Masthead header

6 Things Your Friends in Crisis Wish You Knew


I wrote this list two years ago, but it’s just as true today.  I’m re-running it since the topic has come up so much recently and have added an important sixth point at the end.


Let me start by saying: I certainly do not speak for everyone in crisis. There are a million different kinds of people and a million different kinds of battle. I’ve tried to stick to things I’ve heard many times from many people, but this list reflects my two four years in the trenches more than anything else.


1. Sometimes your life is hard to look at. I will try to attend your daughter’s wedding and I will be so happy for her. But I will look away when her father walks her down the aisle and I will leave before the daddy-daughter dance. These things are too much for me. I’m not mad; I’m just swimming through some deep-water feelings about the future. I don’t need hugs or help; I just need a little room to breathe and none of it is your fault. This is my heartache. For some, it’s seeing an anniversary celebration on facebook, or flirtatious banter between a husband and wife. For others, it’s witnessing the baby milestone while imagining how old their own would be. Different things are difficult for different people, just know that while we love you, sometimes your world is hard to look at. We know you have problems, too, and we’re not jealous of your life – we’re jealous for the life we used to have before our battle broke out (or the life we’re wishing for that hasn’t quite started yet). Action point for armies: don’t stop inviting us into your lives, but give us grace when we need to look away for a bit.


2. How much we feel like talking about our battle can vary wildly. Some days are very difficult and so I will answer questions abruptly in order to save us both from my messy emotional breakdown. Some days it’s very cathartic to talk about it. So, how can you as my friend, know which day it is? You can’t. And this is when it’s hard to be you (and I’m sorry); but what you can do is ask: “How are things with Steve?” followed up immediately by, “I understand if you’d rather not talk about it.” Perfect. You’ve shown me you care and also given me an easy exit should I choose to use it. And let me add – even when I don’t feel I can give a detailed answer, it really does matter to me that people ask. (So thank you, sweet friends, for the question. And thank you for understanding when I can’t linger over the answer.)


3. We’re secretly afraid you’ll grow weary and disappear. We don’t fear it because we doubt your character, we fear it because we would probably choose to leave our battlefield too, if given the option. Through tears, I type this: I can’t imagine what I would do if I lost my friends as well. I just can’t imagine. I know so many people who run out of steam in supporting a friend and then they’re embarrassed to step back into the battle again. Don’t be embarrassed…just give a call and say, “I miss you. Can I bring over some mac and cheese?”


4. We still want to fight for you, too. Don’t stop telling us what you’re going through, don’t stop asking us to pray. It gives me comfort to know I’m not the only one in a fierce fight and it gives me courage to know that I still have something to offer the world outside my war.


5. We love you. And we’d be lost without your friendship. Even when we lack the strength to say it or show it, please just know it.


6.  We don’t need answers as much as we need you.  Everyone who deals with a difficult diagnosis also deals with a landslide of medical advice from friends, acquaintances and complete strangers.  It’s exhausting. I’m working really hard to get through the demands of each day – taking time to read a book about a miracle cure that Steve’s doctor has never heard about is, honestly, just not an option right now.   I have a small group of trusted advisers who have tackled some of that research for me and made recommendations based on their findings, but we cannot pursue every option out there and I sometimes feel people are frustrated with me for not trying their suggestions.   Action point for armies is simple: extend advice cautiously, if at all, and make sure that your friend knows you’ll love them whether or not they try what you’re suggesting.


Comments are open – I’d love to hear thoughts from both sides of the battle.


With hope and gratitude for the army that fights for us,







September 12, 2014 - 10:26 am

Kim Fears - Bo- Please know that I am passing this blog on to my mom who is struggling with some of these things. Since Dad’s ALS diagnosis she’s had those bad days and often felt guilty after her short answers to people. I’m pretty sure you’ve heard this from many different people but you are really a great inspiration. I pray that God gives me 1/8 of your grace every day. I’m reading Ruthless right now and have Beautiful Battlefields on the way. Thank you for sharing your life!

Kim Fears

September 12, 2014 - 10:35 am

Joyce Strong - Thank you Bo for opening up and putting your thoughts into words so I don’t absentmindedly put an extra weight on friends. I have a close friend who lives in Pasco WA. She had breast cancer in “07. It came back a year ago. Recently she learned it has progressed further. I spoke to her, then, immediately sent her my copy of Beautiful Battlefields. She said it’s been extremely helpful. Thanks for leading my friend to a closer walk with Jesus!

September 12, 2014 - 11:24 am

Rachel - You wrote my words! I SO relate to the six points that you make. In my case, it can be the pregnancy announcements, scan photos, baby photos, that I rejoice with my friends for and cry for my empty womb, all at the same time. There are definitely times (and places!) for talking about it and not talking about it. With a more long term battle, it can feel like it’s old news to keep sharing about it. I also live with MS. I like the normality of being able to share with my friends as before. I never want them to feel that they can’t share their struggles and battles, never want them to stay silent because they consider my battles worse. Generally, I’m tired of answers. Hence the title of my blog! Questions seem more appropriate to my journey of discovery and the process of fighting the battle. Thanks so much for this article. I’ll share it on Twitter and on my facebook page.

September 12, 2014 - 11:55 am

Debbie - Thank you for these suggestions. With two friends battling cancer right now, they’re very meaningful to me. You have great insight.

September 12, 2014 - 1:06 pm

Tammy A - From one soldier to another: I love you dearly forever.

September 12, 2014 - 2:48 pm

Debbie - Thank you so much Bo. Just what this mom’s weary heart needed. Life can be so hard but God is so good.

September 15, 2014 - 5:30 am

tea - Thank you for putting in to words exactly how I feel as well, regarding the battle I’m in (disabled husband). I am amazed and inspired by how eloquently you were able to communicate what it’s like. In my journey I often think of Job’s friends and thank the Lord for allowing me to know that Job had friends who probably had good intentions…but they were actually making it worse for Job. I thank the Lord for reminding me over and over again that He is the one who sticks closer than a brother! Proverbs 18:24

September 16, 2014 - 7:06 pm

Lynn - Everyone of your points is spot on! I had the exact feelings. # 6 was an especially hard one and there have actually been some broken hearts over the situation at the time. I think of you and the other “girls” so often. March on through this battle knowing that so many love you!

September 17, 2014 - 7:33 pm

Nikki - Thank you for re-posting this. My family has currently had our little world turned upside down. #1 resonates quite strongly with me at the moment. I don’t feel myself anymore and wish I could just be happy for all my friends and family that aren’t suffering like we are, but instead I feel insane jealousy. It hurts to hear them complain and stress over the simplest things. If only they knew the stress I carry on my shoulders. It hurts to see others living the life I used to have.

September 22, 2014 - 11:54 am

Dee - Thank you for writing this. As a fellow sojourner in this deep-water battle, it brought clarity and understanding as to why we feel the way we do. We lost our precious granddaughter recently and it has been devastatingly hard. I had to stop FB because all our friends post pics of their grandkids; went to a baby shower and had to leave when I felt the grace was up – cried all the way home. You put it so beautifully that it is my heartache, no one’s fault and that I just need room to breathe. I am now praying for you and your family daily, and standing with you in your battle. God bless.

September 23, 2014 - 7:53 pm

Emily Reynolds - Thank you so much for sharing this. Whether through our many years in ministry and the battles we couldn’t always share or our adoption journey and the heartache of raising a child with special needs that aren’t visible to most people this echoes some of the struggles I have felt as a mom, wife and friend. #6 is especially true right now. Thanks.