10 Ways to Encourage a Friend Who Struggles With Fear
Pray with her
Prayer doesn’t need to be fancy or eloquent. Praying with her, right then, shows her that you care. I have a friend named Pam. She prays right on the spot, no matter where we are at. If she knows I’m in a battle, she’ll lean in and put her arms around me. The prayer might be, “Jesus, be with my friend,” and suddenly I feel bathed in those praying words.
Words of affirmation are powerful when fear strikes. One friend told me that the most powerful words someone shared with her were, “You are courageous.” This friend shared all the ways that she was brave, and how she tapped into her faith. Until that moment, fear had a stranglehold. Words of affirmation allowed my friend to see herself through a different perspective.
Talk with a friend about a time when God was faithful. Fear tends to create memory loss in those areas. As you share with her the times that God walked with her, how he loved her, and how she came out on the other side, fear is balanced with stories of faith and truth.
Sometimes words are inadequate. Touch is powerful. A hand in yours. A hug. Sitting knee to knee as you let her know physically that she’s not alone. Touch says, “I’m here,” and that’s comforting even when there are no words.
Look her in the eye
Put away the phone completely. Listen to her. Let her know that you are tuned in. One of the quickest ways to let someone know that you aren’t listening is to have your eyes on a phone or TV, rather than looking her in the eye when she’s spilling her soul.
One woman said, “Share scripture as if I’ve never heard them before.” You can write them down. You can speak them over her. You can whisper them, weaving them into your prayer. There is power in the Word of God!
She may feel fear, but she’s still brave. Validate her strength. Validate the times she’s faced fear and overcome, with God’s help. Validate her honesty in sharing. Be careful not to identify her by her feelings, but rather by her courage in identifying those feelings.
It’s okay to say, “I’m sorry. That’s really hard.” Sometimes we face scary things. It’s okay to acknowledge that. Be truthful in your encouragement. Don’t promise what you can’t give. Don’t tell her it’s going to be okay, if you don’t know that to be true. Back that up with what is true. You will be her friend. God is faithful. She is resilient. She is not alone.
Create a “No Condemnation” zone
When someone shares that they are struggling with fear, it’s not the time to tell them that they shouldn’t be afraid. That they should have more faith. That they should know better. Fear has a way of beating up those who battle it, and we don’t have to join in. Create a no condemnation zone, just like God does for us (Romans 8:1).
Save your stories for later
There are times that are perfect to share your own story of being afraid, but sometimes it can invalidate what they just said. You are telling a bigger story. You were more afraid. You faced big circumstances.
Years ago when I was diagnosed with Stage 2B cancer, I realized the negative power of story. Well-meaning people told me the story of an aunt/cousin/brother/mother who also had cancer and suffered incredibly, and they had faith all the way to the very end. . . That person walked away somehow feeling they had comforted me with a similar story. I was left in the room, stumbling to my knees, begging God to take away the heap of fear they just shoveled over a young mama’s heart.
When we top a story with our own, we invalidate the fact that they just opened up to us. Let them share their story and don’t be afraid to simply sit in the silence with them. It’s enough.
What is one way that you were encouraged when struggling with fear?
Psalm 94:19, “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” (NIV)
Suzie’s books that are helpful when you are battling fear
- The Mended Heart: God’s Healing For Your Broken Places
- The Spirit-Led Heart: Living a Life of Love and Faith Without Borders
More Than Small Talk #podcast