I sat outside with a sick loved one the other night.

It was 3 a.m. Stars blanketed the sky, so stunning. Not a lot of words were exchanged, but the words that were shared were meaningful. We sat together until the sun rose, and my loved one was able to finally sleep.

Later, as I drove home, I thought about all the things I wished I could have done. Maybe I could have tried a little harder to “fix” what was wrong. Maybe I could have fought a little harder.

Don’t you love it when the Holy Spirit stops us from those rabbit trails to nowhere? The should-a, could-a, would-a roads that aren’t helpful at all. 

The truth is I’ve walked in those hard places several times over the past few years, and people have wrapped around me. There wasn’t a perfect way to do that, and even though things were hard, the fact that they were part of the journey made an incredible difference. In fact, some of my sweetest memories are woven throughout those difficult roads — because of people.

If you have a friend going through a challenging time, you may feel that what you have to offer is not enough, but I believe there are 3 things that can make all the difference.

One — when we show up

When a friend is hurting, for whatever reason, we may stay away because we feel we don’t know what to do, or what to say. We don’t want to interfere. We don’t want to do the wrong thing. All of those are valid, but the truth is no one wants to be fixed. They aren’t looking for perfect people to whoosh in with all the answers or take control (unless they do, and then they’ll tell you).

Showing up is simply being present.

In a waiting room. On a back porch sipping coffee. Shoulder-to-shoulder companionship that says, “I’m here. You are not alone.” You aren’t carrying their load for them, but their load certainly feels a little lighter as you show that you care.

Two — when we listen

Active listening is different than merely hearing words. You tune in. You don’t offer advice (unless asked for). You don’t tell your story, but listen to theirs. You don’t compare what they are going through to anyone else. And you aren’t thinking about what you want to say. You simply listen all the way to the end.

Being “heard” is powerful.

Because your friend —  the one going through a hard place, doesn’t have to make you you feel better about the difficulty they are going through. They don’t feel like a project. They don’t feel like they have to put a red bow on the story. They are just one human sitting with another human who is present and listening. That’s powerful!

Three – when we pray

When you are juggling emotions, faith, pain, and uncertainty, you want to tell God all about it, but the truth is words might not come easily. The pain is too deep. The uncertainty is too big. You love God with all your heart, but because the words are hard to find, your faith may feel shaky, when it’s anything but.

This is when we transition from saying, “I’ll pray for you,” to actually praying. Maybe that’s a text. A note card. A Voxer or message. A hand slipped in hers, with the whispered words of, “Jesus, we need you.” Some of the most powerful prayers I’ve received over the past year have come from a friend who lives hundreds of miles from me, but who prays for me often. It seems like her words (on Voxer) come at just the right time every time.

Prayer Starters: Talking to God about Hard Times

If you have a friend walking in hard places, Prayer Starters: Talking with God about Hard Times can be a gentle and hopeful resource for her. It’s my new book and available for pre-order right now.

I wrote many of these prayer starters as I walked through one of the most challenging seasons in my own life. The Word allowed me to take a passage, a thought, and talk to God, right where I was. Maybe it led to words. Maybe it led to soaking in his presence. Both were needed, and beautiful.

Prayer Starters is part prayer journal, part power of the Word, part creative connection with God. 

If you preorder the Prayer Starters book this week, not only can you download 7 beautiful prayer cards (to carry with you or to give to your friend to reach for in the middle of the night), but also gorgeous lock screens that will encourage you every time you pick up your phone.

But I’d like to go just a little deeper, offer a little more, because I know what it’s like to walk in that hard, hard place.

I’d love to send you a personalized, handwritten prayer starter on a gorgeous 3×5 card. Once you order the book, just let me know your friend’s name and your address (within the U.S. only) and I’ll pray for her, along with you. I’ll send you the handwritten prayer starter to your address, and you can share it with her, along with the book.

To preorder, you can find all the places it’s available  here as well as find the form to share once you’ve order (form is at the bottom of the page). Just share your mailing address (if you want the personalized card) along with the receipt # in the form. Your address won’t be saved or used for anything other than sending you the card.

Thank you, for being a good friend. You don’t have to have all the answers. You don’t have to have all the words. God is using YOU to impact someone else’s life and show his love for her.

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