“When a friend is in trouble, don’t annoy him by asking if there is anything you can do. Think up something appropriate and do it.” ~Edward W. Howe
Many people think that I am chock-full of creativity. I have my moments, certainly. I’m good at stringing words together, but probably could not manage a novel. I have an eye for color, but cannot seem to decorate cohesively. I love my friends, and am good at verbal encouragement, but when it comes to thinking of tangible things I can do to help – I draw a blank.
Laundry! I could do laundry for you!
That seems to be the only thing I can ever think of. Not surprisingly, I have yet to have anyone take me up on it.
I have so many friends in trouble right now, struggling to various degrees with various problems. I struggle with the fact that the only tangible “something appropriate” I can ever come up with to help, is to offer a few minutes of prayer. Right now, this moment that we’re speaking. I can encourage and bring a smile, more often than not. That’s about it.
Then, I’m reminded that it might be enough. There seem to be plenty of people offering their hands in the way of making meals, watching kids, helping clean, and other practical things.
Are my words and prayers less practical?
I honestly don’t know. On the one hand, I wonder how many people are stopping to just pray with my friends. On the other, I feel like the only thing I ever manage to do is pray.
While I know that prayer is probably the top priority, and the best way I can serve a friend, I often wonder if my friends want more from me than that, and if they are ever disappointed that the only thing I can ever seem to do to help is pray or offer my company.
Whenever I offer meals or other help, that always seems to be well-covered already, by others.
So, I guess the question is this:
Am I content to be the words friend, or should I be doing more?
I can’t always answer that.
James 2 is pretty clear that patting someone on the back with an “I’ll pray for you, brother,” is pretty much useless. That if we don’t help meet physical, practical needs, our faith is worthless.
So, I struggle.
I try to say “Let’s pray, right now,” instead of a passing “I’ll pray for you,” without any follow-up. I try to offer practical help, but it’s not always needed, because someone else has already stepped up. This shows the goodness of our God and Father to provide for his precious children, and I rejoice that so many in my local church family are so willing to be used in practical ways.
I guess I just sometimes feel selfishly left out of the practical side. Until I look at my life.
God has made it clear to me that I’m to say “No” far more often than I say “Yes” to any outside commitments. I’m learning, I think, that he is calling me to a life of encouragement and prayer, when it comes to helping my friends.
I think I just answered my own question in this rambling post.
I will never stop offering to do the practical things, because I don’t ever want to assume that, since my primary calling is encouragement and prayer, that God would never ask me to step up and follow through on something practical for one of my sister-friends.
I will, however, learn to be content in my calling, and make every effort to stay sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading, so that I never miss an opportunity to minister – no matter what the nature of that ministry is. More often than not, it will probably involve words, and words can be just as practical and meaningful as a hot meal or a couple hours of babysitting. It’s the heart-motivation behind my words and deeds that matters the most.
I need to stop looking at outward appearances, and start examining my heart – Why am I offering words and prayer? Is it because that is what is needed from me in that moment, or am I avoiding the practical? After all, that is what God cares about the most. The “why” behind my “what.”
If my why’s are in order, then I have nothing to worry about. I can know with certainty that what I have done for my friends is, indeed, something appropriate.
We all know which of our friends we can turn to for these needs – I encourage you to keep a list on your fridge of things those friends can do when they offer. I’ve found that if I don’t, I can never remember what needs doing if it’s all in my brain somewhere. If I have a list, I can go to it, and name something. “Yes, you can help! I really need help with cleaning my floors this week, would you come over for a couple of hours to help me do that?” I am nearly always met with a hearty “Of course I can do that! What time?”
I love finding that when I come up with something for a friend to help me with, we are both blessed with extra fellowship and a sense of togetherness we would not have had, were it not for that time we worked together. It’s a beautiful thing!
In the meantime, if your need is prayer or encouragement of some kind – never hesitate to contact me. I truly delight in helping meet a need like that. Also – please ask me to do something with my hands once in awhile. If I’m free, I’ll do it. If not, I’m honest about that, too. Never choose not to ask – if I can’t meet your need, there is someone God has already chosen to meet it. Keep asking!
What tips do you have to share about this? What have you discovered that you are good at, when it comes to helping friends in need?
Grace & Peace,