What to Do When You Can't Fix It

Someone you love is struggling. Perhaps she’s sick, or angry, or discouraged. Maybe a child has broken her heart or her marriage is in shambles. Maybe it’s not one big ugly, but a lot of little uglies that have her down. She’s lost her perspective, and her faith is flickering. You know you can’t fix the situation, but you love your friend and you want to help. What can you do? 

Here are four steps to take when someone you care about is hurting: 

1. Pray 

We are in a battle, and the enemy of our souls prowls around, seeking whom he can destroy. Thankfully, we have powerful weapons in our arsenal. Jesus, at the Last Supper, knew he would soon be arrested and separated from his disciples. He warned Peter of the coming trial. 

“Peter, Satan desires to sift you as wheat.” Then he said something profound and powerful. “But I have prayed for you.” 

This conversation reminds me of two things. First, the forces of evil in this world want to discourage and defeat Christians. Second, that Jesus, the Lover of our souls, who is infinitely more powerful than Satan, is praying for his children. When we add our prayers to Jesus’, we join forces to support those we love. Every time I pray for my loved ones, I can be confident that Jesus has gone ahead of me and is interceding on their behalf. And while prayer, on the surface, seems passive, it is the most dynamic thing we can do. 

2. Love them, even when they’re not very loveable. 

Hurting people hurt people. It’s sad, but it’s true. Ironically, those who are hurt and angry often direct their negative emotions toward those who love them most. When this happens, our natural response is to pull back and distance ourselves from them. Well if that’s the way they’re going to act, fine. I’ll leave them alone. 

Instead, ask God to enable you to love them even more. Try to see life through their eyes. Imagine how you’d feel if you were in a similar situation. Share those thoughts with them. If I had just lost my job, I’d be feeling pretty scared right now. This may open channels of helpful communication and direct them into healthier ways of expressing their feelings. 

Determine in advance that no matter what they say, you'll respond with love. Conflict doesn’t start with the first person. It is the second person’s response that determines the course of the conversation.  

3. Look for practical ways to serve them. 

Kathy, a patient of mine, lost her husband to cancer after an ugly seven-month battle. He was admitted to a hospital 90 miles away the week after Christmas. Shortly after they arrived, she received a series of text messages. When she opened them, she saw pictures of her three best friends--at her house. 

What are you doing in my house? she texted back. 

We’re taking down your Christmas decorations was their reply. 

Kathy’s friends couldn’t stand vigil at the hospital, but they wanted to support and encourage her. Instead of fretting about what they couldn’t do, they did what they could—something practical that still brings a smile to Kathy’s face years later. 

4. Leave room for the Holy Spirit to work. 

The Lord may give you the opportunity to share scriptural truths, promises to claim, or comforting Bible verses. Do it. 

But don’t be surprised if your friend isn’t ready to receive your words. If she responds negatively, take a step back. The Holy Spirit will continue to work, even if your friend appears to have closed the door. 

Watching a loved one struggle is hard. We feel helpless, because we want to fix her problem and lift her burden. Sharing words of faith from your own experience, praying, and listening when she feels like talking will help her heal. Continue to love her, and look for ways to serve her. Finally, trust the Holy Spirit to speak to your loved one’s heart and restore its joy. 

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). 

What about you? What do you find helpful when a loved one is struggling? Leave a comment in the comment box below. And if you’re reading by email, CLICK HERE and scroll down to the end of the post to share your thoughts.

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  1. Lori,
    Thank you for this post. I'm so thankful for my friends who supported me in various ways during my mom's cancer journey (slightly less than a year). I try to be there for my friends too: many times praying is the only thing I can really do and some times just being there for a chat is helpful too.


    1. Kim,
      Your personal example of the way friends ministered to you during your mom's illness is a perfect example of the preciousness of loving friends. I know it makes you a more compassionate person as well. Blessings to you.

  2. Listening is one of the best things people have done for me. Sometimes just being with someone, even when they're not talking is a powerful comfort because they're literally not alone in it.

    1. You make an excellent point, Ellen, that we don't have to have all the "right" answers to be helpful to someone. Sometimes just being there with them is the very best medicine. Thanks for stopping by today.

  3. These reminders are so important and so many times the only option we truly have. So many times we want to do something but many times we have to remain faithful and trust that God is faithful. That's easier said than done. Thank you for your posts.

  4. These reminders are so important and so many times the only option we truly have. So many times we want to do something but many times we have to remain faithful and trust that God is faithful. That's easier said than done. Thank you for your posts.

    1. Lynn, I'm often comforted that God knows best what my loved one needs, even when I don't. And he has the world's resources at his disposal. A very good assurance that he's quite able to take care of them. Thanks so much for stopping by today, friend!

  5. Thank you so much for this. I know of someone who at the time is struggling and I want to reach out and help as much as I can.