“Alongside” Book Review and Give Away

Casserole makers. Card senders. Flower arrangers. Prayer warriors. When crisis strikes, we want to help. Deeply desiring to care for one another, we, oftentimes, come up short on appropriate words or actions. Having little idea of the person’s needs, we become frozen in our ability to help in a way that is a blessing, not a burden, to us or to them.

Deep down I believe we all have good intentions. We care. We empathize. We want to help. We just need to be taught how.

Mom was dying, and I was completely overwhelmed by the demands before me. Not having close family nearby, we were left to navigate this season on our own. Caring for our three young kids while being Mom’s primary care giver, I needed help. Honestly, I couldn’t survive without it. During this time of need, a core group of people stepped in to bless, serve, and encourage our family in ways I never could have imagined. Their selfless service to my family and Mom is a debt we can’t repay. Developing a bond that drew us together, this community took our burdens as their own, helping us focus on the path ahead. Their service modeled the love and nearness of Christ in a dark and desolate season. Not everyone played the same role; not everyone could. Depending on the closeness of our relationship and their own time and circumstance constraints, people used their gifts to serve us in a way that was a blessing, not a burden, on either party. There were others in our community who didn’t reach out at all. Deeply knowing and loving these people, I firmly believe is wasn’t due to lack of compassion, rather an inability to assess the needs and know what role they could play.

What is our role when we find someone in our community suffering? What is the appropriate way to reach out, to love, to care for them? Sarah Beckman has written a book that is a must read for anyone desiring to be a blessing during a difficult season.

No stranger to adversity, Sarah has walked three friends through cancer coupled with her own health trials. She has, first-hand, seen people serve one another well during times of trial and others who have struggled in their supportive role. Deeply desiring to help others during times of need, Sarah has written a practical book to help us love one another better.

She says,

“People want to care. They don’t always know how to care in a time of crisis. They don’t have a compassionate problem; they have a confidence problem. This book gives practical tips to help overcome the insecurity of doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. It will help readers turn good intentions into intentional help.”

Here are a few practical questions Sarah covers in her book:

Q: What is the biggest mistake you see people make?

A: Doing nothing.  They regret it later, feel guilty for a long time and then relationships are lost over someone’s trial and the other person not being there for them in appropriate ways.  Sometimes people say “let me know what I can do” but rarely do they come back to us. They are hoping we will initiate with them.

Q: Isn’t it better not to say anything if you don’t know what to say or do?

A: Simply saying, “I have no words, but I’m here for you.” is far better than avoiding someone and not acknowledging their plight. People don’t want to be ignored or made to feel ostracized, lonely or avoided.  They want presence and caring.  Listen, don’t fix is something I say often.  But more than words, people want to receive your actions of caring, and you can make a difference with some of the things that you think might be simple but they really are life-changing for the recipient.

Q: You say we should never say “Let me know what I can do.” What should we say then?

A: Saying “Let me know what I can do” is actually not helpful. It puts the burden on the person in need and forces them to come up with what to give you to do.  Also they might never take you up on it because it’s hard to receive help.  And then you might also be asked to do something that’s not in your skill set, your time available, or comfort zone. How can you combat that?  By making specific offers.  This means offering something you are capable of doing, or that you have time, energy or capacity to do. They are more likely to take you up on it and you’ll enjoy your serving more.

Q: It seems everywhere we look someone is facing trial of some sort, whether it’s cancer, death of a loved one or other illness or trial. If we’re not called to help everyone, how do we distinguish between who to help and who not to help?

A: I present a Tier System in the book that will help readers categorize their relationship with a person going through a difficulty as a means to determine what is the most appropriate way to express concern.  It allows you to find ways to help depending on how close you are to the person.  Or when you’re not called to “help.” I think it frees up people to help where it matters instead of always feeling guilty for not helping, and thereby just helping no one.

Q: If someone has a busy life and feels like they don’t have time to help a friend in need, what suggestions do you have that would make helping more doable?

A: Easy ways to reach out are call and leave a message or prayer.  Order an MP3 of a favorite song and gift it by email. Post a video on their social media page or email.  Text a scripture verse or “thinking of you” message.  Drop a card in the mail. Leave a post on the caring bridge. Order take-out and have it delivered. Anything you can do to show them that you thought of them is helpful.


Alongside: A Practical Guide to Loving Your Neighbor in their Time of Trial is a must read for any person who calls themselves a family member, friend, coworker, or neighbor. Because this book is such an invaluable tool, I am giving away a free copy to one of you. There are two ways to enter the giveaway:

  • Comment below and share a time when someone reached out to you in a helpful way. What action did they take and how did it help you navigate your difficult season?


  • Sign up to receive email updates in the subscribe box to the right.

This giveaway will run Monday, April 24th, 2017 through Thursday, April 27th, 2017 at 10:00pm PST. A winner will be randomly drawn on Friday, April 28th, 2017 and will be notified by email within 24 hours.

Let us cast off our uncertainty and move forward, loving one another well, through whatever trial we face today, tomorrow, or in the days to come.




16 thoughts on ““Alongside” Book Review and Give Away

  1. I’ve always loved trying to meet needs for people in times of struggle- not always knowing how was the challenge. 6 mo ago I became a care taker for my blind and handicapped mom. I’ve now experienced many forms of help, blessings each and every one! What a practical idea for a book – Would love it!!

  2. I deal with chronic pain/energy issues and family challenges that make my current life less than perfect looking. My support system just sticks with me, let’s me process verbally, and comes back for more.

    1. Hi Cindy! Chronic pain is so hard (I have an autoimmune disease myself). Especially when it feels like there are always needs that can be met. It sounds like you have a great system around you. What a gift to have them to not just help physically, but let you process what you are feeling.

  3. My friend Lisa, recently offered to help watch my kids overnight, and basically take my place so I could spend two last days with my Mother (in-law), before she went to see Jesus face to face. I couldn’t have known right away I needed her help, but when it was clear I needed to leave, Lisa had already offered. It was the biggest gift I could have ever received and never be able to repay. Since then gifts of meals and flowers have flooded our home, when in the numbness of it all. A huge blessing from God to be sure.

    1. I thought of you as I wrote this review, as you are fresh into the thick of this hard season. What a gift Lisa could give you. Like you said, one that you will forever cherish. We love your family and have been praying for you lots.

  4. Sarah, I continue to enjoy reading and sharing each of your posts. I truly believe I am meant to follow you – your blog topics always seem to be top of my mind when you post them. I had a conversation with a dear friend and family relative about how to walk “alongside” others who are going through hard times, in his case caretaking for his mom who is currently in hospice care. As I think about it, I am often guessing what others need if I have not experienced the trial myself (and even then it varies from person to person, doesn’t it?). I look forward to reading this book and learning other ways to be there for other people in their time(s) of need! xo

    1. Thank you for your encouragement, Becky. I love how God works out the details we can’t plan. I think it definitely varies so much from person to person depending on their situation and comfort levels. This book is truly such a practical tool that will help us all know how to better support those around us. XO.

  5. I wanna read!!! Being a recipient of help is hard! Needing help is hard!! But I too, in the middle of the storm, desire to help others along side of me! I most look forward to the tier of who and when to help… I know that personally I play off or distance myself in some ways from others because I recognize our special needs family is like a walking burden for others…

    1. Oh friend…it is SO hard! I think we do isolate because our needs seem so great or think we are constantly “that family” that is needing help. This book is so helpful to lift that burden off both parties – the askers and the receivers. I am thankful Sarah put her experience into this incredible tool for us. Wish we lived closer to one another!

  6. Sometimes the most practical help is the best. My mom’s neighbor provided us dinner for weeks while my dad was in the VA hospice. Actually, she continues to share meals with my mom several times a week. What a blessing for my mom since she doesn’t have her husband to cook for now. A friend of mine is a hospice nurse and she lovingly and honestly answered all my questions. She continued her support with texts and phone calls.

    1. I love how that friend of your moms continues to love her well through the occasional meals. So often we all jump in right when the crisis starts, forgetting that people need support and care long after the dust has settled. And having a friend who is a hospice nurse was such a gift to me too when my mom died. Thanks for sharing with us!

  7. My ‘season’ of need was only a day – but not knowing if my husband would live or die made it feel like a lot longer. A friend – a neighbor – came over and just sat with us. Not expecting anything, not trying to fix anything, just being with me and my kids, and offering her comfort. It made a huge impact on me. Having other friends just show up and pray with me also made an impact. I am often at a loss at how to help those who are in a trial time, except to say I’m praying for you, and then actually make sure I do pray.

    1. I will forever remember that day for your family, Julie. What a position to be in, hanging in the balance of such a life-altering, uncertain event. Your neighbor and friend coming to sit with you sounds like just what you needed in that moment. Sometimes we think we have to do something big or say just the right things, when our presence alone is the most comforting thing we can give. I continue to be thankful for God saving Gordon that day and for your family being in community beside us.

  8. Sarah, I just found this review of Alongside! Thank you for your kind words, and may I say, I’m so sorry for the loss of your very own sweet Mom. Loss is so hard, and when others can love well in the midst of it – what a blessing! I pray this book continues to equip you (and your readers) thank you for sharing it!

    1. You are so welcome! God is immensely using your book to bring community together in a beautiful way. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and first-hand experience with all of us. What a blessing and a gift.

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