Our 4-year-old grandson Jackson is accident prone. Every bump and bruise has a story. “You should have seen it, Nana,” he said. “I fell off my bike and my face hit the ground before my hands.” One look at his noggin and I knew he spoke truth.

He then pulled three bandages out of his pocket and said, “I brought these just in case. I even have an extra for you.”

Love that kid. And his simple act of kindness was a painful reminder that I often overcomplicate what it looks like to care for friends who hurt.

When grief and disaster strike, I’ve been one of those well-meaning people who has done more damage than good. I’ve avoided people because I didn’t know what to say or do. And I’ve poured vinegar into a wound by immediately talking about God’s good plan when there was no good in sight.

I wonder if you have, too? If so, here are three ways we can care for friends who hurt.

  1. Show up. Don’t avoid the person or the tender subject because it’s too hard and painful, and you’re afraid you’ll make things worse. Simply show up. Draw near. Your presence speaks volumes about your love and care.

That’s what Sandra does. She cares deeply about people. And when she shared how a woman in their small group had a heartache so heavy she couldn’t get out of bed, she knew what they had to do. The friends piled into a car, drove to her home, and stood on the front porch asking her husband if they could come in. They didn’t stand there long.

“What did you bring?” I asked. What’s the cure for heartache? Casseroles, cards, calla lilies?

“Nothing,” she said. “We just showed up.” That’s what friends do for friends who hurt.

  1. Listen. Most of us think we’re better listeners than we really are. After my last phone conversation with Alecia, I was convicted by my end of the conversation. I texted, “Interesting how I tell you I need to learn to listen as I interrupt you. Sorry!”

She responded, “Huh? Did you interrupt me? Didn’t notice!” I may not be the only one with a listening problem!

When you sit with friends who hurt, pose thoughtful questions, then stop talking. Be comfortable in the silence, and resist the urge to fix the situation or to fix her. Remind her how much she matters to you.

  1. Pray. When my friend Theresa was dying from a debilitating illness, she taught me this about prayer. She said some people would tell her they were praying for her and others would take her hand and pray with her. She always felt most loved and encouraged by those who did the latter.

Pray for and with each other. Even if it’s a single-sentence prayer of blessing. Here are a few examples:

  • May you experience the nearness of the one who promises to stay close to the brokenhearted. (Psalm 34:18)
  • May you remember that he sees you and counts your tears. (Psalm 56:8)
  • May he wrap you in his comfort and compassion and surprise you with glimpses of his tender care. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

When we can’t see God’s love through the tears, we need sisters who will prop us up and demonstrate his love. Show up. Listen. Pray. Repeat.

As Bob Goff writes, “God doesn’t pass us notes, he gives us friends.” And sometimes those friends may even have an extra bandage in their pocket just for you.

Lenae Bulthuis

Author Lenae Bulthuis

Lenae lives with her husband, Mike, on a grain and livestock farm in west central Minnesota. When not reading or watching grandlittles, she serves as Training & Club Development Manager for GEMS Girls’ Clubs (www.gemsgc.org)—equipping women and girls to live radically faithful lives.

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Join the discussion 8 Comments

  • Lenae, thank you for writing this article. I appreciate your honesty in failing at some of these things as I know I have too. These are great reminders to move forward in grace with our hurting friends!

  • Lenae Bulthuis says:

    Bless you for encouraging, Lizzie! And yes, yes–move forward in grace!

    • Jill Brouwer says:

      You showed up dear friend. I will never forget that. Just a hug, few words, and I knew you cared. I will never forget that simple gesture. THANK YOU! ❤️ Wonderful. Thanks for using your gift with others.

      • Lenae Bulthuis says:

        Dearest Jill, I remember. And it felt so small for all I wanted to express. Know the prayers are ongoing. Always. Much love to you!

  • Jody VanKoevering says:

    Thank you again for your warm encouragement. It is so easy to hide from situations we deem ‘uncomfortable’, but there is power in stepping outside of ourselves and toward Him who called us there. Thank you for the gentle reminders that make taking those steps more attainable. And thank you for sharing your heart time and time again dear sister,
    What a blessing you are.

    • Lenae Bulthuis says:

      Dear Jody, bless you for encouraging! And for praying, leading by example, and daily sharing Scripture with all. You are a gift and dearly loved!

  • Mary Jo Vander West says:

    Thank you so much for sharing, Lenae, you are an encouragement to all. I always feel like I should do more, so I don’t do anything sometimes. Just Show Up and Listen. Great truth. I love the scriptures as well, I am writing them down to use when needed. Love your heart.

    • Lenae Bulthuis says:

      Mary Jo, I hear you! Love your heart, friend. You are a beautiful encourager who has done all these things for me. Thank you.

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