How to Encourage a Sick Friend

You’ve enjoyed so many quality times together, and now your best friend texts to cancel lunch because she is sick. Really sick. What do you do with the unexpected free time? Why not use it to plan a thoughtful act of service for her?!

Whether your friend is sick with the flu or has been diagnosed with something more serious, you can make them feel cared for, loved and blessed through thoughtful gestures.

How to encourage a friend through thoughtful gestures

Most people agree that it is easier to offer help than it is to ask for it. So don’t wait for her to ask. You already know your friend, what she likes and might need for herself or her family. So text her today, and offers some things you can do for her or just surprise her with an act of kindness.

When members at my church asked for support for a mom with stage four cancer, the small group I’m in prayed for her and invited others to donate toward her treatments. In addition, the ladies cooked up ravioli lasagna, broccoli with rice casserole, and fruit dip for her family. Doesn’t that sound delicious sent with biscuits and salad? Home-cooked or store bought isn’t what’s important. She’ll appreciate that you lightened her load and gave her less to worry about by stocking her fridge with nourishment.

Love pets? Does your friend’s dog need a walk? Set up a time to walk their dog. Do you notice funny stuff or come across hilarious situations often? Take a picture, save the meme and send it to that sick friend who needs a laugh. Organize a group of people who can stop by and check in on your friend, even just to sit with them and keep them company. Send an uplifting get well soon card or care package. Work from your strengths and invite others to join you in really being there for the person.

And don’t think you have to spend a lot of money. The most thoughtful gesture might just be stopping by to give them a hug or calling them and praying with them over the phone.

 “Two are better than one, …If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. …” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (NIV)

Tips for supporting a friend who has been diagnosed

When the illness is chronic, or so serious that your loved one says there is no cure, it can be so hard to process. If they are facing a terminal illness, don’t neglect taking time to face your own fears about losing him or her, because your support is vital. But remember, it’s not about you, your friend needs your long-term support. The road that lies ahead is going to be difficult and you want to help them stay positive while also helping them deal with the reality of the situation.

•   Remember the person is more than the disease: Try not to treat them differently and don’t let your friendship start to revolve around the diagnosis. The diagnosis does not define who they are. Here’s thoughtful advice: “The foundation of friendship is simple,” says Mary Gravina, a vice president of counseling at the Hospice Care Network. “Think of what brought you together in the first place, and continue to honor that in sickness as you did in wellness”.

•   Laughing together bonds and heals: Although their illness may not be a funny situation, laughter can be a vacation from reality, so find ways to inject humor and make them smile.

•   Don’t offer health advise unless asked: Ask questions about their diagnosis and treatment and listen to understand rather than bombarding them with advice. They might just need a listening ear and a should to lean on.

•   Consider your word choices: You don’t want to be so deliberate with how you speak that conversations become awkward, but we all can unintentionally make things worse when we speak before we think through how it could impact our friend. Every person and every illness is different, but it can be helpful to search online for tips like this article that shares insight on phrases not to say to a newly diagnosed friend.

•   Talk about our caring Healer, Jesus: Encourage and give them comfort with scriptures. Read to them from the Bible, pray with them often and for them always.

The most important “tip” of all is to remember that although you cannot bring the healing you so wish for your friend, you can be a part of it when you join with them in prayer. You don’t have to care for your friend in your own strength, remember that when we ask Jesus to send His love through us it makes a difference. He can use you to bring the emotional healing and support they need.

 “The greatest healing therapy is friendship and love.” -Hubert H. Humphrey, former U.S. vice president

How have you encouraged a sick friend? Or how has someone encouraged you through an illness you’ve faced? Share your story and comment below.


Young professional Emily writes encouragement from a small, western town. Two of her main focuses are nonprofits and family. Her life is filled with caring for kids, mountain photography, Facebook ministry, sweet pets, and finding humor. Knowing what it was like to go through a difficult accident, she frequently illustrates hope as a graphic designer and writer. She is inspired by the extravagant kindness of Jesus’ kingdom.