Winston Churchhill famously said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

This resonates with me as I’m experiencing some of the hardest days I’ve ever had.

I lived in an abusive relationship as a teen and was divorced at a young age. I spent years thinking I couldn’t have children. Then, when I did find happiness, we had many rough times, both financially and within our relationship. Tough times are unavoidable, but the problem is that we often hide what we’re going through so our pain doesn’t burden others.

When you go through something terrible enough–when you’re going through hell–it demands attention. Others notice.

If you know someone is going through something terrible but don’t want to ask them outright how they’re doing, here are five ways you can ask them. 

  1. Be with them.
    Being present with someone struggling is a beautiful way to find out how they’re doing. Invite them to do errands with you and drop off something yummy to eat. Pour them a hot drink and make them a plate. People are more likely to share their heart with you while you share something to eat.
  2. Tell them what you are going through.
    Just as in a support group, people are more apt to share their struggles when others are willing to share their experiences. You don’t have to experience the exact situation they are in to relate and show empathy. If your friend is sad, share an experience where you were sad and something that helped. You can do the same if they are mourning, ill, or stressed.
  3. Tell them directly what you know or have heard.
    If you’ve heard something your friend is going through but they haven’t told you themselves, go ahead and tell them precisely what you’ve heard to clear the air and set the record straight. They will know you mean well and want to help, and will value your honesty and care.
  4. Ask them directly, “Are you okay?”
    If you are afraid your friend is struggling through something terrible, go ahead and ask them “Are you okay?” If it seems their answer is not honest, tell them so. Share your concern with them; they will know you are a good friend with their best interest at heart.
  5. Continue a previous conversation.
    Say, “The last time we talked, you were dealing with _________. How is that going now?” This can do two things: it reminds them they have confided in you in the past, and it lets them know you care about whatever is going on now.

A Prayer for the friend of the hurting friend:

Father in Heaven,
We thank You for being the Holy of Holies, and for being there for us in the same way You have shown up for generations. Help me to show up for my friend whom I know is hurting. Help me to speak boldly with words from Your Holy Spirit. Help me to remind my friend who they are and who You are. You alone can heal the broken-hearted, Father. I do want to witness it. I do want to be near Your miracles. Bring a miracle into our lives today, Lord, and help us to recognize it and Your work in our lives. We love You. We believe in You. We welcome You in our midst. In Jesus’ Name, we pray these things. Amen.