It’s often said that God won’t give us too much too handle. But you and I both know sometimes it doesn’t feel like that is true.
It might be a diagnosis that stuns with how fragile life is and how murky the future suddenly looks. Maybe it’s a financial collapse that’s left you clinging to the wreckage of life as you knew it. It might be the sudden death of someone you never expected to lose so early and you find yourself wondering whether you’ll ever smile again.
That’s where I found myself seven years ago. One day, I was happily married to my high school sweetheart and the next, I was a sudden widow and single mom to seven. In that unwanted and unexpected difficulty, friends were one of the lifelines that helped me get through. I can honestly say I would not have navigated that hard season like I did without my friends. Let’s look at 5 reasons we need friends through hardship and how we can reach out to our friends when the hard hits.
1. Friends give us courage we don’t have.
“Will you pray for me? This is so hard,” I texted a friend a few weeks after my husband died. I felt like I was the one buried with paperwork, endless decisions, the black hole of grief on top of shepherding my children through their grief.
She texted back a picture I’ll never forget. It was a roomful of women and their children praying on their knees. They’d stopped their homeschool classes to pray for us right then. Those prayers along with their love gave me strength I didn’t have.
To encourage means to give someone courage, to hearten or uplift. We can encourage friends through a hand-written card, an act of kindness, or a timely Bible verse sent by text. We can also encourage a friend on significant dates like the due date after a friend’s miscarriage or the first Mother’s Day after a friend’s mom passes away.
Galatians 6:2 tells us to “carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” If you’re going through a season of difficulty, don’t be afraid to reach out to friends. When a friend says “let me know how I can help,” respond with a specific need you’d love her to cover in prayer.
2. Friends offer a listening ear.
We can’t go to friends to fix our difficulty; that’s God’s job. But our friends can offer a listening ear. Sometimes, we just need to talk it out. Sometimes, just sharing what’s on our heart makes it lighter. Talking through our difficulty can help us process it and a friend’s listening ear can be needed comfort. Proverbs 17:17 tells us that “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.”
The caution here is to keep from going to friends when we really need to go to God. There’s a fine line between sharing our heart and overburdening a friend. And there are often details we can’t tell someone else or emotions too deep for words.
In those times, we need to take our hearts to God, who knows us better than we know ourselves and loves us deeper than anyone ever could. And while friends can listen and help, ultimately, we need to rely on God for wisdom, guidance and the comfort only he can bring.
3. Friends help us find joy in the hard.
Deep difficulty can make us wonder whether joy will ever come back. Even if it does, we figure it will be after we’ve made it through the season of hard. Surprisingly, God brings joy right in the midst of difficulty.
Joy softens the brutal edge of suffering. It helps lift our mind off our circumstances and onto the good God has for us. It’s sweet relief in the middle of difficulty and a reminder that God is present with us in the hard.
Proverbs 17:22 tells us that “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Sometimes that joy comes with family or something deeply personal God does for us. But friends can also help us find joy again.
This happened for us with my oldest daughter’s 18th birthday, just two weeks after my husband died. The last thing I felt like doing was throwing a party. And yet, we needed to celebrate her and mark this milestone birthday. Friends came to our rescue. Whole families showed up at a spot for Christian ballroom dancing, wearing pink in her honor. They showered her with pink balloons and pink cakes and spent the evening dancing together and celebrating her. As we loaded into the van that night my daughter turned to me with a deep smile: “That’s the best birthday I’ve ever had.” Only God and godly friends can bring that kind of joy in the midst of suffering.
4. Friends help anchor us in changing circumstances.
Going through a season of difficulty ushers in all kinds of change. We might have less energy or time for outside activities. We might have a change in income, a job change or even a move. Seasons of difficulty can bring a change in normal routines and interests.
Amidst those changes, the continued devotion of a steady friend is an anchor. Proverbs 18:24 says a real friend “sticks closer than a brother.” But here’s the rub: while many friendships will continue as you navigate hardship, some won’t. Some people you thought were friends won’t know how to respond to your difficulty and those friendships may wane. Give them grace and let it go.
Because some friends WILL understand your hardship and those friendships will be become even deeper. Communication is key here. Make sure your friends know if you have less time or energy in this season so they don’t think you’re simply pulling away.
5. Friends remind us to help others in our own need.
This one is important. So often in difficulty, we can become hyper-focused on our problems and our needs. Part of that is because we’re simply trying to process and survive, but it can cause us to become too self-absorbed.
Friends balance that. They help us lift our eyes off our need to see theirs. Philippians 2:4 says, “Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
My friend Rhonda demonstrated this beautifully. She showed up the day before my husband’s funeral to help with whatever needed done: first in the kitchen and then ironing my children’s clothes for their dad’s service. Months later, I learned her family had been quietly walking their own season of difficulty, yet she had taken time to help us in ours.
We need to be both the friend open enough to ask for help and the friend willing to offer it. Deep friendships are a gift from God and a lifeline when we’re treading a season of difficulty. God tells us “two are better than one” because “if either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”
Lisa Appelo is a widow and single mom to 7 who inspires women to find hope in the hard. She’s passionate about rich Bible study and teaches a weekly ladies Bible class at her church. Lisa is an author and speaker who encourages women to anchor their faith deeply in an Almighty, all-loving God. Find her encouragement for faith, grief and hope at LisaAppelo.com and on Instagram @lisaappelo. Get her encouragement in your inbox and access her FREE 100 Days with Christ Bible study and journal.
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