When people we care about are in crisis—and we want to comfort them—it’s easy to freeze up. I can find myself struggling with fear and lamenting what I’ve heard from others:

“I don’t know what to say.”

When this happens, I’m reminded how a friend once gifted my husband and me with meaningful encouragement. Earl didn’t appear to wrestle with knowing what to say. He just showed up in the waiting room at the hospital when our infant son was going in for major heart surgery.

We knew many people were praying, and this knowledge strengthened us. Family members from out of town longed to be there, but couldn’t. Earl was a friend in Christ who worked as a supervisor for a local building contractor. We learned he had cleared his calendar and let his boss know he wouldn’t be available that day.

He sat with us.

Honestly, that was pretty much it—for six and a half hours. There were times I knew this friend and brother was praying, but he was simply a quiet, solid presence. His actions spoke volumes, as did his silence.

My husband and I were given no false encouragement of “Everything’s going to be fine” because none of us knew how things would go.

I appreciated that.

This friend didn’t search for passages of Scripture to share. He was living out scripture. He was there, bearing our burdens in his compassionate heart. If we wanted to talk, he talked with us. If we were silent, he was comfortable with that. He was chill. He was real. He cared.

This young man was wise beyond his twenty-something years.

He demonstrated that encouraging others is crucial, yet uncomplicated.

 * * *

I met a woman who shared what had been the greatest encouragement anyone had given her during twenty years of serving in a foreign country. A friend had flown from the U.S. to simply hang out with her. She washed dishes, helped with the baby, cooked meals, and listened. This selfless ‘mercy trip’ lodged in the memory of a global worker as the most amazing encouragement she had experienced throughout two decades of ministry.

* * *

Are you noticing a pattern, here?

Our friend and that of the missionary understood the importance of proximity. They came to where their friends were and their actions spoke louder than words:

I care.

The gift of proximity is something the community of believers in Jesus is specifically empowered to model. And Christ’s followers, who make up His church, are given instructions for encouraging one another:

Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (I Thessalonians 5:11)

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24)

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:10)

Galatians 6:2 exhorts us to bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Each one of these can be done through simple actions, speech, or a combination of the two. We don’t have to be certified in counseling, trained in a special way, or even have a particular spiritual gift in order to be used by God to wonderfully encourage someone. We just have to care enough to consider reworking the calendar, booking the ticket, or perhaps resisting the temptation of resorting to social media.

Should you find yourself hesitating to come alongside someone in crisis because you don’t know what to say, prayerfully consider how you can show up where they are or reach out so they can hear your voice, even if it’s only to say “I care.”

You may be the only one who will.

* * *

When we follow the nudging of the Holy Spirit in response to another person’s unthinkable plight, please remember dear friend that we never walk alone. Consider God’s beautiful invitation when you’re unsure how to proceed with that suffering friend, co-worker, fellow student, neighbor, or family member:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (James 1:5)

My guess is that’s what our friend Earl did, and I’m grateful to this day.

June

June

People Lover. Author. Blogger. Speaker. Forgiven Much & Wild About God. Learn about June's latest book on her website.

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