Encouragement weaves throughout everything a walk alongside friend does. There are a variety of ways to do this; you probably already do much of this instinctively.
Key resources we recommend are from Outreach of Hope, a ministry of encouragment. Their site has archives of their magazine "Encourager" where you will find excellent articles on themes like grief, endurance, etc.
The Encouragement Bible
365 Days of Hope
Stand by Me
Below this article are additional articles that continue sharing the basics of encouragement and what is involved in being a walk alongside friend.
"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up . . ."
I Thess. 5:11 (NIV)
"That's exactly what Jesus did. He didn't make it easy for himself by avoiding people's troubles, but waded right in and helped out. 'I took on the troubles of the troubled,' is the way Scripture puts it. Even if it was written in Scripture long ago, you can be sure it's written for us. God wants the combination of his steady, constant calling and warm, personal counsel in Scripture to come to characterize us, keeping us alert for whatever he will do next. May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in you so that you get along with each other as well as Jesus gets along with us all. Then we'll be a choir—not our voices only, but our very lives singing in harmony in a stunning anthem to the God and Father of our Master Jesus!" (Romans 15:4-6 MSG)
A pat on the back, a simple word of affirmation, a tissue . . . sometimes the simplest expression soothes the deepest pain. Encouragement is key to walking alongside someone who is discouraged or in pain.
Author Chuck Swindoll defines encouragement this way, "It is the act of inspiring others with renewed courage, spirit, or hope. When we encourage others we spur them on; we stimulate and affirm them." The Greek word for encouragement is “Parakaleo” to call to one’s side and help. In Latin it means, "goes straight to the heart."
Biblical encouragement walks alongside another and breathes hope, comfort and courage into the one who is struggling.
As you encourage, consider the following:
1. Carefully choose the words you use.
An encouraging word to someone who is discouraged can help them make it through the day. "A gentle tongue [with its healing power] is a tree of life . . ." Proverbs 15:4a (AMP)
"Anxiety in a man's heart weighs it down, but an encouraging word makes it glad." Proverbs 12:25 (AMP)
A destructive word has the power to annihilate. Speak life-giving words. "The tongue has the power of life and death." Proverbs 18:21 (NIV)
"Watch the way you talk . . . say only what helps, each word a gift." Ephesians 4:29 (MSG)
2. Listen with your ears and with your heart.
"This you know, my beloved brethren but everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger." James 1:19 (NAS)
"A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered." Proverbs 17: 27 (NIV)
3. Understand the Problem. Ask open-ended questions designed to draw the person out such as: How do you feel about that? Did you feel frustrated at that point? What was most difficult for you to figure out?
Advise sparingly and only after careful, thorough listening. When you are tempted to turn the conversation to your own story remind yourself, "This is not about me."
You need to earn the right to say the more difficult things, it's not a given. Take time to foster the relationship. Sometimes encouragement to do the right thing takes the form of a kind reproach.
"Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one's friend springs from his earnest counsel." Proverbs 27: 5-6, 9 (NASB)
4. Bow before the Father in prayer. Assure your friend that you are praying for her. If possible, pray together. Ask, "May I pray for you?" You can pray over the telephone, when you are together, even through e-mail. A prayer you have written for your friend can be especially meaningful.
Do not use your prayer to "preach" or drive a point home. Use care not to embarrass your friend, especially if you are praying in a public venue.
Reminder: Do not violate a confidence. Anything that is said is considered confidential and must not be shared with others unless specific permission is given to do so. And then be clear about what can and cannot be shared. Be especially diligent to honor confidentiality when praying in a group. Memorize this rule: What is said, who you see, when you leave, treat confidentially. Some in the throes of grief will say and do things they would not normally say and do. Protect their reputation by not spreading it abroad. Make it your rule to always honor the other person.
"But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." Isaiah 40:31 (KJV)
"In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other's spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out." Eph 6:18 (MSG)
5. Share an appropriate scripture only after thoroughly listening. Never throw a scripture at your friend as a quick fix. God's word is precious; use it wisely.
"This is my comfort and consolation in my affliction: that Your word has revived me and given me life." Psalm 119:50 (AMP)
"My life dissolves and weeps itself away for heaviness; raise me up and strengthen me according to [the promises of] Your word." Psalm 119:28 (AMP)
6. What can I do to help my friend?
"And let us consider and give attentive, continuous care to watching over one another, studying how we may stir up (stimulate and incite) to love and helpful deeds and noble activities . . ." Hebrews 10:24 (AMP) Keep an ongoing list of those who need to be encouraged and possible ways you might encourage them.
"All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, He brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too." II Corinthians 1:3-5 (MSG)
"What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." James 2:14-17
Put action to your caring!
Make an encouragement recording on a digital recorder or video. Interview people whose lives have been touched by the one you want to encourage. Ask such questions as, "How has this person touched your life?" "What is your favorite memory of this person?"
Arrange a date between you and your friend. Cover the cost of lunch or coffee. Bring a small gift - maybe a book, or a favorite CD. Ask appropriate questions then listen, listen, listen.
Create an encouragement notebook. Give 3x5 cards, or a sheet of paper to your friends acquaintances and ask them to write an encouraging message which you can put in a notebook and present to your friend. Scrapbooking is a meaningful way to help a friend process grief. Offer to spend time helping create pages.
Honor your friend with an encouragement party! Buy a cake, make a banner with your theme phrase on it, "Celebrating You!"
Buy a calendar and write encouraging quotes, phrases and scriptures on it. Every time they look at it they will know that you care and are thinking about them.
If you have a creative bent, make (or purchase) postcards or "Thinking of You" cards which you can send routinely to your friend.
Give a comforting CD or DVD.
Remember their "special" days - birthdays, anniversaries etc. If your friend has experienced a loss, it is especially helpful to remember these days. Grief has a way of being accentuated on days once celebrated.
If your friend has small children, offer to keep them so dad or mom can have a break.
A Care Gift Basket is a wonderful encouragement to one who is discouraged. Be creative!
7. One day heaven. This too shall pass; how sweet is our hope.
"Awaiting and looking for the [fulfillment, the realization of our] blessed hope, even the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Christ Jesus (the Messiah, the Anointed One) . . ." Titus 2:13 (AMP)
Understanding the Need
Care Gift Basket Suggested Contents
Scriptures that Offer Encouragement and Comfort
Caring Words to Speak
Good Out of Bad
What's Your Favorite Way to Encourage Others?
Encouraging Words Make a Difference