. Use the Bible whether they want to hear it or not. (Hehehe.) God’s Word and Biblical encouragement is powerful, so don’t just write it off because you don’t think they’re listening. God can still use it. It’s very unfortunate when someone isn’t very receptive, but it’s not the end of the world. It can change. :)

  • Faith

    Hi Lauren! This is a great question, I can relate to having friends who get discouraged, and not knowing exactly how to actually encourage them. Through the experiences that I have had personally, I find that the best thing is usually showing them that you care about them– but making sure they know you are not going to wallow in their self-pity with them. Make sure they know that you are praying for them-and do pray for them! Prayer is the most powerful weapon we have against discouragement! Try to always have a positive attitude when you are around them, because the attitude of the people you hang out with really does rub off on you. Be optimistic! Always look for the good in every situation! When they see how you fight discouragement it may help them to do the same!

  • Okie Gal

    Weep with those who weep. They do need help, but make sure they know it’s coming from love and not just some prescription for suffering. Look for ways to make their pain your’s, and walk through it with them. For me, it helps when a friend talks about their own struggles and what helps them, (without mentioning mine or being weird.) Remember that, for a Christian, trials are good. You’re both being sanctified in this.
    Mostly, pray, stay in the Word, and encaurage them to do the same. Hope this helps!

    • Faith

      Absolutely agree with what you said about sharing your personal struggles, sometimes it’s hard, but it can really help the other person.

    • Colin Marshia

      Speaking from own experiences, that is so true and very beautifully written I really like how you made note of being sanctified. My accountability partner and I both had to mature as Christians as we have faced different trials. Thanks for sharing that!

  • Hi Lauren, this a good question. I know for myself when I am discouraged and going through a hard time, I really want some solid encouragement and prayer and often am not willing to open up with people who I know are going to just pity me instead. I need people to surround me with the truth because often I get discouraged when I start feeding myself lies. So maybe keep encouraging your friends with the gospel truth and also, like Okie Gal said, pray for them because prayer does make a difference. I also wonder if those who are just seeking self pity are really just wanting to have someone to complain too about all their trials and tribulations. I know for myself, when I am just complaining a lot than I don’t really want encouragement, but really just want someone to have pity on my “tragic” life. I don’t know if that helps or not, but whatever the case you can always pray for them and you can pray that God would soften their hearts so that they would be willing to hear the truth, too. 😉

  • Haylie

    Hey, Lauren :) Good question! I wrote this on another thread 8 months ago. It was a similar question, and I thought i’d post it again here.

    **This is such a relevant question to teenagers… I think we all deal with this. From my experience with this though, i was on the receiving end of encouragement, and i was the one who was doubting God. A good friend of mine took time to gently tell me the truth about where i was wrong, and showed me that God was right. Please, never be afraid to tell the truth to someone in gentleness and love… it might just save them from making decisions that they will greatly regret. God bless,

    This is still how i feel about it. Yes it’s hard. Yes, maybe they won’t listen. But that’s not the point. It’s our job as friends to encourage our friends in Jesus. There is a time for silence, and there is a time for tears, but we have to try to bring them back to the only thing that gives us hope… Jesus Christ.

    Maybe a Bible verse on a sticky note, or a simply mentioning that you’re praying for them might be a good place to start. People could actually get pretty creative finding ways to do stuff like that!
    Hope this helps a bit! Blessings!

  • Wow! I’m impressed by all the great ways people have suggested! :) Here are a few that I think might help (some of which have already been suggested).

    1. Pray. Praying for your friends is very huge and something that other rebelutionaries have said, too! Don’t ever underestimate the power of prayer.

    2. Give them a shoulder to cry on. As draining as it can be, sometimes just being there for them can be enough.

    3. Ask probing questions and keep asking questions until you’ve reached the heart of the issue. It’s important in conversations like this to find out what the real problem is. This is hard and often very tricky. Some questions to ask may be, “Why do you think you’re feeling this?” or just a simple, “Why?”

    4. One of my favorite things to do in situations like this is to ask, “How can I be praying for you?” And sometimes, I pray for them right there.

    5. As someone already said, sharing personal testimonies and pointing to God in all of it.

    6. Don’t be afraid to text/email them verses and such when you know they’re struggling. Or even just a, “Hey! I thought of you when I read this verse.”

    7. Sometimes, you might just have to gently, lovingly rebuke them. You might have to tell them that focusing on themselves and wallowing in self-pity isn’t going to solve the problem and it isn’t a godly response.

    Those are some of the things that I can think of! I hope some are helpful! :)

    • Haylie

      That was very helpful, Anastasis! :)

  • Danny

    Well… I haven’t read any of the comments below, but I can pretty much say that they should be beneficial in helping the situation.

    As someone who often goes through the flip side of that, I think there are a few things you can do to help.
    1. Pray — earnestly and consistently. Then let them know you are praying for them. They probably won’t appreciate it much at the time, but it lets them know that people are actually thinking about them who are willing to help.
    2. Spend just as much time with them — if not more — as you did before issues began. That was an incredibly frustrating thing in my circumstances when things got tough, the vast majority of people I though I could count on to stick with me left me alone… to deal with my issues by myself. That hurts really bad, in some ways worse than whatever it was that caused problems.
    3. Be yourself. Don’t do abnormal things. If you don’t normally pray with people on the spot, I don’t recommend doing that in special cases. It makes people wonder: “what are they seeing that makes this so drastically different than anything else that has come up?”
    4. Encourage others to do the same. This one is hard in groups that don’t do this sort of thing, but it is vital. You WILL burn out if it is just you on your “missionary friendships.” I can say that because currently many of my “friends” at church are walking away from the faith, and so I usually have a hard time getting additional people to support my struggling friends. You never quite look at talking to struggling people the same after you have been there. You (hopefully) take the good, and do it, and the bad, and change it to what it should have been and do that.
    5. Don’t use cheesy, overused, and consequently cliche expressions of sympathy. It doesn’t help. That just screams “I don’t know what to say.” If that is the case, just say: “I don’t know what to say, but I’m here if you want to talk about anything.”
    Hope that is somewhat helpful!

  • Gabrielle

    As I read your dilemma, the only thing that came to mind is Prayer!! That’s the best thing you can do for a friend who isn’t welcoming biblical truths. You must interceed for them. Groan and cry out to God on their behalf.

  • Gabrielle

    Besides prayer. I do give them encouraging verses when I feel led. I don’t know if they read it or not, but I still give it to them.

  • Samantha

    Lauren, I know that when I feel discouraged and am going through tough times, I just like having friends to talk to, wether I talk to them about what’s happening or not. It also helps if my friends just hang out with me, I like knowing they care about me and will stand beside me no matter what.

  • Sophia Lohrman

    Finding out someone’s love language and purposefully communicating with them through it, is very helpful! This “tactic” can be used in any relationship, familial, platonic, romantic, Christian, or non-Christian. Use them along with the biblical truths to make the truths more palatable.

  • Dolly

    I think what you are doing is great. However, sometimes people are not quite mature enough (spiritually or emotionally) to hear what needs to be said. Just keep encouraging them. My favorite encouragement Scripture are the Beatitudes for in Matthew. They always uplift me.

    Quote them God’s Truth. If they don’t respond right away, someday they’ll remember you talking to them, and that’s when God will step in and show them unending love.

  • Kendra B

    I have been through some hard times and the most comforting thing is someone who I can talk to and who will listen. Listen to what they say, pray about it and ask God to help you see how to witness to them. sometimes it isn’t witnessing through words but through actions and blessing them in any way possible. I will be praying.

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