Helping Friends Through Tough Times : When a Friend is Discouraged

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Today we are closing out this series of posts on friendship by looking at how to help a friend who is discouraged.

“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit drains one’s strength.”  Proverbs 17:22 ISV

Notice the word “drains.” That’s the danger of discouragement. It drains your strength. No one wants to go through life that way, but the harsh reality of life can bring us to discouragement.

Health issues, marital problems, difficulties with our kids and job worries bear down on us. So there is a serious need to look at how to handle discouragement.

What do you do when life drains your strength?

We all face different types of discouragement. Discouragement brings a sense of hopelessness that reveals itself in many ways. When we are discouraged, we eat more, sleep more, isolate ourselves, we shop more, watch more TV…

Now if you struggle with discouragement from time to time, you are not alone. You’re just humanSometimes life is hard and we hit low spots and dark days.

Our problem isn’t checking into Discouragement Hotel, it’s when you start paying monthly rates. If you’re discouraged today or you have friends who are discouraged, there is good news.

Discouragement often stands at the door of spiritual growth. 

When we hit our low spots, when we get discouraged, we are often about to see God do something great in our life. In the Bible, God used people who were very discouraged, in amazing ways. 

Read the Psalms of King David. He had incredible highs and incredible lows. You don’t have to look far to find a discouraging Psalm. 

“My wounds fester and stink because of my foolish sin. I am bent over and racked with pain. My days are filled with grief. A raging fever burns within me and my health is broken. I’m exhausted and completely crushed. My groans come from an anguished heart.” Psalm 38:5-8 NLT 

“I’ve cried out to you day and night. God, hear my cry. My life is full of troubles and death draws near. You have thrust me down to the lowest pit, into the darkest depths.”  Psalm 88:1-4

In the midst of discouragement, God can use you in incredible ways like He used other people that we find in scripture. Here are three other people that God used in great ways even though they faced significant discouragement: 

  • Moses: Numbers 11
  • Elijah: 1 Kings 19
  • Jonah: Jonah 3

Let’s look at one scene in Moses’ life right after God delivered the Israelites from slavery. God had done so many amazing things, yet the people began complaining to Moses and he’s had it!

“Moses heard all the families standing in front of their tents weeping, and the Lord became extremely angry. Moses was also very aggravated. And Moses said to the Lord, ‘Why are you treating me, your servant, so miserably? What did I do to deserve the burden of a people like this? Are they my children? Am I their father? Is that why you have told me to carry them in my arms—like a nurse carries a baby—to the land you swore to give their ancestors? Where am I supposed to get meat for all these people? They keep complaining and saying, ‘Give us meat!’ I can’t carry all these people by myself! The load is far too heavy! I’d rather you killed me than treat me like this. Please spare me this misery!Numbers 11:1-15 NLT

If you look at the biblical characters of Moses, Elijah and Jonah they each have a breaking point.

  • Moses said, “I’d rather you kill me than treat me like this.”
  • Elijah said,  “I’ve had enough Lord.  Take my life!”
  • Jonah said,  “Just kill me now, Lord.  I’d rather be dead than alive.”

Out of this kind of desperation comes hope. If you’re down and discouraged, you’re at the front door of God using you, of God doing something in you and through you. There is hope on the other side. You may need to help a friend remember that as well.


We get discouraged for different kinds of reasons:

  • Physical reasons: exhaustion, chronic pain or low blood sugar
  • Emotional reasons: loneliness, grief, or abuse or childhood trauma
  • Spiritual reasons: guilt from unconfessed sin in your life

There are a thousand circumstantial reasons for discouragement, but there are some that are very common and most of us can relate to. Let’s be prepared for these in our lives and in the life of our friends.


Warning Signs To Look For

1.  Fatigue: Consumed by activity

“The load is far too heavy!  I’d rather you killed me than treat me like this. Please spare me this misery!”  Numbers 11:15 NLT

Moses realized the load was far too heavy. Imagine Moses’ life, he was the help desk for two million people.

In all three of these cases with Moses, Elijah and Jonah, physical exhaustion was a factor. So how tired are you? How worn out are you? If you are feeling tired and fatigued, there is a great prayer in Psalm 6. 

“I am worn out, O Lord; have pity on me! Give me strength for I am completely exhausted.”  Psalm 6:2 TEV

If you battle with discouragement fairly regularly, you might want to look at your physical condition. There is a direct correlation to physical exercise and a reduction in discouragement. Physical exercise reduces discouragement.

A good diet, exercise, a good night’s sleep can go a long way toward relieving discouragement. If you have a friend who is discouraged, take them for a walk, do something active, do something to build them up.


Every activity you are involved in is either draining or replenishing. Every relationship can be draining or replenishing. Take a minute to think through your activities and friendships to make sure you aren’t getting the draining and replenishing out of balance.

If all of your activities and relationships are draining, you are going to face constant discouragement. If all of them are replenishing, your life is going to lack substance and meaning because you are only soaking it in.

You need to be giving out and taking in. The questions you can ask yourself are, “What kind of friend am I? Am I always taking from my friends or am I pouring into them? What kind of friends do I have? Draining or replenishing?”

The key is to strike a healthy balance between giving out and taking in. If you are discouraged, it probably means you are out of balance in that area.

2.  Fear: Consumed by worry

“Where am I supposed to get meat for all these people?”  Numbers 11:13 NLT

If you have teenagers in your home, this could be a good memory verse for you. If you study Moses’ life you’ll find that Moses worried about a lot of things. Moses often assumed responsibilities that God never intended him to have. God wanted Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, but He didn’t say that Moses had to provide for them.

What are you worrying about that is really God’s responsibility? It’s not to say that you should go through life and never worry.  There are just some things you ought to worry about less.

When you’re discouraged, you become consumed by worry. Worry gives birth to fear. Worry is like a dirty sponge that wipes away your joy and leaves a residue of fear. 

 3. Frustration: Consumed by unmet expectations

“Why are you treating me, your servant, so miserably? What did I do to deserve the burden of a people like this?”  Numbers 11:11 NLT

Moses had some unmet expectations. He expected God to treat him a certain way and that treatment wasn’t happening. Moses had given up a life of position and authority in Egypt, he sacrificed everything to lead these people and he expected the Israelites to not complain, but Moses had no such luck. 

Unmet expectations lead to frustration.

Maybe you have unmet expectations. Your marriage isn’t all you hoped it would be, your friendships aren’t as deep as you would like them to be or your career isn’t going where you thought it would. You had great dreams for many things. Now you have unmet expectations. 

When you have unmet expectations, you can wind up focusing on the person who let you down. People will always let you down eventually. Because we’re all sinners, we’re not perfect. Instead, put your faith in Christ. 

Unmet expectations consume our thoughts. It blocks our vision so we can’t see the big picture. Oftentimes, that’s what discouragement is.


Fatigue. Fear. Frustration.

Could any of those be why you move in and out of discouragement? Do you see any of those warning signs in a friend?

No matter what the cause of discouragement might be, Jesus offers what you need to break out of that discouragement. You need the hope that Jesus Christ offers. When you have a friend who is battling discouragement, they need you to point them to the hope of Christ.


The Hope Jesus Offers

1.  Jesus offers us power we don’t have.

When we are fatigued, tired or consumed by weariness, Jesus offers us a power that can keeps us going. When you have issues, problems and situations you can’t handle, it doesn’t matter how physically strong you are, you need a power that is greater than your own. 

God’s answer to your personal energy crisis is His power. 

You get His power when He fills you with His presence. With His presence comes His power.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Romans 15:13 NIV

God promises to fill you with His power. There are so many people who have asked Jesus to come in their life and forgive their sins, but don’t feel His power.

If you feel like you live a powerless life, you may be missing the key word in Romans 15:13. TrustAnother word for trust is depend. To depend on Him. 

Do you know someone who struggles with spring allergies? When the trees start blossoming in the spring, they are miserable! The solution is to get the allergy medicine out. Now these little pills only work when you depend on them. If you leave them on the kitchen counter, nothing happens. You can carry the whole box with you and it’s not going to do anything. You have to depend on it. You have to use it.

The same is true with God’s power. When you say “Yes” to God, His power is completely available to you. But most of us don’t depend on Him, because we keep depending on our own power, on our own wisdom, on our own way. 

We all want God to save us so we can go to heaven when we die, but we don’t access His power by depending on Him here. Depending on Him would mean we have to do what God wants us to do and not what we want to do. 

If you are going to beat discouragement, then you need Christ’s power in your life. 

“… I depend on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.”  Colossians 1:29 NLT

Why would God give you His supernatural power to pursue your own way instead of following His way? Why would God power you up to be disobedient? It just doesn’t make any sense.

God offers you His power to fulfill His purpose for your life.

“I have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives me.”  Philippians 4:13 TEV

2.  Jesus offers us promises we can depend on.

When you live a life of fear and worry, the only way out is by depending on God’s promises. There are over 7,000 promises in God’s word. Depending on those promises is what gets us through. 

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  Isaiah 41:10 NIV

Hang on to that promise. Every day you trust in something, you trust in someone. Why not trust in someone who’s not going to let you down? Someone whose love will never fade, never disappoint. 

3.  Jesus offers us the perspective of His purpose

Frustration comes because we are just looking at the small picture. God can give us a bigger perspective. Jesus offers the perspective of His purpose in the midst of our problems.

When you’re in the middle of discouragement, there’s always a bigger perspective. God says “I love you, I will never leave you. I want to use you, fill you and give you my power. I’ve got a good purpose for your life.” 

Whatever circumstance you or a friend are going through right now, God has a bigger plan. His bigger plan will not disappoint. 

“And this expectation [salvation] will not disappoint us. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”  Romans 5:5 NLT   

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28 NIV

When you’re discouraged and focused on the small picture, look upIf a friend is discouraged, encourage them to look up, because God has a bigger picture. The bigger picture is filled with hope. 

The thing about hope is, it is really attractive. Hope draws us to Christ. When we show the hope of Christ in our lives, it is attractive to other people. Jesus wants your life filled with hope and overflowing with hope, especially when life is tough.

“… My purpose is to give life in all its fullness!”  John 10:10 NLT

We don’t know what the future is going to bringBut there is one thing we know that no one else can offer that Jesus Christ can offer you. He offers you a life filled with His power instead of a life of fatigue. He offers you a life filled with His promises instead of your fears. He offers you a life filled with His purpose instead of frustration. As you receive God’s power, promises and perspective, God wants you to pass it on to other people.


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week. What do you remember from your discussion about how to be there for a friend who is dying?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcast or Google Play Music

Application

Discouragement Warning Signs:

Fatigue: Consumed by activity

  • In Numbers 11:15, what does Moses ask for?
  • What kinds of situations or events lead us to feel desperate like Moses?
  • Why do you think Moses continues to plead with God during his despair?
  • What does David tell the Lord in Psalm 6:2?
  • What kinds of things do people do that cause them to be fatigued?
  • How might we notice in ourselves and in others the symptoms of fatigue that could lead to discouragement?

Fear: Consumed by worry

  • Read Numbers 11:13. Why does Moses cry out to God?
  • What are ways to avoid becoming overwhelmed with worry in an imperfect world?
  • When too much worry overshadows our joy, how can this distort our perception of problems?

Frustration: Consumed by unmet expectations

  • What is Moses asking of God in Numbers 11:11?
  • What was the difference between what Moses expected and what was happening?
  • How does knowing that God creates imperfect people help us accept others who do not meet our expectations?

The Hope Jesus Offers:

Jesus offers us power we don’t have

  • According to Romans 15:13, when God fills a person with joy and peace, what is the result?
  • Instead of letting God fill us with joy and peace, what do people tend to fill themselves with in order to feel better?
  • In desperate situations, why do people often wait until they are physically exhausted before turning to God for hope?
  • In Colossians 1:29, whose power do we depend on to work within us?
  • Why do we often follow our own will when we know there is more assurance in depending on God’s power?
  • How can we be more aware of the power that lives within us when facing challenges?
  • Read Philippians 4:13.  Where do we draw strength to do everything?
  • Why is it appealing to feel the power of doing more ourselves rather than tap into God’s power by trusting him?

Jesus offers us promises we can depend on

  • According to Isaiah 41:10, why should we not fear?
  • Although the Bible tells us we should not fear, why do we?
  • What are some common fears all people experience?
  • Read 2 Corinthians 1:20. What does Paul tell us about the answer to God’s promises?
  • When God does answer our needs, why are we not always content with his answer?
  • Think of an example of how God has said “yes” to your needs though the request may have seemed impossible.

Jesus offers us the perspective of His purpose

  • What does Romans 5:5 tell us about our expectation of salvation and what God has given us?
  • What are examples of places we tend to put our trust, expectations, and faith rather than with God?
  • When we focus our faith on ourselves or others rather than on God, what are some likely consequences?
  • What promise does Romans 8:28 give us regarding those who love God and follow his purpose?
  • What are some ways we could focus on God’s purpose for our lives?
  • How does an experience of seeing God’s purpose in our lives affect our perspective?

Tell Someone Else

Who can you share this message of Jesus’ hope with? Who can you be praying for that is in the middle of a discouraging time?

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Helping Friends Through Tough Times : When a Friend is Dying

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There are two experiences that absolutely everybody goes through – birth and death. Only a fool would go through life unprepared for what you know is inevitable.  Most of us have had people in our lives die suddenly and unexpectedly. Those deaths may have caught us by surprise. But surprise or not, death is coming for us all.

“No one can live forever. All will die. No one can escape the power of the grave.” Psalm 89:48

In one sense, we can be glad that we die because we don’t want to spend eternity on a broken planet. If we’re going to live forever, we don’t want to live in a place where there’s sin, sorrow, suffering, rape, murder, corruption, dishonesty, jealousy, gossip, and pain that make our lives tough. God wants you to one day move on from this fallen place and live with Him forever in heaven. God wants you living in a place where there is a joy and happiness.

First, we need to recognize that people react differently to death. But, there are five stages of grief that are common to everybody. Those stages include: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. We need to understand how people go through these stages. These stages were first identified by Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross fifty years ago in 1969. However, thousands of years before Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, King David talked about the same five stages of grief in the Psalms.


The Five Stages of Grief: How People React to Death

1. DENIAL“This isn’t happening to me!”

Denial is actually a form of fear. Anything that you are afraid of you tend to deny. When people are afraid of death they deny that they’re dying. David was afraid of dying. As a result you live in denial because you don’t want to admit that you’re afraid.

I am frightened inside. The terror of death has attacked me.” Psalm 55:4 NCV

2. ANGER – “Why is this happening to me?”

When people realize they’re going to die they get angry. They get angry at God, doctors, their family, and themselves. David says it like this in Psalm 39,

“I was overcome with anger. The more I thought, the more troubled I became; I could not keep from asking: ‘Lord, how long will I live?” Psalm 39:3-4 TEV

This is a typical question of someone who has just found out they’re going to die. The anger stage is the questioning stage of dealing with death. The questions are really unanswerable. Why me? Why now? Why this? What for? They’re not going to get the answers to those questions.

3. BARGAINING – “I promise to … if you’ll let me live.”

In this stage you fill in the blank of what you will do if only God would let you live a little longer. You start trying to make deals with God in order to keep on living. But it doesn’t work because you can’t bargain with God.

“You can never pay God enough to stay alive forever and be safe from death.” Psalm 49:8-9 CEV

4. DEPRESSION – “I just don’t care anymore.”

When people come to this stage in dealing with death, they say “I just don’t care any more! What’s the point? I’m going to die. Why bother? Why make the effort? I give up.” They go through a period of depression.

“I’m at the end of my rope, my life is in ruins. I’m fading away to nothing, passing away.” Psalm 109:22-23 MSG

5. ACCEPTANCE – “I’m ready for whatever happens.”

“I am trusting you, O Lord, saying, ‘You are my God!’ My future is in your hands.”  Psalm 31:14-15 NLT

Not everybody goes through the stages in this order. Nor do you go through them once and then you’re done. Instead, you sort of swirl around in all five of these. But the goal is to keep moving and making progress working through them.

The most common problem in dealing with grief is getting stuck in one of these stages. You’ve got to keep moving through the process until you come to complete acceptance. It’s important to understand these stages because you need to help them your family and friends deal fully with each of these stages and then help them move on to the next stage. If you don’t understand these stages you might pull away and detach yourself from people when they are angry, bargaining or depressed. David complained about the distance that people give to those who are dying.

“My loved ones and friends stay away, fearing my disease. Even my own family stands at a distance.” Psalm 38:11 NLT

Fear and anxiety cause distance in relationships. Most people feel awkward around people who are dying. It reminds us of our own mortality. We don’t know what to say so we just stay away. Thankfully, there are seven things that we can learn to do to give our loved ones COMFORT when they need it most.


How to Comfort Someone Who is Dying

C – CONFRONT MY OWN FEARS

Before you can help anybody else you’ve got to deal with your own fears. Exposure to death exposes the hidden fears in us. You’re afraid you’re going to say the wrong thing or make matters worse. As a result you don’t do anything. To put some of those fears to rest, it is almost impossible to mess it up. This is far bigger than you.

For those of you who haven’t been around somebody dying, death is really quite ordinary. There’s nothing spooky, weird or wicked about it. Contrary to television, there are very few Hallmark moments when people die. Their heart rate and breathing slows down and eventually stops. That’s about all there is to it. One moment they’re here and the next they’re not. The biggest mistake you can make with somebody who is dying is simply not to be there.

O – OFFER MY PHYSICAL PRESENCE

Your physical presence is the greatest gift you can give someone who is dying. When people are dying they struggle with the fear of abandonment and the fear of dying alone. You don’t have to say anything profound or necessarily even be talking to them. Just get in the same room with them. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, just simply be in the room. You can hold their hand or put your hand on their shoulder assuring them of your presence. Also remind them that God is with them. God has said He will never leave them nor forsake them.

“Even when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will not be afraid for you are close beside me.” Psalm 23:4 NLT

When God is near you lose your fear.

M – MINISTER WITH PRACTICAL ASSISTANCE

Do whatever they need done by running errands or help in practical ways. When someone is dying they usually don’t feel good. They’re often in pain. David says this in Psalm 38,

“I’m burning with fever and I’m near death. I’m worn out and utterly crushed. My heart is troubled and I groan with pain.”

What do you do when somebody’s in that situation? You do whatever you can do. You offer practical assistance to relieve their pain. It’s the little things that show love. The Bible says,

“Encourage those who are timid, take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.” 1 Thessalonians 5:14

This important because another one of the biggest fears that people have when dying is the fear of losing control. Control is being taken away from them more and more. One of the ways you can minister to people who are dying is to give them choices. Every time you give them a choice you give control back to them. So even when you say something as simple as, “Would you like your slippers on or off?” You’ve empowered them. Every time you give people a choice you give them a little bit of power back.

F – FORTIFY THEM WITH EMOTIONAL SUPPORT

Carry each other’s burdens, in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

The law of Christ is to love your neighbor as you love yourself. We should also pray for them and with them. Praying with them gives them emotional support. You can pray whatever they say, just mirror it back to God in a prayer. When the person who is dying says, “This really frustrates me….” You pray, “Lord, Susie’s really frustrated by this.” When you take whatever they say and turn it into a prayer to God you are lifting their burden. When somebody is sick, sometimes they’re too sick to pray. They don’t even have the energy to pray. When you turn their thoughts into a prayer, you are interceding for them.

O – OPEN THEM UP WITH QUESTIONS

When people are dying they’re carrying an enormous emotional load. You can help them open up so they can get off their chest all the heaviness they’re carrying about their impending death. Ask open ended questions, questions that can’t be answered by a simple yes or no. People ask questions all the time that we don’t know the answer to. For example: Why me? Why now? Why this? No one but God knows the answer to those questions. But the truth is, they don’t need the answer to those questions, they need comfort. An explanation doesn’t provide comfort.

What they really need is just to talk it out. When you get asked an unanswerable question by somebody who’s dying, rephrase it and ask it back to them. If they say, “Why am I going through this?”, you don’t know why, so instead of answering that question rephrase it back to them, “What does dying mean to you?” Then wait for them to answer. This way you have gotten them talking. Ultimately, the question is not the question. The question is a symptom of something deeper they need to get out.

R – REMEMBER THE FAMILY HAS NEEDS TOO.

This is where you can really be a friend to other people. If you’ve got a friend who is ill and they’re dying, you can really help the whole family, not just them. Sometimes as a friend you can say things that the family can’t say. Sometimes you can ask questions the family can’t ask. Sometimes you help move relationships toward healing. Remember the family is moving through these same five stages of grief.

T – TURN THEM TO JESUS

When someone is facing death we want to turn them to Christ so they’ll spend eternity in heaven. That is the hope of our faith. Jesus came to take away your fear of death by dying on the cross to pay for all your sins, then being resurrected to show that there is life after death. The Bible says this in Hebrews 2:

For only as a human being could Jesus die. And only by dying could He break the power of the Devil, who has the power of death. Only in this way could He deliver those who lived all their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.” 

God doesn’t want you to be afraid of dying, He wants you to look to the hope of heaven.

We need to help those who are dying to do the same. When someone’s dying we want to encourage them to do what David did.

“Death itself stared me in the face. But in my distress I cried out to the Lord.” Psalm 18:5-6 NLT

Have you ever done that? You can’t offer to other people what you haven’t received yourself. If you haven’t settled the issue of your destiny you are gambling with your eternity. If you were to die tonight are you absolutely certain that you would go to heaven?

If you don’t know the answer to that question, it can be settled right now. There is a prayer written below that you can pray in your own heart. You can say it aloud or quietly in your mind and God will hear you.

Dear God, you are God and I’m not. You sent Jesus Christ to be my savior, so I must need to be saved. I need You to forgive the things I’ve done wrong in life. I need you to help me to know the purpose you created me for. I want to begin a relationship with you. So as much as I know how, I ask you to come into my life. I want to learn to trust you. I want to learn to love you. I want to learn to love other people the way you want me to. So I ask you today with humility and honesty to please save me as I put my trust in you. I pray this prayer in Jesus name. Amen


Talk It Over

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcast or Google Play Music

In this lesson, we’ll offer some solid, proven ideas, based on the fact that, when they’re dying, everyone needs COMFORT.

CONFRONT MY OWN FEARS

Read Genesis 3:10. Why was Adam afraid of God? Dealing with a friend who is dying causes us to confront our own mortality, and that makes us uncomfortable. We don’t know what to say or we fear saying something stupid that could make the situation worse. How can we overcome that fear in order to minister to our dying friend?

Share a time when you felt good about words of comfort spoken to a dying person, or of regret for words of comfort left unspoken. By the way, what do you think Jesus would tell us to do with our regret?

OFFER PHYSICAL PRESENCE 

What is the source of David’s comfort in Psalm 23:4?

In this modern age of cell phones, text messages and emails, why is a physical hug more meaningful than comfort given from a safe, electronic distance?

Two of the greatest fears when people are dying are fear of abandonment and fear of dying alone. Even holding the person’s hand or touching their elbow can help. Discuss other ways you can comfort someone feeling these fears.

MINISTER WITH PRACTICAL ASSISTANCE

In Psalm 38:7, 8, how does David describe his affliction?

When people are dying they often fear losing control. That’s why offering a dying person a choice—even in a small thing—brings them comfort. What are some small tasks you can do for a dying person?

FORTIFY THEM WITH EMOTIONAL SUPPORT

Read Galatians 6:2. What are we to do for one another?

One way to give emotional support is to pray for the person. Don’t know what to pray? Pray back what the person says. For example, if they say, “I’m worried,” then pray about their worry. How you would pray for a person who is in pain? What are other practical ways you can show emotional support?

OPEN THEM UP WITH QUESTIONS   

What does Proverbs 20:5 encourage us to do with another person?

People who are dying often need to unload their burdens, and a thoughtful question would help draw those burdens out. One way to do that is to mirror a question back to the person. Name a situation that you feel a dying person would be grappling with, such as unfinished business, and share how you would encourage them to talk about it.

REMEMBER THE FAMILY HAS NEEDS TOO

Acts 20:35 encourages us to support those who are feeling weak. Sometimes, as a friend, you can sensitively ask questions of a dying person that the family may not be able to ask, such as, “Do you have any preferences for a memorial service?”

Discuss some practical ways you can minister to the family of the ill person.

TURN THEM TO JESUS  

According to Hebrews 2:14-15, what power did Jesus come to break?

Hebrews 2:14-15 speaks of those without Jesus as being “slaves to the fear of dying.” In what way are we “slaves” to that fear? How does knowing Jesus set us free? What does a life without Jesus have to look forward to?

Name at least one practical thing we can do to help someone worried about dying or any other present trouble to have the hope of Jesus.

What did the psalmist David do when death stared him in the face? Read Psalm 18:5.

Based on your discussion in this lesson and your own knowledge of Christ, why can we rely on him in that moment?

PERSONAL APPLICATION AND COMMITMENT:

When the final moment comes for us or for someone we love, we may experience all five stages of grief—but if you are confident in the salvation that comes only from Christ, you can move quickly to acceptance. If you have not yet asked Jesus into your life, why put it off any longer? If you have not settled this issue yet, you are gambling with your destiny. You can’t pass on to others what you don’t possess yourself.

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Helping Friends Through Tough Times : What Moms Need

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Today for Mother’s Day, we are not going to give Moms more things to do, because your lives are already busy.  We’re going to talk about what Moms need and how you can help. We want to encourage you!

There are some things all of us can do to help Mom. The Bible tells us to honor our Mothers.

“Honor your father and mother.” Ephesians 6:2a NIV

This verse is in the Bible because God knows it’s vital for our spiritual health and emotional health to honor our parents. Even if your Mom is no longer alive, you can still honor her. Even if you didn’t know your mom or you had a terrible mom, you can still honor the fact that she labored to bring you into this world. We can honor all moms by seeing the importance of what they’re doing and helping them out in what they’re doing.

1.  Mom’s need patience. 

Teaching patience is the whole spectrum of being a mom. Here are four things about patience in the following four verses.

When you think about needing patience remember God understands. You are not alone, Moms. This verse is about how God was treated by the people in the Old Testament, see if you think God might be able to relate.

“Yet though He did all of this for them, they continued to test His patience.”   Psalm 78:56a  NLT

If you feel like your patience is being tested, God understands. None of us are perfect and we irritate each other.


Patience is an expression of love. Impatience doesn’t mean you don’t love your kids, the exact opposite is true. You have a choice to love your kids even when you’re feeling impatient. 

When you’re patient, although you feel impatient, that’s an incredible expression of love.

“Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” Ephesians 4:2 NLT

Love is choosing to be patient even when you’re irritated. Love is making allowance for someone else’s faults. Patience is an expression of love.


Patience is used by God. 

“For when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, don’t try to squirm out of your problems. But when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete.” James 1:3-4 TLB

Patience grows us. Moms are some of the most spiritually mature people on the planet, because they’ve had to be so patient with their children. That patience, the Bible says, enables us to be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete.


God tells us to help each other. When you see someone struggling with patience and stress the Bible tells us to help each other. What can you do for your mom, for your wife, when her patience is being overly stressed?

“Do for others what you would like them to do for you.” Matthew 7:12 NLT 

This verse is a picture of the true nature of love. True love is not reciprocal. We don’t do something because someone did the same for you. We love regardless of what someone else did for you.

 When you see Mom stressed, instead of piling it on or running away, do something to help relieve that stress. That’s what you’d want done for you.

2.  Moms need appreciation

In the Bible you see people being appreciated, because we have a need for this.

“I thank my God every time I remember you.” Philippians 1:3 NIV

“Whenever we pray for you, we always begin by giving thanks to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Colossians 1:3 LB

You can appreciate your mom. Even if your Mom has passed away, you can still think back and remember her best qualities. What if you never knew your mom or you had a very difficult relationship with your mom? Appreciate the fact that she labored to bring you into this world. Appreciate the fact that you weren’t aborted. Appreciate the fact that you are alive. Even the smallest amount of honor that you can give is healthy for your soul.

If you Mom is still a part of your life, tell her thank you. Even a better, say, “I thank God for you.”

3.  Moms need a life.

When every event and sport is pulling at you as a family, parents, you’ve got to learn where to draw the line. Moms need a life.

“It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to His loved ones.”  Psalm 127:2 NLT

That’s the job description of most moms. Knowing that, we need to do everything we can to give our Moms the opportunity to live the life that Jesus says He wants to give. 

“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10 NAS

If we become so rushed and hurried that our lives become filled, then we don’t have time to connect with Jesus and enjoy the abundant life. That becomes what we model for our kids.

Here’s the invitation to us: Everyone of us who knows a mom, do everything you can to help mom be in a place where she can model the abundant life for their kids. That will have an impact.

4.  Moms need wisdom

With all the negative influence in our culture, Moms need wisdom. They need wisdom to know when to hold on and when to let go. They need wisdom to know when to say “yes” and when to say “no.” They need wisdom when it comes to discipline, to know when and how.

God says He will give wisdom. 

“But if any of you need wisdom, you should ask God for it. He is generous and He enjoys giving wisdom to all people. He will give you wisdom.” James 1:5 NCV 

Pray for wisdom. One of the greatest things you can do for moms is pray for them.

“God has hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge in Christ.” Colossians 2:3 GW 

We need wisdom because it’s not easy raising kids. Hang on to God’s wisdom. 

5.  Moms need validation.

Proverbs 31 is the most famous chapter in the Bible about being a mom and being a wife. Take a look at how that chapter ends:

“Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all. Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise in the city gate.”  Proverbs 31:28-31 NIV

Notice the last two words, “city gate.” The city gate was the place of importance when this verse was written. In ancient times, the city gate was not just the doorway into the city, it was where everything important happened. Legal cases were tried there, government decisions were made there and business deals happened there. 

When this verse says, “Let her works praise her in the city gate,” it’s saying at the place of most importance.  For us it would be city hall, the floor of congress. This is reminding us to not let the importance of moms and what they do be some sort of side issue, she is what is really important.

Moms are building people. The Bible tells us that only people are going to last forever. Buildings don’t last forever. Companies don’t last forever. Your bank account certainly won’t last forever. But people last forever. 

When Satan puts a little thought in the back of your mind that makes you think what you are doing isn’t noticed or meaninful, that is a lie.

6.  Moms need communication.

Moms need talk and they need listening. The Bible tells us how to talk to anyone, including our Moms.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths. But only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”  Ephesians 4:29 NIV

7.  Moms need rest.

Moms seem to have twin emotions, exhaustion and guilt. Exhaustion because they were doing too much and guilt because they felt like they aren’t doing enough.

“Then Jesus said, ‘Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”  Matthew 11:28 NLT

There is a soul rest that you have to have in order to be a parent. If you’re not familiar with the story of Susanna Wesley from Christian history it’s a good story to be aware of.


Two of Susanna Wesley’s sons were Charles Wesley and John Wesley, founders of the Methodist movement. They changed Europe and then they changed America. They were greatly used of God. They grew up with ten kids in the household. Their mom knew she needed time to be alone with Jesus Christ. She found that time sometimes by finding a room where she could be alone, but with ten kids that was impossible a lot of the time.

So instead, she would take her apron and put it up over her head and the kids would know that meant Mom was now spending time with Jesus. All the kids knew that if you interrupted Mom when she was spending time with Jesus, you would go see Jesus.


8.  Moms need faith

Moms worry that they are worrying needlessly. Moms worry that their daily decisions will affect their kids for the rest of their lives. Moms need faith and Jesus offers faith.

Don’t be troubled. You trust in God, now trust in Me.” John 14:1 NLT

When you recognize that you need faith, don’t try to conjure it up through your own emotional energy. Lean on Me.  That’s what faith is.  It is a leaning on Me. When it feels like there is no where else to turn Jesus tells us to turn to Him. 

“Trust in Him at all times. Pour out your heart to Him, for God is our refuge.” Psalm 62:8 NLT

Moms need faith for the big things.  The most difficult things in life. Moms also need faith for the everyday things. Faith when they are tempted to worry.

Every time you’re tempted to worry, recognize that it’s also an invitation to have faith.

The difference between worry and faith is where it takes you. With worry, when you worry it feels like you’re doing something, but in the end nothing gets done. When you put faith in God, many times at the beginning it doesn’t feel like you’re doing much, but everything will change because you’re putting faith in a God who can do everything.


Moms need faith, patience, appreciation, a life, wisdom, validation, communication, rest and faith. That’s a lot!

If we sum all this up in one word it would be repent.

Your mother needs you to repent! 

For a lot of us the word “repent” has become an angry word. Some people use it that way. Repent is one of the most beautiful, positive words in the Bible.

It just means to turn around, head in a different direction. It means God gives you a second chance and that God is giving you the opportunity for a new life. Things can be different.

So repent and change your heart and mind. It may be something as small as saying thank you for a meal when you haven’t done it for a long time. It might be something as radical as giving your life in faith to Jesus Christ, because of a mom who never stopped praying for you.


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week. What actions do you remember from your discussion about being a helpful  friend?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcast or Google Play Music

Hear the Word

Whether or not you are a mother, chances are pretty good that you had one. You may have had a good relationship with her or a bad one, or you may have never known her—but God still wants you to honor your mother. In Ephesians 6:2–3, Paul quotes Exodus 12:20 and says, “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise—“that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Clearly, obeying this directive is in our own best interest.

Application

1.  Moms Need Patience

What does Psalm 78:56a say the Israelites persisted in doing to God?

  • What is it about children that they test the patience of their parents? Is this part of their role?

2. Moms Need Appreciation

3. Moms Need a Life

Psalm 127:2 gives us what reassurance when we are tempted to work around the clock?

  • What does the next verse (verse 3) say about children?
  • What is a practical thing you can do to help a mother have some time for herself?

4. Moms Need Wisdom

5. Moms Need Validation

How do the children mentioned in Proverbs 31:28–31 validate their mother?

  • Parents are responsible for building people. How can we validate the importance of that role?

6. Moms Need Communication

7. Moms Need Rest

Where does Jesus say we can find rest? See Matthew 11:28.

  • In our society, which encourages over-involvement in activities, how can we cope with the twin emotions that many parents feel—exhaustion because they are doing so much and guilt that they aren’t doing enough

8. Moms Need Faith

The sum total of these eight findings leads us to one conclusion: what your mom needs most is the same thing your heavenly Father desires most—and that is for you to repent. That’s not a harsh or angry word, but a loving word. To repent means we need to think differently about God, about life, and about people. To repent is to make a u-turn, change your mind, turn around and walk the other way.

Where do you need to turn your life around? Of whom do you need to think differently? People who have witnessed great transformation will tell you that behavior comes before attitude. So determine to do something this week that honors your mother or another who has played a parental role in your life. Let the group know what you have in mind and plan to share the outcome at your next session. Ask God to reveal to you, in time, how this action has changed your life.

 

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Helping Friends Through Tough Times : How To Help Your Friends (part 2)

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In last week’s post gave us 3 ways to how to help your friends through tough times. Let’s walk into our frienships inspired and equipped to help. 

Our first 3 responses to our friend’s hurt are:

1. Show up

In the midst of all the texts and calls and emails, close friends show up. Crises often deepen and define relationships.

2. Share their pain

You don’t have to adopt their pain, but you can carry some of the burden and show compassion. You may not understand exactly what they’re feeling and going through, but you can carry some of the weight of the pain and the crisis with them.

3. Support them with prayer

Prayer makes a difference. That’s how you strengthen people spiritually. 

These three things plus the four we look at today can be applied to any crisis. The loss of a loved one, a bankruptcy, an illness… but these can be specifically applied to helping someone through a divorce or loss of a relationship. Many of us know or will know someone who goes through that.

As much as the loss of a relationship hurts, God’s healing and grace can reach the darkest places.

God calls us to be agents of His grace.

Here’s the the fourth thing you do as a friend, when you’re helping a friend through a crisis,

4. Start with forgiveness

Forgiveness is the most important issue that your friend is going to have to deal with in a crisis. When we don’t deal with forgiveness, it eats us alive. There are three common emotions that happen in the loss of a relationship: anger, guilt and bitterness.

These emotions are worse than the crisis, because you can carry those the rest of your life and they will make you a different person. The antidote to anger, guilt and bitterness are the same. The antidote is forgiveness.

Ask for forgiveness, accept forgiveness and offer forgiveness. 

Maybe you feel like they don’t deserve forgiveness. Forgiveness is not about justice, it’s about getting on with your life. It’s about becoming like Christ. It’s about not being controlled by them anymore.

If you stay angry at them and bitter toward them, you’re going to be controlled by them the rest of your life. You can help a friend learn forgiveness with these three steps.


  • Help your friend stop fixing the blame.

Blaming has never solved a problem, made you feel better or lessened anyone’s pain. We’ve got to let it go. We’ve got to stop saying, “It’s all their fault or it’s all my fault.”

“You may tear out your hair in anger, but will that destroy the earth? Will it make the rocks tremble?” Job 18:4 NLT

This verse is saying that we’re only hurting ourselves with our anger. It doesn’t actually change anything.

We live in a broken world.  Nothing works right on this planet. That’s why we’re praying for heaven. You stop trying to fix the blame.

  • Help your friend confess their sins.

They will never be healed until they own up to their part. They’ve got to confess their sins and ask for forgiveness. That’s the second step to healing.

“My guilt overwhelms me—it is a burden too heavy to bear. But I confess my sins; I am deeply sorry for what I have done.” Psalm 38:4,18 NLT

Ask forgiveness from God and ask forgiveness from someone else to get rid of the guilt.

  • Help your friend offer forgiveness to those who have hurt them.

Not because they deserve it, that’s not the issue of forgiveness. Forgiveness is how you grow to become like Christ.

“Get rid of all bitterness… forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:31-32 NLT

In a divorce you will probably need to forgive other people besides your ex-spouse.  You will have to forgive some cruel in-laws, some judgmental friends, you may have to forgive someone who stole your spouse.

Martin Luther King once said “Bitterness is blindness.” Bitterness blinds you to the truth. When you are bitter you don’t see things as they really are. You have a skewed vision of reality.

One of the truths you don’t see when you’re bitter is that God can take every bad thing in your life and use it for good if you’ll give it to Him. You don’t see the truth, but God can take even the stupid mistakes you’ve made, even your willful disobedience and He can turn it around and use it for good in your life, if you’ll give it Him.

The pain is not going to stop until you accept the forgiveness of God and you offer the forgiveness to somebody else.


5.  Suggest accepting reality

Help your friend accept reality, how things really are, not the way they wish them to be or like them to be. Friends often have to tell the truth and sometimes the truth hurts.

Help them accept the fact that the past is passed and it isn’t going to change. No matter what you do, no matter how much you dislike the past or want to rewrite it, the past has passed.

Acceptance is the only way to peace. God’s purpose has never been changed by the pain in your life. No matter what happens in your life it never changes God’s purpose. God does not have a Plan B for your life, God has a Plan A for your life.

Even before you were born he already knew what was going to happen in your life.  The stupid decisions you would make and other people would make that would harm you and He still chose to love you and he still chose to create you. He still sent his Son to die for you and He still wants you in heaven with Him.

The fact is, life has to go on and acceptance is the only way to peace of mind and emotional healing.

In 2 Samuel 12, is a story about a man named David. David was the king of Israel and wrote most of the book of Psalms. During one of the darker periods of David’s life, he had an affair. He committed adultery with one of his general’s wives while his general was out on the battlefield serving him. That woman’s name was Bathsheba and she found out she was pregnant. To hide it from his general, David had the general put on the front line so he would be shot with an arrow first in war.

So David was not just an adulterer, he was a murderer. Bathsheba bore that child and after the child was born, became very ill. David grieved over this child. He fasted and prayed for days that the baby would live.

“David begged God to spare the child. He went without food and lay all night on the bare ground. The elders of his household pleaded with him to get up and eat with them, but he refused.

Then on the seventh day the child died. David’s advisers were afraid to tell him. ‘He wouldn’t listen to reason while the child was ill,”’they said. ‘What drastic thing will he do when we tell him the child is dead?’

When David saw them whispering, he realized what had happened. ‘Is the child dead?’ he asked. ‘Yes,’ they replied, ‘he is dead.’

Then David got up from the ground, washed himself, put on lotions, and changed his clothes. He went to the Tabernacle and worshiped the Lord. After that, he returned to the palace and was served food and ate.

His advisers were amazed. ‘We don’t understand you,’ they told him. ‘While the child was still living, you wept and refused to eat. But now that the child is dead, you have stopped your mourning and are eating again.’

David replied, ‘I fasted and wept while the child was alive, for I said, Perhaps the Lord will be gracious to me and let the child live. But why should I fast when he is dead? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him one day, but he cannot return to me.’” 2 Samuel 12:16-23

What did David do with his grief? He didn’t second guess himself or resign from life. When the baby died, he accepted reality. Here we see three things we need when accepting a crisis.


  • Accept what can’t be changed

The baby wasn’t coming back so David said there’s no use me mourning any more. Now, in this unique scenario where David did the mourning and grieving before. Mourning is a healthy thing.

  • Play it down and you pray it up.

Don’t exaggerate the crisis, dedicate it, surrender it. After the baby died, David goes to church. He gets up, he gets washed and goes to the tabernacle to worship. When you have pain, you need to be where you’re going to get spiritual nourishment, encouragement and the promises of God.

  • Focus on what’s left, not what’s lost

God isn’t finished with you. He still has plans for your life and He’s not through with you.


6.  Strengthen their faith

A divorce or any other major crisis shakes your faith, but it is your faith and trust in Christ that’s going to get you through it.

“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD…” Psalm 27:13 NASB

Even in those situations, where life stinks and it seems all dark and black, you still believe the sun is shining even when it’s dark. You believe that God is a good God, even when everything is going wrong in life.

How do you get that kind of faith? The kind that sees pain and hurt and yet can still say that God is good. The Bible tells us there is a place to strengthen your faith, it comes from holding on to the promises of God. God’s promises are found in His word.

The single most important habit in developing stability against stress, is to memorize verses of the Bible. Because when you need the word most, you don’t have a Bible or don’t know where to go in the Bible. In the crises of life it’s not likely you’re going to be carrying a Bible, so you need to hide it in your heart.

“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17 NKJV

It is the word of God, the word of Christ, that builds your faith. Saturate your mind with the word of God.

“I have hidden your word in my heart…” Psalm 119:11 NIV

What is banked in the vault of your heart? The promises of God?

We remember whatever is important to us. We also remember what we hear often. This is why we remember stats, recipes, songs and phone numbers. If the word of God matters, we’ll find ways to memorize it.

“I lie in the dust; revive me by your word.” Psalm 119:25 LB

Let’s revive one another with the word. That’s how you help a friend and strengthen people with the word.

7.  Speak words of hope

Be a hope pusher, a hope dispenser, a purveyor of hope. Friends speak words of hope. Friends point out that you’re going to make it. 

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6 NLT

Christ Jesus is returning, but He’s not back yet. That means God is not finished with you. Keep growing.

During a crisis, don’t focus on God solving the situation, focus on becoming a man or woman of God. Develop new habits and you break old habits.

Jesus Christ can heal your heart and restore your joy, but you’ve got to surrender it all to Him.

“Yet if you devote your heart to him and stretch out your hands to him, if you put away the sin that is in your hand and allow no evil to dwell in your tent, then, free of fault, you will lift up your face; you will stand firm and without fear. You will surely forget your trouble, recalling it only as waters gone by.” Job 11:13-16 NIV

Who do you need to be a friend to this week? Who do you need to show up in their life, share their pain and pray with?

Who will you be a friend to this week? 


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week. What do you remember from your discussion about the first three points of this message. Show up. Share their pain. Support them with prayer. Take a moment to review any assignments/challenges made during the personal application section of your previous meeting.  Seeing God at work in the lives of those who commit to him is essential for growth.

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcast or Google Play Music

Hear the Word

Read Philippians 1

Application

4. Start with forgiveness

  • How can you help a friend understand how their anger is affecting him or her?
  • According to Psalm 38:4, what is David burdened by? How does David respond in Psalm 38:18?
  • What are some practical questions that could be asked to help a friend confess?
  • Have you known someone who could not forgive?  How did that bitterness affect your friend?

5. Suggest accepting reality

  • 2 Samuel 12:16-23 tells us about how David acted during the illness of his child.  How did he respond to the child’s death?
  • Help your friend accept what cannot be changed. What are some examples of unchangeable past events or acts that a friend may have to accept?
  • Help your friend play it down and pray it up. David turned to the Lord after the death of his child.  What are ways we can help others connect with God when they are hurting over their relationships?
  • Help your friend focus on what is left, not what is lost. Who could be affected if your friend continues to focus on what is lost?

6. Strengthen their faith

  • Psalm 27 shows us that David was experiencing a trying time in his life.  How does David respond in Psalm 27:13?
  • According to Romans 10:17, what results from reading or hearing the Word of Christ?
  • What are ways we can prepare to use the Word of God to help friends when they need it?
  • What Biblical resources can we direct those in need to?

7. Speak words of hope

  • According to Philippians 1:6, what will God do for you until it is finished?
  • An event like a divorce can make a friend feel like his or her spiritual progress has stopped.  What ways can you help show that God has not given up on him or her?
  • Job 11:13-16 tells of a way to defeat fear and misery.  What is it?

Tell Someone Else

We need to put love in action and encourage friends who are experiencing a separation or divorce from their spouse. It’s our job as true friends to care, be aware and be there for them. Remind them that God is not through with their lives. Encourage them to completely surrender their lives to God – all the emotions, the bitterness – to ask for His forgiveness and that he fill them with hope for the future. Pray for hidden hurts, for healing, and for God to help those experiencing difficult times through their pain.

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Helping Friends Through Tough Times : How To Help Your Friends (part 1)

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Sometimes when the people around us are struggling, we feel powerless to help. We aren’t sure how we can help our friends through tough times. How many people around us would say they know in a crisis that we would be there for them — whatever it took? We want to know how we can help people know God, find freedom, discover purpose and make a difference in someone’s life during those tough seasons. The Bible tells us that wise friends are a gift from God. It also tells us about the characteristic of a friend.

“Two are better than one… If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NIV

“Friends love through all kinds of weather.” Proverbs 17:17 MSG

In 1967 there were a couple of very well known psychiatrists who did a study correlating the connection between stress and illness. Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe did a study of 5,000 medical patients. They developed a scale of 43 common stressful events and assigned them numbers from one (no stress) to a hundred (the most stressful thing you can do in life). They discovered that anybody with over three hundred points of stress was at risk of developing a major illness during that year. 

Based on the study they concluded the most stressful event in life was the death of a spouse. The second most stressful event is a divorce from a spouse. The third most stressful event in life is a separation from a spouse. It’s powerful that either by death or by divorce the end of a marriage is about the most painful thing you can go through in life. We want to learn to be good friends to those who may be dealing with the loss of a relationship. There are some principles that we can use to help our friends who may be going through a devastating time, specifically the loss of a relationship, but these principles are also transferrable to many different struggles our friends may face. 


How To Help Your Friend

1. Show up

When your friend is going through a tough time they’re going to get emails, cards, texts, calls, and opinions. Real friends show up when they are in that crisis. It’s in a crises that your friendship is defined with the other person. Crises can make, define and bond friendships. The Bible says that even when people turn their back on God they still deserve to have friends.

“When desperate people give up on God Almighty, their friends, at least, should stick with them.” Job 6:14 MSG

God says even when they turn their back on Him we should still befriend them. The first thing everybody needs in a crisis is other people. They don’t need hundreds or even dozens, they need a support group of mature Christian brothers and sisters who are there to love, care, comfort, encourage, support and meet needs.

Maybe you say, Wait a minute! Don’t you need to pray first?” Of course, if you can! But the truth is in a crisis you’re usually in so much stress and shock you don’t even know what to pray. Sometimes you can’t even think straight in a crisis. It’s at that point that you need other people around you praying and believing for you.

This is what happened in the story of Job. He was the wealthiest man in the world, but in one day he lost everything.  He lost all his wealth, his family, and his own health. Job’s friends did the right thing when this first happened to him. 

“When Job’s three friends… heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him.” Job 2:11 NIV

They formed a small group. They decided they were just going to show up and be with Job, their friend. And that’s how we can help our friends. If you’ve earned that right in their life, you show up. So often we say if you need anything let me know. But in a crisis they don’t have the vision to delegate. They don’t need to come up with stuff for you to do. If they don’t have anyone else showing up, you show up. Just help.

2. Share their pain

There is an interesting thing about pain and about joy. When you share a joy it gets multiplied. If you tell someone something good that has happened in your life and they celebrate with you, then it’s doubled. It’s the opposite with pain, when we share a pain it’s not doubled, it’s halved. All of a sudden I’m not sharing the pain all myself.  Another person is helping carry the load. 

When you share joy it’s doubled. When you share pain it’s halved. 

The ultimate form of love is compassion. Compassion says, “I’ll do anything I can to stop your hurt.” When you read the Bible you’ll find that Jesus was repeatedly moved with compassion. This included Him going to cross to die for us. It does not mean you have to take on a friends pain or dysfunction into your life. You don’t have to have the pain to be able to share their pain. In fact, God may have put you in their life because you’re strong where they are weak and they’re strong where you are weak. You don’t have to go through a tough time to share a tough time. Compassion is exactly what Job’s friends did right at first as well.

“When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads.” Job 2:12 NIV

That was a Middle Eastern way of showing sorrow, mourning. They’re identifying with Job and sharing the pain but that doesn’t mean that they had to go destroy their home or put themselves in the same situation as Job.

Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.” Job 2:13 NIV

Job’s friends showed up and they stayed quiet. They didn’t give any pious platitudes or offer advice to try and talk him out of his pain. Good friends are not really quick to give advice. They make sure the other person is actually heard. 

3. Support them with prayer

When friends are going through a divorce, a death, a bankruptcy or anything else you will want to pray with them and you’ll want to pray for them. It takes great faith to respond to situations with prayer. Sometimes we might ask why we pray if God already knows the future and is in control of everything. We pray for a variety of reasons.

First, scripture tells us prayer is a form of serving God and obeying Him. God commands us to pray. Reading through the gospels we can see Jesus thought it was worthwhile to pray. Ephesians 6 tells us prayer is the means of strengthening others spiritually. It shares that prayer is not about getting God to do our will on Earth, rather prayer is how God’s will gets done on earth. Prayer is how we discern His will.

In one sense, prayer is like sharing the gospel with people. We do not know who will respond to the message of the gospel until we share it. In the same way, we will never see the results of prayer unless we pray. A lack of prayer demonstrates a lack of faith. We pray to demonstrate our faith in God. And prayer is our primary means of seeing God work in other people’s lives. Because it is our means of God’s power.

There are three verses that give us three ways to pray for a friend who’s hurting. The first thing you want to pray for a friend is, “Lord, help them recognize your presence.” When someone is going through a tough time, especially a situation like a relationship ending, they feel very alone. But God draws close when our heart is breaking.   

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”    Psalm 34:18 NIV 

The second thing you want to pray is,“Lord, help them receive your grace.” Grace is the power to see it through. Grace sustains and is the energy to help you keep going when you feel like giving up. It is the power to change. And God’s grace in your life is what you  need when you’ve got nothing to give. We can come to God for help, and we receive that kind of grace to stand up under sorrow and stress.

“Let us approach the throne of grace with confidence, so we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16 NIV

The third thing you pray is, “Lord, help them to release their pain.” You encourage them to cry out to God. Crying out to God means coming before Him passionately and telling him exactly how you feel. There’s a prayer that we have probably prayed at least a million times our lives. “Help! God, help me! I don’t know what to do! I don’t know where to go! You’ve got to help me in this!” That’s called crying out to God and He loves it when you cry out to him. 

“I cry out to the Lord; I plead for his mercy. I pour out my complaints before him and tell him all my troubles. For I am overwhelmed, and you alone know the way I should turn…” Psalm 142:1-6 NLT

It is okay to complain to God, He wants to hear your complaints. In fact, he’d rather have you complain to him than other people. The reason you have emotions is because God gave them to you. God has emotions and you were made in God’s image. This is important because when you’re going through a crisis or you’ve got a friend going through a crisis, you are a bundle of emotions. You’re going to feel hurt, rejection, despair, frustration, regret, and failure. In those moments God wants you to bring those emotions and express those to Him. 


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week. What do you remember from your discussion about looking to the cross to remember God is for you and forgiven you? Or the empty tomb that reminds you of God’s promise for your future?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcast or Google Play Music

Hear the Word

Spend some time in the word. Read Job chapters 1 & 2 and Psalm 142.

As the title indicates, this series will lead us through how to support and help a friend through a difficult time. This week we’ll look at our first three responses when a friend is in a crisis. Next week we’ll look at four more.

Application

1. SHOW UP.

  • Friends walk in when everyone else walks out. How can just being there for someone make an impact?
  • How can a friend comfort another friend when trouble occurs?
  • Why is it important to have dependable friends before a crisis happens?

2. SHARE THEIR PAIN.

  • How can the sympathy of a friend ease some of the pain we feel when we are in trouble?
  • Why might it be important to be aware of some boundaries when sharing pain? What are some wrong ways to share pain?
  • Just sitting down with a friend can make a huge difference. What are some of the excuses we might use that prevent us from sitting with a friend in crisis?

3. SUPPORT THEM WITH PRAYER.

  • What does Psalm 34:18 say about the Lord?
  • Why do people sometimes turn from God when they get divorced instead of running to him?
  • How can it make a difference when a brokenhearted person hears their friend praying for them?
  • Why do people hesitate to “honestly tell it the way they feel,” like King David does, when it comes to praying?

Tell Someone Else

What friend in your life is going through a tough time? How can you use these first three steps?

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