How to Bless and Help a Joyless Friend

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I wasn't sure how I was going to get through the holidays. I could fake happiness at moments but inside I felt stunned and joyless. Here are 7 small ways you can help.

I’d lost my joy.

Jesus said, “The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy.” John 10:10

And it felt like our family had been in his cross-hairs.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to get through the holidays. I could fake happiness at moments but inside I felt stunned and joyless.

Maybe you remember John Piper’s definition of joy…

“Christian joy is a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as He causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the word and in the world… [Joy] is not an idea. It is not a conviction. It is not a persuasion or a decision. It is a feeling.” ~John Piper

And that year I was not feeling it. I knew and loved Jesus, but the pain of loss had stolen my joy.

With memories of my joyless Christmas, I’d like to offer a few tips to help you bless and help someone who is hurting this year.

7 Ways to help a friend who has lost their joy. #joyless

How to Bless and Help a Joyless Friend

1. Be Present

One of the best gifts you can give someone who is grieving is time. Take them out for lunch. Invite them to go shopping with you. Make a phone call. Get together for coffee. Or just sit with them for a while at home. It’s hard to be alone when you’re hurting. Just knowing someone cares is heart healing.

My family and friends were wonderful at this and blessed me so much.

“Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.” ~Henri J.M. Nouwen

2. Be Quiet

Listen! Encourage your friend to talk about their grief and pain. Cry with them. You don’t have to have answers or words to make them feel better. In fact, it’s better if you don’t. Your friend’s greatest need is to know you love and care as they live through a roller coaster of emotions.

Don’t worry about having the right thing to say. The truth, there is only one right thing to say . . . I’m sorry.

“Listening is much more than allowing another to talk while waiting for a chance to respond. Listening is paying full attention to others and welcoming them into our very beings. The beauty of listening is that those who are listened to start feeling accepted, start taking our words more seriously and discovering their true selves.” ~Henri Nouwen

3. Be Real

It may surprise you to know that your tears will bless your friend. Don’t try to hide your feelings to protect them. Knowing how much a loved one cares is an awesome heart-soothing gift.

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand.” ~Henri Nouwen

4. Be Patient

Everyone grieves at a pace that is as personal as a fingerprint. Don’t try to put your loved one on a timetable.

I remember people who couldn’t understand that attending a party or event was too hard. Small talk was painful. I was thankful for every invitation but needed friends and family to understand when I didn’t feel strong enough to attend.

“The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing… not healing, not curing… that is a friend who cares.” ~Henri J.M. Nouwen

7 Ways to bless and help your friend who is joyless.

5. Be Helpful

Think practically. Run an errand. Cook a meal. Babysit or chauffeur their children. Do something to make life easier right now.

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.” ~Henri J.M. Nouwen

6. Be an Advocate

Stand up for your friend. When others doubt or criticize their circumstances or the time it’s taking them to heal . . . be the person who supports and defends without sharing their personal information.

“In our own woundedness, we can become sources of life for others.” ~Henri J.M. Nouwen

7. Be a Pray-er

Never stop lifting your hurting friend up in prayer. Ask God to comfort them and make His presence real. Ask Him to give them peace and to help you be the friend they need. It is the best gift you can give.

“In the midst of a turbulent, often chaotic, life we are called to reach out, with courageous honesty to our innermost self, with relentless care to our fellow human beings, and with increasing prayer to our God.” ~Henri J.M. Nouwen

The people who listened, helped, and prayed made a huge difference in my heart healing.

I’d like to tell you one more thing about joy…

I experienced a joyless season because I believed I needed Jesus plus ________ to have joy.

You can fill in the blank with whatever you want.

Jesus plus…

  • A Spouse
  • Children
  • Security
  • Success
  • Health
  • Wealth
  • __________

I was wrong.

Jesus plus anything can never give lasting joy because anything that can be lost can take your joy with it when it goes.

It’s why I now know that true joy is an “it is well with my soul” faith and that’s enough.

Jesus is enough.

But it took me time to get there. So be patient with your joyless friend. Pray for them and don’t give up. God is at work and may be using you in ways you can’t see right now.

One last quote…

Friendship is being with the other in joy and sorrow, even when we cannot increase the joy or decrease the sorrow. It is a unity of souls that gives nobility and sincerity to love. Friendship makes all of life shine brightly.” ~Henri Nouwen

 If you’re struggling with joylessness you may want to share this with your friends and family to share with them the best ways to help you.

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  1. So true! All we need is Jesus.

    It’s a bitter, cold day here in Northwest Ohio but I have so much to be thankful for.

    Blessings to you and yours!


    1. Stay safe and warm, Marie! It’s bitter cold here today too! My college roommate was from Defiance. And Rev is from Youngstown. Lots of great people in my life from Ohio! Blessings to you!!

  2. Love that you offer advice for those who need joy this Christmas, but in a way that isn’t so overwhelming to the one who wants to give. Practical goodness lady! Merry Christmas to you and yours. xoxo

    1. Thanks so much for your kind encouragement, Nicki! Enjoy a blessing-filled Christmas, my friend!!

  3. This is such wonderful, practical and well-written advice. Sometimes it is SO hard to know how to help those who are hurting. I’m so grateful that you took the time to write this post!

    1. Thank you, Nicole! I agree, even when we want to help it’s often hard to know what to do. I’m so glad this blessed you. I so appreciate your encouragement. God bless you!

  4. Thanks for remembering the joyless this year!

    1. Thank you, Helene! May your Christmas be blessed and full of His love!

  5. This is such a practical and timely post, Deb! I couldn’t agree more. Great tips! <3 XOXO

    1. Thank you so much, Lauren! I so appreciate your kind encouragement. God’s blessings, my friend!

  6. Powerful words! I really loved all the quotes by Henri J.M. Nouwen. What book are those from? I think we often think that Jesus plus ____ is what brings us joy. And this is so powerful to know that Jesus is enough. Thank you for encouraging us in ways that we support our friends who are feeling sad this season.

  7. Perfect advice, Deb, and the quotes from Henri Nouwen fit so well here. I’ve been where you were, feeling joyless, and having a special friend who understood and listened helped more than words can express.
    Blessings for a joyful Christmas this year!