When our Lord Jesus lived on this earth, He told His disciples to expect tribulation (John 16:33). He ended that sentence with a promise, “take heart; I have overcome the world.”
There was no “if” in Jesus’ statement, therefore we know to expect trouble. When our times of trials and tribulation arrive, we cry out to God. We also ask our friends and family for support and encouragement. Sometimes tough times last a short season. Other times, a prolonged time of discouragement or illness catches a friend. They’ve received dozens of cards and flowers, but how can we continue to love on people who are suffering for an extended period?
Maybe they are facing a long season of infertility or waiting on a job or relationship change, or a life-changing event looms on the horizon. Each time of suffering hurts, and when it’s extended, the hurting person often stops asking for help for fear they will “wear others out.”
When able, they’ve been taken out for meals or have been given meals at home. How can we continue to help and cheer them?
Following are thirty out-of-the-ordinary ways you can come alongside your friend or family member with the love of Christ. They range from free to a minimal cost. We’ll refer to the person as your friend throughout this article, even though it might be a family member. The list is in no particular order of importance, except this one: pray for them and with them.
30 Ways to Encourage Someone in a Long Period of Suffering
1. Write a poem about your friend and post it on a social media account. Make it about all their good qualities and nothing about their long-term suffering.
2. Enlist a group of friends and have a “get well caroling” party at your beloved’s house (if possible).
3. Buy a pack of flower seeds and all the items needed for your friend to plant seeds and watch them sprout in a sunny windowsill. Make a little plant marker with a Bible verse written on it.
4. Grab some popcorn and your friend’s favorite movie and have a film night at her house.
5. Borrow a telescope (even better if you own one) and take your friend somewhere to see God’s stars on a clear, moonless night (unless you want to gaze at the moon).
6. Grab a photo of your friend and have a caricature artist draw a sweet rendition of your friend and present it to them as a gift.
7. Gather a group of mutual friends and have each one make a poster exclaiming appropriate wishes and take a group photo for your friend.
8. Compose a silly song using “garage band” or some other app and send it to the person you want to cheer up.
9. If you live within a short drive of a body of water, and the weather is conducive, either rent a boat and/or have a “captain” take you both on a tour of the lake or ocean inlets.
10. If your friend is able, take a trip to the local art museum.
11. Bring your loved one to church with you.
12. Head to the grocery store and get all the ingredients needed for your friend’s favorite meal. Then go over and prepare the meal and visit. (Laugh a lot, too).
13. Write a little book and add your own drawings. Gift your friend with it. It doesn’t matter if you can write or draw; the fun is in what you come up with and the smiles and maybe laughter it brings.
14. Is there a nearby nature trail you can visit? Pack a picnic lunch and take a leisurely walk.
15. Go on a photo shoot at a local landmark and dress for the occasion. Have fun with it.
16. This one’s easy for women, take your friend shopping, even if it’s just window-shopping.
17. Invite other believers to join together and pray over the person who’s struggling.
18. Spend a few hours at a nursing home with your friend and read to the residents.
19. Attend a minor league baseball game together. The atmosphere at minor league games is family-oriented and fun.
20. Go to a nursery and pick out some happy plants for indoors or to grow outside.
21. Purchase and fill a bird feeder and place it in a spot your friend can see from inside or from a porch or deck.
22. Gather three other friends and play some card games together.
23. Make a list of encouraging podcasts and put the apps on your friend’s phone if they are unacquainted with them.
24. Have a Bible study together on whatever you feel suits the need of your friend.
25. Have other members of your church family write out prayers for your friend.
26. Stitch or embroider a bookmark with a Bible verse.
27. If one of you has a porch or deck, have a nice long visit. If it’s cold, bundle up and have hot cocoa. If it’s hot, get the iced tea glasses filled. Remember, you’re not there to “fix” things. Just listening is a huge, underutilized ministry that speaks volumes.
28. Find lots of pictures of vacation spots your friend has always wanted to visit, or even share yours. Add funny anecdotes to make your friend laugh (and you will, too).
29. Share a funny comic strip each day.
30. Does your friend need a few repairs or any outside work done? Ask people from your church to help and take the group to their house to work and visit.
10 Bible Verses to Encourage People in Trials
Our culture is often called a garage-society. In days gone by, as we call them, people took walks and they were never short because others were out on their front porches and kids were playing in the yard (or on the street). A wave wasn’t enough; neighbors visited and shared stories and food! Today we enter our attached garages, get in our cars, open the door long enough to exit and off we go. Sometimes we even wave at a neighbor and sadly, we haven’t even met them. We just know they live in the third house down from us and they have a yellow dog. Often, people who are suffering go through it alone, partly because few people check on them and partly because a person doesn’t want to bother others with their ills.
It takes effort, thought, and prayer for us as Christians to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39). The command given by Jesus right before that is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37). How can we love our neighbors (and friends and family) without loving God first?
Following are a few Bible verses to help you as you pray about how you can help a long-suffering person. It does not matter if the person is a Christian or not, for we are to love them. If you are ministering to an unbeliever, tell them why, and share the Gospel. It’s the best news they’ll ever hear!
“I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living!
Wait for the LORD;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the LORD!”
“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with My victorious right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
“I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13).
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3).
“And they glorified God because of me” (Galatians 1:24).
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6).
“I will never leave you or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).
I pray this list will help you as you minister to those in times of long-suffering. May our God of all hope bless your efforts.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/happy8790
Lisa Loraine Baker is the multiple award-winning author of Someplace to be Somebody. She writes fiction and nonfiction. In addition to writing for the Salem Web Network, Lisa serves as a Word Weavers’ mentor and is part of a critique group. She also is a member of BRRC. Lisa and her husband, Stephen, a pastor, live in a small Ohio village with their crazy cat, Lewis.
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