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5 ways to help your friend who's struggling with faith

When friends come to you for advice, experts say you shouldn’t be their therapist. Rather, you should just be there for them.

According to The Wall Street Journal, you should listen to your friend's problems rather than advise. Experts told the WSJ that this helps your friends feel supported when trying to make important life decisions.

And while the WSJ’s article focuses more on marriage problems, this can also apply to your friend’s relationship with God. After all, 89 percent of young Americans are willing to talk to their friends about religion, even if they don’t always agree on their beliefs, according to LifeWay Research.

So how do you talk to your friend who’s struggling with his or her faith when the best advice is to listen? Here are five things you can say that’ll help your friend move past his or her struggles while still keeping the friendship strong.

“God works in mysterious ways”

Friends can sometimes wonder what God’s plan is for them. You can remind them that God and faith work in mysterious ways.

For example, some have wondered if they’re married to the wrong person, especially when they have doubts about their marriage. But, as experts and scripture point out, according to an article I wrote, God’s plan isn’t always readily apparent, and it may take time, and the right search, to find what God has in store for you. Over time, when you look back on your life, a clearer image of God’s plan emerges.

“There’s always prayer”

Research from Baylor University found that believing in God and praying to him makes people feel happier and healthier, according to Psych Central’s Rick Nauert, Ph.D. The research found those who pray to God were less anxious and suffered less from fear, dread and obsessive-compulsive behavior than those who didn’t. That’s why it may make sense to tell your friend to pray and speak to God. It’ll help lessen the stress he or she feels from making decisions about faith and beliefs.

“For many individuals, God is a major source of comfort and strength that makes the world seem less threatening and dangerous," said researcher Matt Bradshaw to Psych Central. "Through prayer, individuals seek to develop an intimate relationship with God.”

“Your church leader may have answers”

Pastors can help some believers conquer their worries and re-establish their faith. I recently wrote an article that showed five ways pastors can help their community members and bring them closer to God.

Pastors always learn new information and techniques to help their congregation members face the troubles they have with their faith. I also wrote that pastors use religious doctrine and scriptures to help believers with their faith concerns.

“I bet there’s something for this online"

The Internet is a popular place for people searching for answers. It helps, too, that religion has crossed over from the pews to the interwebs, with many churches starting online communities and services to help their members, which I wrote about back in 2013.

This is something that can help believers, too. The Pew Research Center reported that men and women find comfort when they speak with family members on social media in times of trouble. The easy access to communication allows them to air out their issues without fear of suffering more anxiety, Pew reported.

So, whether they’re talking to family members or faith leaders, social media and the Internet can help believers with their struggles.

“Not everyone believes the same way”

Belief is a curious thing. With more than 4,000 religions across the world, people share different feelings about their gods, deities or religious figures. When your friend comes to you worried about his or her faith, remind him or her that it’s OK if his or her beliefs don’t fall in line with everyone else's.

Take the story of Linda McCullough Moore, for an example. Moore wrote for Christianity Today that she developed a different understanding of God based on how she prayed. Prayer connects believers with God and allows them to see him with their own personal view, which sometimes leads to a different outlook on who Heavenly Father is.

Email: hscribner@deseretdigital.com

Twitter: @herbscribner