Do you know someone who may be struggling in the wilderness today? How do you come alongside and walk with a friend who needs encouragement and support during a difficult time?
Welcome to Mindful Monday fellow travelers! We are toward the end of our blog series, THE WAY OF THE WILDERNESS, which we started over six weeks ago. By this point hopefully, we have learned enough about our own wilderness experiences that we can offer hope, support, and encouragement to those who may be in the deepest darkest time of their journey. As those who have been there, we want to reach out with empathy and compassion and practically help others.
YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW
One of my favorite sayings recently has been, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” Does that make sense? This simple yet profound phrase has helped me aptly describe my wilderness journey. What does it mean? For me, it means that before I went through a devastatingly difficult time I had no idea what being in a deep dark valley full of physical pain, mental anxiety, and emotional trauma could do to me. I did not know what I would need, who would be there to help me, and how such simple gestures of kindness would make a difference in my recovery. But now I do!
And you have probably had similar experiences. It is only after the death of a loved one that you know how to speak words of comfort someone who is grieving. A woman who has struggled with infertility is keenly aware of how to support a friend who has lost babies due to miscarriages. Parents who are raising children with special needs can advocate effectively for other families because they have been there. And someone who has battled depression or anxiety can come alongside others who are suffering and give the kind of empathy and support that others cannot.
In 2 Corinthians 1:4, the Bible even teaches that this precisely what we are supposed to do.
What a wonderful God we have—he is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the source of every mercy, and the one who so wonderfully comforts and strengthens us in our hardships and trials.
And why does he do this? So that when others are troubled, needing our sympathy and encouragement, we can pass on to them this same help and comfort God has given us.
2 Corinthians 1:4 (The Living Bible)
PAY IT FORWARD
You have heard of the phrase “pay it forward.” The simplest way to define “pay it forward” is that when someone does something for you, instead of paying that person back directly, you pass it on to another person instead. I like this concept because the person who reaches out to you may not be the person who needs you the most at that time. It is always good to be looking ahead for someone who may be struggling in the wilderness at that moment and needs someone to come alongside, take their hand, and walk with them.
In a post I wrote over a year ago, Bitter, Broken, or Better: What Will Adversity Do to You? I talked about how it is not the adversity or the wilderness that changes who we are, rather it is our response to it. If we cannot or refuse to “pay it forward” we know that our time in the desert has either broken us or made us so bitter that we cannot move on to help and encourage others. Sadly, this might mean we have wasted our time in the wilderness.
But that is not what we want, what God calls us to, or what others need. We need to redeem our time in the wilderness by watching for God, waiting on God, and walking toward God so that we can reach out to others. Like 2 Corinthians 1:4 reminds us, God comforts and strengthens us in our hard times “so that when others are troubled, needing our encouragement, we can pass on to them this same help and comfort God has given us.”
Who knew that the “pay it forward” concept originated in the Bible? 😉 Most worthy and good things do!
HOW TO START HELPING SOMEONE WHO IS STRUGGLING
So what can you do practically speaking? How can you pay it forward and redeem your time in the wilderness? So often, we don’t act because we are uncertain or afraid. As someone who has benefitted from practical help and intentional support, I can assure you it is better to do something than nothing at all.
So, where should you start?
Ask God to show you who needs your help and how you can best come alongside and walk with them in their difficult time in the wilderness. Since God wants us to “pay it forward,” he will guide us if we ask him.
DO SOME RESEARCH
Is the person you want to help walking through a physical, emotional, mental, financial or relational wilderness? Do they have a support system you can tap in to or are they alone? Do they need practical help like cleaning or cooking or would emotional support such as listening or being present be more applicable to their situation? Find out by asking their friends or family members…or reach out and ask them directly.
MAKE A PLAN & EXECUTE IT
Do something! Don’t just say you are going to do it. Be intentional. Be present. Actions speak so much louder than words, so when you offer your support and encouragement make sure you follow through on what you promised.
A LIST OF 25+ PRACTICAL WAYS TO HELP SOMEONE WHO IS STRUGGLING
I have categorized my list according to the five love languages so that you can easily find practical ideas to meet specific needs.
ACTS OF SERVICE
- Make phone calls or send emails on their behalf.
- Do some laundry for them or pick up their dry cleaning.
- Help them with administrative tasks like bills, mail, and organizing appointments.
- Clean their kitchen, organize the fridge and take out the trash.
- Do grocery shopping for them or offer to run errands.
- Drive them to appointments or take their kids to different activities.
- Take care of their children, pets or their home (including outside yard work).
QUALITY TIME/ PHYSICAL PRESENCE
- Take them outside for a walk or to a park to sit and get some fresh air.
- Bring them coffee or lunch and stay and visit.
- Invite them over for a meal and make them feel at home.
- Read with them or to them.
- Distract them by taking them to a movie, concert or museum.
- Offer them a getaway place to stay to rest and recover.
- Watch a movie or play a game with them if they are not able to get out of the house.
- Be physically present by holding their hand or hugging them when needed.
- Send a care package or flowers if you are too far away to visit.
- Make and deliver a meal for their family.
- If you are not a cook, buy them a gift card to their favorite restaurant so they can get takeout or try one of the new food delivery services.
- Bring them different types of reading material like books, magazines or devotionals.
- Buy them a subscription to Spotify or Audible so they can listen to music or books.
WORDS OF AFFIRMATION
- Call, text, or email them to let them know you are thinking of them. Don’t just do it once but often.
- Offer to pray with them either in person or on the phone.
- Write out scripture verses for them on notecards.
- Use snail mail and send them an encouraging note or card.
- If you do not know what to say, connect them with someone who can offer them words of wisdom like a pastor or counselor.
- Let them do most of the talking. Practice active listening instead of offering your opinion or advice. Practice empathy.
- Affirm their feelings by giving them a safe place to share openly and honestly. Keep things confidential.
I hope this gets you motivated on this Mindful Monday to reach out and walk alongside someone who may desperately need a friend as they wander through the wilderness. I will offer this list as a FREE PRINTABLE to all my email subscribers so you can download it and keep it as a reference guide. And if you have other practical ideas to add to the list, please share them in the comments below!
I am so very grateful to so many of you have stepped up in my life and walked through my wilderness with me. You have taught me about what it means to put love into action and have inspired me to pay it forward!
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