Are you helping….or harming?

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We all have them. Those people in our lives whose own lives are in a mess. They are our children, our grandchildren, our neighbors, our friends.

We are commanded to love them, to help them, to restore them to the faith….

But how much is too much? Where is the line between helping and enabling?

My husband preaches often on the Prodigal Son and how today he would never have come back home because some little old ladies would’ve been bringing him sandwiches while he was in the miry muck. Everyone laughs but it’s true. Sometimes we need to allow people to reach a place where they have no choice but to reach for God’s Hand.

When someone is in a deep hole and we extend our own hand, we can only pull them so far. Or worse, they pull us down as well. But God has the ability to not only pull them out of the hole, but to send them soaring in the sky.

I know because He did it with me.

It’s hard to know when to help and when to let go. A quick little guide: if you are helping out of guilt, manipulation, or because you just can’t stand to watch them suffer- it’s probably time to take a step back. If there’s a peace and an inward knowing of exactly what to do, it’s usually the Lord. Only by prayer (or even better, prayer and fasting) will you know for sure.

I once made a serious error in judgment that could’ve had a much worse outcome. It is a perfect illustration of what it’s like to love someone and try to protect them to the point of near death.

My husband and I were headed out of town for the night. We had two puppies still at home and the older dogs had been pretty aggressive with them. We didn’t want them to get hurt while we were gone so we put them inside a play fence in our den with their own food and water bowls.

When we got home the first thing I noticed was that the puppies were panting, looking like they were dying. It was then that I noticed their water bowl tipped on its side. I’m certain that within the first few minutes of our departure, these hyper puppies had knocked over that water bowl and were trapped, unable to get to the main water bowl, the refillable one that would’ve sustained them.

Would they have been in danger from the other dogs? Maybe. They wouldn’t have been killed but maybe chased a little. Run under the couch. Maybe run off from the food dish. But they would’ve have access to the water.

They wouldn’t have been in as much danger as they were from me trying to protect them. I almost killed them just because I was scared to let them take care of themselves.

We do this with our loved ones sometimes. We try so hard to protect them ourselves that we cut them off from their main water source- Jesus. He is the Living Water. Don’t let someone die of thirst because you’re giving them droplets from a shut-off water hose when they can have fountains of everlasting water.

But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. John 4:14

Addiction isn’t always a bad thing..

I had an earth-shattering revelation the other day. Maybe for you it’s no big deal, but, for me, it rocked me to the core.

ADDICTION ISN’T ALWAYS A BAD THING.

I was shocked.

As someone who’d dealt with addiction, I would argue that yes, addiction is a very bad thing. It’s horrible. It ruins lives. It causes death. It destroys relationships.

But that was my kind of addiction. And many others’ addictions.

‘Cause those are all headed down the same dead-end road. Alcohol, drugs, gambling, pornography…

I was pretty sure Jesus would agree.

But I read a verse I’d never noticed before.

1 Corinthians 16:15 says I beseech you, brethren, ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints…

That word ADDICTED just jumped off the page for me.

They ADDICTED themselves to the ministry of the saints.

Jesus doesn’t have a problem with addiction. He WANTS us to be addicted. But He wants us to be addicted to Him.

That’s great news for people like me with an addictive personality. We don’t have to rebuke that or try to change it at all.

We just turn our addiction to Christ.

Literally loving someone to death…

I knew it would happen.

It broke my heart but I wasn’t surprised. In truth, we expected it before now.

Jake’s mom first called us three years ago. She was at the end of her rope. Again. Jake had just gotten out of jail, was in a local residential motel, and needed help.

We went to see him. Charming and charismatic, it was hard not to like him. He wanted to get a job, get involved in church, change his life. Sure, we heard this every day from people on the streets but we weren’t jaded. We took everything at face value and gave everyone a chance.

He did better than most. He DID get a job, on his own, and rode his bike from the motel to work daily. I picked him up for church on Sundays and he seemed to be staying sober.

It concerned me a little that his mom called us to check on him every day. He was 30, after all, and twice-divorced. During these calls she would tell us what she thought he needed. Polite but firm, we told her he seemed to be exactly where the Lord wanted him to be.

After a couple of months, the opportunity arose for him to get an apartment near his work. He’d been saving up for a car and this move, with the expenses paid for six months, would allow him to earn the money for the car as well as to be in a safe neighborhood. He was excited.

His mom, however, was so excited that he was doing well that she talked him out of moving into an apartment and had him move back home instead. A pattern that had been unsuccessfully repeated many times in their relationship.

That was the last time he came to church.

He quit his job a week later.

Two months after that he called in the middle of the night, terrified. He’d been jumped and stripped of all his belongings. He wasn’t allowed back home and he had nowhere to go. He wanted money for a hotel room.

There was nothing we could do. The Lord had opened doors for him and he blatantly slammed them shut. We gave him resources for shelter for the night but we didn’t bail him out.

His mom had done that already, one time too many.

They repeated the process a couple more times before he did one drug too many.

And then it was over. This time his mom couldn’t fix anything.

I don’t understand.

Actually, I do understand as I’ve seen it time and time again. Even in my own family.

We get a lot of calls from family members wanting help/rehab/counseling for their grown children. It’s when I’m having more of a conversation with Mom or Dad than the one needing help that I get worried. God can’t fix things when we get in His way. And sometimes, a person needs consequences to learn valuable lessons.

What feels like love for another often becomes love for your own self, as it becomes more about how YOU feel than the person needing help.

This is where faith comes in. You must trust in the Lord because He can do exceedingly more than you can for that loved one.

Don’t love them to death…

I know Jake’s mom would agree.