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
I remember attending Bible Collage when my husband was diagnosed with six personalities one of which didn’t like me. A fellow student in my class would often call two other students to my desk before class and together, we would go to the throne of grace together. I was numb at the news of which I did not understand and bewildered as to how or what to pray for. Each time my fellow students prayed for me, I felt loved and cared for. Such vital support brought me through one of the most difficult moments in my life and I have never forgotten the message that I was loved and that what was happening in my life was important to my siblings-in-Christ.
This is such a great article. I really wanted this info. Before I tried to say the truth of Gods word, but now I have even more ways to be helpful. TY
Great reminders of ways to encourage – thank you for insights. S
Very good article on how to listen to others and feel their issues with them. Encouragement can be helpful as long as you are sincerely helping.
Thank you for these tips. My Dad’s health is declining, and I can use this information to encourage my Mom.
Joy, I am sorry about your dad. Prayers for you and your family. ❤️
Thank the Lord for His love and peace. Very helpful suggestions that can be put to good use as we serve our Lord and savior.
When people pray and speak Truth into my life is the most encouraging when dealing with fear. I think of the verse in Hebrews 4:12 that says, for the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. (NLT) I’ve been in several different situations in my life where I have felt as if I have gone into this numbness shock or feeling paralyzed. I thought I couldn’t even read and having others speak to me out of God’s love and pray has strengthened me tremendously to keep moving forward. When things are so dark it can almost seem like hearing a sweet melody for the first time with this kind of encouragement! I find that it can be more difficult to encourage and uplift others when you are going through your own share of anxieties. Fear can make me very self focused. This is something I struggle with, but I’m praying to be changed in.
Hi Alexis, “Fear can make me very self focused.” So true and such a battle within, right? But you also spoke beautiful, promising words, “hearing sweet melody” when you hear encouragement. God is alive and He is most powerful, beautiful truths to hold onto. Thank you, Alexis.
Suzie, thank you for your wisdom and sharing how to be “better friends” to our family and friends when fear seeps into their lives.
This post really resonates with me! I have had my share of struggling with fear, and I agree with each of your “tips”. I am saving this post to remember these truths so I can help others.
This is so helpful! Encouraging a friend daily who lives so often in the grip of fear can be draining. It can make me feel helpless even though I know that pointing her to the Lord and lifting her in prayer is the most important, I still end up feeling helpless when things don’t get better for her. Thank you for sharing 🙂
These are great points! I’m guilty of sharing my own story, trying to relate and help people not feel alone, but now I see I could be taking away from them or making them feel worse! I need to work on my listening skills.
When I went through a physical battle fear just swept in. Looking back the biggest comfort for me was having people surround me and let me know they were here for me. I knew that no matter what happened, I was loved. I had God and others by my side, I was not alone in my battle.
Thank you for the timely help as I can use these ideas. Helping a loved one through cancer is a rough spot but these will go in my arsenal.
Fear seems to get worse with age and this was so good not only to know how to help those around me but to know I need more time with Jesus as I get older. Thank you for the encouragement. What a blessing to me today!
Thank you for sharing these 10 points. Each one has depth and God’s truth. I have struggled with memory loss in a season of grief through multiple losses and have been gripped with fear. I want to reach out to others with God’s love and truth and these will be an excellent resource. Blessings!
Just last evening I was struggling with fear and anxiety. I praised God and sang songs of praise hoping to overcome it. This morning I journaled and cried as I realized some past feelings of fear were causing the present fear. Then I read your devotional on fear and your blog on the 10 steps to help a friend. It has greatly helped me and I pray I will be of better help to my friends. Thank you for your words of encouragement. Blessings on your day.
Karen, I just love it when God reaches right down into our circumstances and blesses us with a solution!!
This article hit home for me. I’ve had fears before in my life, but nothing compared to the fear I carry now. You see, 2 years ago ( 3/15/15) my precious 19 year old completes suicide. Grief brings many things up, one of which is the fear of something happening to my surviving 2 sons & daughter in law…I now know tragedy can happen anytime to anyone, and I’m anxious and afraid unlike ever before! This devotion, as so many I read here are so helpful and inspiring! Thank you! Not only does this give me ideas to better help others, especially as I listen to their stories and fears as a friend and or facilitator, but it helps me personally. Thank you for sharing!
I’m praying for you Tammy.
Lifting you up in prayer Tammy-for God to give you peace and to hold you in the palm of His hand as you walk through grieiving your son.
Tammy, I am so sorry about your son. I know you must miss him terribly! We too lost a son in 2010 at the age of 16. I can relate to the fear and anxiety you feel. The anxiety often felt like a gorilla on my chest. A friend shared a verse with me that helped so much. Psalm 55:22 – “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you.” I love doing word studies so here’s what I found that helped. To cast means to throw or hurl or fling. Burden means burden [!], but it also means “that which is given”. So this verse literally says to take what you’ve been given and throw it on the Lord. And His promise? He will sustain you, support you, hold you up. So I took Him at His word. When the anxiety would get so bad that I couldn’t breathe and felt like I was going under the terrible dark depths, I would start praying and say, “God, I can’t take this. I’m throwing this back on you. Take this pain. Take this grief. Take this anxiety. I just can’t bear it anymore.” I would soon start breathing again and the gorilla would get off my chest and I could go on. God is faithful, Tammy. He has you and your family in His hands. I’m praying you can trust Him, even when you don’t understand. Especially then.
What a powerful image of casting your cares on him. Beautiful!
Thanks for sharing this information with us I am enjoying this series.rest is the word God gave me for this year.
Suzie, thank you for sharing these insights. I have struggled with fear, anxiety and depression and these are very comforting reminders that I can put into practice myself, share with my husband and close friends for when I am in a dark place and, with God’s help, will share with others when I am on the other side of these challenges. Thank you so much for sharing your heart and wisdom.
I am a pianist, but struggle greatly with performance anxiety. My husband is a choral director, so the job of accompanying his choirs falls on me. A few years ago, he was selected to direct a state Honors choir. The idea of playing in a huge auditorium in front of a massive crowd terrified me. A few days before the performance, a friend posted a video of Pentatonix singing “The Little Drummer Boy.” As I listened to the song I had heard hundreds of times before, the lyrics spoke to my heart in a new way. Such simple words, but they brought so much clarity and comfort. I, too, often feel like I have no gift to bring, that it isn’t enough, that I’m not good enough, but in reality, God has equipped me with the exact gifts I need to serve Him. If only I can stay focused on what He can do through me – that is MORE than enough. Praise God!
I so appreciate the story and tips you shared, as both my children suffer from generalized anxiety. As a mom, I tend to just want to ‘fix’ everything, but it was a great reminder that often they just need me to listen and hold them close. Thank you.
Amen! We are wonderfully made – uniquely designed – specifically purposed!
Fear can be small or large but in the eyes of the person it is real. I just reached out using your tips to a very dear friend. Thank you for this encouragement in what to provide others. Relationship is the key; being present with a heart of love of compassion.
Suzie I greatly appreciate what you have posted this morning. A number of these are applicable to what I need to apply in my own life/situations that arise so that I will be better equipped to minister to my family, friends, coworkers. Thank you.
Thank you so much for this compiled list of ways to help overcome fears. I came for tips to help myself first but have to say the best one that resonates with me is not trying to top others stories! My Mom died Last month and I have had my share of people reliving the death of their Mother to help ease my pain-not helpful!!!
Kelly, So sorry for the loss of your mother. Praying today that God will give you comfort and peace during the days ahead. I pray, also, that God would protect your heart from well meant comments and put those in your path that will give you comfort and not make your grief greater.
Thank you for your good words today. They will help me with myself and others!
Thanks for the encouraging message! Fear can be debilitating but it helps when others can just notice that you need help. Not to take over and do it but to help them. Walk with them. Encourage them. Pray for them. Let them know you care. Thank you for your message!
Thank You for these.. I definitely see how I can apply these to my own life and to reach out to others. I also like the points of what Not to do.
Appreciate the tips for helping a friend in fear. I tend to be fearful myself, especially about family issues.
I am fearful of the doctors diagnosis. I don’t have a friend to encourage me right now, but I want you to know that I have been able to encourage myself just reading your blog. Thank you.
I love that. Father, give Renee your overwhelming peace today.
Praying for you!
I would like to be a friend to encourage you 🙂
When I feel fear coming on I immediately reach out to my prayer partner and one or two other women who I trust. They offer prayer and scriptures that put my focus back on the solution, God, and off the issue. If they are not available I blast praise music and sing my heart out to God. I also have scripture written on index cards that I read frequently when I’m slipping into a bad place-always brings me back to the light and life.
Nancy, Matthew 18:20 stands so true when we gather together and offer up encouragement and prayer to our Healer and for each other. Soar in His presence and soak in His truths.
Thank you so much. These were AMAZING! & BONUS, they can be applied to other circumstances, e.g. marital relations.
Courtney, they are amazing. I lift you up in my prayers for your life circumstances and your marriage. Lean into our Father, who tenderly loves you.
It’s amazing how some friends are so attuned to helping with fear. Meanwhile like you said, others try to encourage but just make you more concerned. I love your points in this post. Thank you for sharing.
Sometimes we don’t know what to do. I know that my friends who surrounded me when I had cancer loved me so much, but they didn’t know what to say. I learned that it was okay for me to tell those friends what would help. Most were relieved.
Just. Wow. This is so perfect. Spot on! I identified with so many of these. I sat here reading this, saying “yes! yes! yes!” Thank you for this gem, Suzie!
Thank you for sharing!
I know that when I’m afraid I love to listen to worship songs that uplift me and remind me He is there. Also, reading the Psalms, especially the ones David wrote. So many of his psalms help remind us that even when our fears are chasing us, God is there and we shouldn’t lose our faith. He is and should be our refuge and hope.
I am grateful for any help in this area. Thank you for sharing your ways of How to encourage friends and family who are afraid.
Love praise music also. Helps me focus on Him, not what makes me afraid
Thank you, Suzie. I really liked your suggestions because there are times when I don’t know what to do. They really help! Blessings on this holy week.
Wonderful advice Suzie ! Sometimes just having a friend present to listen to you, hold your hand and say a prayer of concern is the most important thing. Just having someone to be there is what really matters. No unwanted advice. I love this quote from Karen Ehman’s book : Listen, Love, Repeat , Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind, “Pooh!” he whispered. “Yes, Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw. “I just wanted to be sure of you.” Thank you so much for all your wisdom and encouragement! Love you, Linda
Susie, I really agree with all of the things you mentioned that are unhelpful and all of the helpful ways to encourage a friend who is afraid. I think these suggestions can certainly also apply to a friend who is stuggling, hurting, or going through trial or hardship. Being a safe person for others to confide in and letting them honestly express how they are feeling, without causing them to feel condemnation, and validating others’ feelings are all such important things to do. Praying for them and with them, reminding them of God’s character and past works and to discerningly and sensitively share or read Scripture with them is all very beneficial too. I think that being available and present for a friend and giving them your full attention makes a big difference and let’s them know that you really care about them and what they are facing and that they are not alone. If and when possible in some situations, I would appreciate it if a friend were willing to be present with me when I do or face whatever it is I am afraid of. Sending a card or note is another way to show that you care for and support a friend, and it may encourage them and brighten their day. Listening to worship music is another great thing to do, as it can remind us of truths about God and His promises in Scripture and it can also help us to connect with God and our emotions and touch us in a special way. I love worship music and buy it through iTunes, and I am glad and thankful that you are doing this nice giveaway!