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A Surprisingly Unhelpful Promise for a Hurting Friend

Make a Helpful Promise

Almost all of us could be accused of making this promise to a hurting friend at one time or another—I still have to bite my tongue when I’m on the verge of saying it. It’s this: "Friend, just let me know if you ever need anything and I’ll help you." Or you might put it this way, "If you ever need help with something, you can call me—day or night!"

It sounds kind and helpful and we’ve all said it. But there’s a more thoughtful approach. Because—let’s be honest—for many of us, asking for help goes against every fiber of our being. Even after being disabled for the past decade, it’s still a battle for me to admit weakness and ask someone to help me open up a bottle of water or get the door for me. What we want to do is make it as easy as possible for someone to ask for help. When you pledge general help to someone in need, it’s not likely that your friend will take you up on the offer. Sometimes the general offer of help just makes us feel good about ourselves.

When we pledge general help, we put the burden on the hurting. We are expecting them to come up with a way for us to help! That’s a tough assignment to put on someone grieving or in pain. They might not even be thinking clearly and now they have to come up with ways they can be helped. We should make it easy on others to receive help by asking specific questions like, "Do you have a specific need today regarding your children?" or "How about I come over after work tonight to help cook you a meal?" And perhaps even better, you can help by just doing something.

My favorite example happened when I was eating lunch one day. It was at a pastor’s conference, so there was a group of pastors all sitting around a table, and without a word, Mack, one of our elders at the church, just leaned over and graciously cut my steak for me. Sensing the awkwardness of pastors around the table who were not aware of my disability, he joked, "Don’t your elders serve you like this?" Mack didn’t wait for me to ask! He just jumped in and helped me.

If your friend likes quarter-pounders with cheese from McDonalds, show up at his house with an extra-value meal and a vanilla milkshake. If your hurting friend has lots of little kids in the house, tell her you’ll come over the next weekend and help with childcare, and ask what time works best. Giving specific help will go a long way in serving your hurting friend.

Related Resources

Be Still, My Soul
A Grief Sanctified

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