Tips for Asking for or Offering Help When You or Someone Is Ill

mri-womanI’ve been away from my blog for a while, visiting far too many hospitals, doctors, and staying in touch with far too many truly sick friends in the past months. But while it can be tough hanging out in cancer clinics, heart centers, or pediatric hospitals, there’s no place you’d rather be when your loved one is ill.

In the last ten years or so Dan and I have spent a lot of time inside hospital rooms. Not too long ago, I could barely feed myself, and I couldn’t walk or stand on my own. I know how hard it can be to ask for help and to feel dependent on others when you’re ill. But I also know how important it is to allow the Body of Christ to operate as it was intended, to allow people to pour themselves out in love for one another as Christ did. When we’re in need of help, either as caregivers or as care receivers, we need to learn how to say yes and receive grace-filled care.

Accepting care from others allows us to focus on gaining strength and keeping “the main thing the main thing.” And accepting care from others allows them to participate in our experience of suffering, even if in a small way.

One way we can learn to ask for help is to be prepared with specific requests that encompass our daily needs: home maintenance, car maintenance and repair, child care, daily errands, housekeeping, etc. I suggest preparing a specific list and keeping it handy, perhaps even in a 3 x 5 card format with brief, specific instructions, so that the cards can be handed out at a moment’s notice. You might want to consider including some of the following:

  • Vehicle maintenance and repair: oil change, car detail, weekly car wash, tune-up, fluid and windshield wiper check, new tires
  • Household maintenance and repair: gutter cleaning, window washing, power washing exterior, furnace check
  • Lawn and garden: regular lawn mowing or snow removal, leaf raking, gardening, weeding
  • Errands: delivering kids to lessons, sports, church events, library; walking the dog; dry cleaning pick-up; Post Office stops
  • Recreation opportunities: movie or theater tickets, restaurant gift certificates, babysitting, getaway opportunities
  • Celebrations: party planning or shopping or hosting celebrations for the family’s children in stressful times
  • Meal preparation:  list food allergies or specific foods your family members cannot eat; you may want to ask friends to deliver food in disposable containers that don’t need to be returned.

If you know someone going through a difficult time, you may want to ask them specific questions.

“I know you’ve probably put a few thousand miles on that car of yours driving back and forth to the hospital this year. Would it be helpful if a few of us upgraded your tires or put together some gas cards to help you out?” Or perhaps, “I couldn’t help but notice that Emily dropped out of cheerleading. Since my daughter’s on the squad, I’d be glad to make sure Emily gets picked up and delivered to practices. I’d love to encourage her when you can’t be at the games, if that would help at all. You can let me know if you think it would help.”

Be the hands of Jesus. Ask. Give. Walk alongside. And if a hand is extended to you, understand that in taking it, you let us participate in the bodylife we were meant to share.

10 thoughts on “Tips for Asking for or Offering Help When You or Someone Is Ill

    • Thanks so much. I hope the info is helpful, practical, and encouraging.

  1. I love this last post Shelly, it is so very important to allow, and invite, the body of Christ to pour themselves out for those in need of care. Great thoughts!

    • Thanks, Wally. I experienced this just today with a dear friend in need of the ministry of listening and encouragement. It’s so important that we cultivate a spirit of sensitivity to those around us so we don’t miss precious opportunities to be Jesus’ hands and feet.

  2. It is so very important to reach out to others. Christ is our example and that is what He would want us to do. Some day I am going to be old and need help. We cannot, as Christians, overlook those very important needs. Thanks Shelly for you.

    • Hi, Diane. So good to hear from you. You’re right–we’re all going to be in a position of needing assistance some day. Jesus tells us that caring for the truly needy (the poor, widows and orphans) is the measure of our love for him. The manner in which we carry out that care may vary, but we’re all called to be caregivers.

  3. Found your blog through the Crosswalk site after reading one of your submissions on caregiving. Fantastic and uplifting information.
    Your writing workshop in Cedar Falls sounds fun. I am not a published writer and the only writing I do is with Middle School guys and gals here in Montana but was wondering to which groups your workshops are geared. Any info. is greatly appreciated. Thanks.

    • Writers of all levels can gain from our workshops. We present workshops on proposal and query writing, characterization and plotting, research techniques, writing devos, and the basics of the industry, as well as providing hands-on practice sessions with professionals. Feel free to contact me through email for more information at for more information. This year veteran writers’ conference presenter Dennis Hensley will be returning, as well as Christy Award-winning fiction writer Tracy Groot.

  4. Shelly:
    This was a GREAT post!Sadly,our experience has been that folks run the other direction when another person’s life has gone into a medical nosedive.Even those in the body of Christ and in one’s own family seem to run the other direction.Sad but true.It is as if they think you are contagious or don’t understand why your problems do not leave in 2 weeks or less.Praise the Lord for sites like yours Shelly.Blessings from Oregon~Sharon

    • Sharon, so good to meet you. I believe we need to do a better job teaching those in the Body of Christ how to help and showing people how compassionate ministries are demonstrations of Jesus love for us, as he reached out and touched lives in physical ways, as well as providing spiritual redemption. I spent yesterday in a cancer center with dear friends, and the most Christ-like thing I could do was to be hands and feet–to gather records, to advocate, to make phone calls and be a liason between nurses and family–so my dear friends could sit together as family with their loved one.

      More churches need to consider developing ministries of compassionate care based on a biblical worldview of loving God with all our heart, soul, and strength, and our neighbors as ourselves.

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