I only needed to grab a jar of peanut butter I thought as I dashed into the grocery store the other day, but as I rounded the end of aisle 10, I bumped into a friend. She’s the type of friend I don’t see all that often, but every time is as though no time has passed at all.

“How have you been?” She asked giving me a hug.

“Busy but good.” I replied.

“Me too.” She said.

Then just as our grocery story encounter was about to remain succinctly brief, barely skimming the surface of our two hectic lives, she added “things have been really crazy this week.”

Suddenly I heard something different in her tone. It wasn’t an “I need to get Joey to soccer, stop at the dry cleaners, get Ashley to her dance recital practice, get home to make dinner before I collapse” kind of crazy week reply. Instead, there was a palpable heaviness in her words.

“Is everything ok?” I asked, stepping a bit closer.

It wasn’t. Life had thrown a monkey wrench right in the middle of her already hectic life. Totally blindsided, it wasn’t anything she even remotely saw coming. Instantly I knew there was something far more important than peanut butter in aisle 10. There was a divine appointment, an answer to her unspoken prayer of need. Life needed to just stand still and stop, pausing so we could just be.

We lingered quite a while in the store that day. Reflecting back on our conversation I thought I’d share a few things you can do the next time you find a friend in need.

  1. Be Available, and Really Listen – In our fast paced world, it’s easy to get caught allowing our friendships to slip into the Facebook-zone, only catching up with likes or comments online. Instead, take time to really connect with your friends. Listen; genuinely listen to what they say and what they leave unspoken. Keep an ear open for heaviness in their tone that begs the additional question “how are you really?”
  2. Support, don’t solve – Resist the urge to try to fix or solve your friend’s issues. Most time they simply need your support, prayer, and perhaps your assistance rather than a solution.
  3. Let them cry – There are times a friend needs to know its ok to cry. Have you ever noticed that sometimes a good cry does a body good? Crying can allow us to exhale the challenges we’ve been dealing with and inhale fresh new energy.
  4. Reinforce positives – When life gets messy, it’s easy to over look the things that are good. Be an encourager to your friend in need and help them to remember their strengths, the things that are going right, or the resources they have available to help them through their challenges.
  5. Follow up – Rather than just say “we should get together soon,” mark your calendar, put it a reminder in your phone, schedule time with your friend in need. When you know someone’s going through a tough time, don’t rely on them following up with you. Instead take the lead and reach out to them. They’ll appreciate your effort!

Sometimes the divine appointments that show up in our path show up when and where we least expect them. Pray for wisdom to recognize those moments when God’s tapping you to slow down to be in the trenches with a friend in need. He may call you to sit with a friend, to be comfort or a shoulder to lean on, or be an answer to prayer right there in the grocery store in aisle 10.

What are ways you help your friends when they go through tough times? Or have you had a friend who found a great way to encourage you? What did they do? I’d love to hear from you!