Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Growing Weary, Part One

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. ~ Galatians 6:9-10

Before I begin, I find it VERY interesting that this verse would be the one to come up on my phone's YouVersion Bible app today as I was writing this. Actually, I didn't check to see it until AFTER I had finished this post. 

That being said, this has been a very difficult post for me to write. And one that has been a long time coming. There's a lot I felt the need to carefully explain in the hopes you, dear readers, will understand where I'm coming from. So due to the length, I've had to break it down into two parts. I hope you'll hang in there for both of them.

As a Christian, one of our primary roles is to be a humble servant of God – serving Him by serving others is indeed an honor and a privilege for us. Or at least it should be.

But what happens when it no longer feels that way?

Throughout the New Testament, God’s Word speaks of the importance of dying to self; of serving and caring for the poor, the sick, the needy and less fortunate; of practicing hospitality; of placing the needs of others before our own, and of helping to carry one another’s burdens.

But what happens when that all becomes too much?

For some time now, I’ve had cause to think on these ideals and commands. Certain situations with particular people in my life, with regards to serving them, have made me step back and ask even more questions, like:

How can serving others become ‘off balance?’

At what point does helping  someone suddenly cross the lines and become enabling instead?

Now you won’t find the terms 
  • Enabler
  • Toxic relationship
  • Co-dependency
  • Dysfunctional family

anywhere in the Bible. No, not even in The Message translation. I checked. So back in Jesus’s day, Jerusalem and the surrounding areas didn’t offer counseling sessions for enablers and didn’t have support groups for those who served and cared for people with toxic, obsessive, dysfunctional personalities or mental disorders.

So what did people do about those hard-to-deal-with, difficult-to-manage people whom they were called to serve? 

Pretty much the only things I can find are the Gospel accounts of people traveling far and wide to bring them to Jesus to heal ( Mark 4), or just completely removing themselves from their lives to let them fend for themselves (see the story of the demon-possessed wild man roaming through the tombs of Gerasenes in Mark 5).

I know that service to others should ALWAYS come from a joyful, compassionate, loving heart and spirit. However, when it’s done with an overburdened, resentful and angry attitude, service becomes nothing more than a struggle to complete a dreaded duty; it feels more like an undesirable job than a great adventure for the one doing it.

Unfortunately, the latter description is what it has become for me. And I confess I’ve not handled it well. Please let me explain.

I do believe that God brings people into our lives who need our service and giftings.  He brought two particular people into my life – one a friend, the other a neighbor – when I began to attend my present church. To say that it’s been a challenge for me to be there for them in their times of need through the years is an understatement. I’ve done my best, but recently, their needs have gone way beyond what I’m actually able to do and to provide.

And I’ve been struggling.

Struggling with the realization that I am weary and no longer wish to do this anymore.

Struggling with the anger, resentment, anxiety and even some fear mixed in that wells up in me whenever our doorbell rings…. and it’s my neighbor. I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve taken to sending my husband to answer it when it’s her. Because if I answer the door, she won’t leave until I’ve addressed every complaint, desire, question she has, or fulfilled every need of hers, from advice to promises of rides to borrowing money and our phone. 

Family time, get-togethers, meals, intimate moments and late night/early morning sleep have been interrupted countless times over the past several years, and it’s gotten worse recently as my neighbor’s mental state, which was never strong in the 20 years we’ve lived here, is diminishing more and more.  Her ever-growing needs (physical, health and emotional) are more than I can handle. But since I’m not family; and because her family members don’t wish to be involved (too busy, too much trouble) and are more than happy to let me deal with her; and due to legalities (those who have Power of Attorney over her health and finances, HIPAA laws and standards and Social Services’ confidentiality guidelines), my hands are tied and I’m unable to get this person the assistance they really need and deserve.

Talk about being in between a rock and a hard place.

I struggle with those same negative feelings towards my friend whenever the phone rings and I see her number appear on my Caller ID.  My friend has been suffering with her own medical and financial issues, as well as job-related problems for quite awhile, and rather than drawing her closer to God, I’ve watched this once strong and solid-in-her-faith woman allow these crises to move her farther and farther away from Him.

It’s heartbreaking to watch. And frustrating to deal with. 

I’ve spent hours and hours, in person and over the phone, listening to her cry, rage and complain. When I’ve offered to pray with and for her, she thanks me, but says it will do no good, because God's not listening anyway. When I’ve given her suggestions or counsel, she won’t take them. When I’ve shown her tough love, she gets mad at me. When I’ve lined up physical, tangible assistance for her and her family, she’s called and stopped it, then complained that nobody cares.  When she speaks of taking her own life, I’ve talked her through it (she’ll apologize the next day, laughing it off, while I’m still shaken). I’ve reached out to her family and begged them to get her and themselves into some kind of family intervention and counseling program.  They have yet to do so. And the phone calls keep coming.

I know admitting this will make me sound like a terrible person and a weak, lousy Christian, but to be honest, both my neighbor and my friend can often drain me physically, emotionally and mentally. And my serving them has actually caused relational problems here at home, especially with my marriage. My daughter confronted me the other day and asked, Why do you let people take advantage of you like that?”

Why indeed? Since when has being a Christian become synonymous with being a doormat?

And then, there’s the terrible guilt and shame I’m experiencing, because:

(a)   I had these feelings of anger, resentment and anxiety towards two of God’s children and sisters-in-Christ in the first place

(b)   I recently made the decision to step back and disengage myself as servant, babysitter, supplier, chauffeur and always on call Christian counselor in both relationships, and

(c)   I feel by doing so, I’ve been disobedient to the Lord and have greatly disappointed Him in my rebelliousness 

What a mess! 

I'm going to stop right here for now. My apologies for this not being one of my more encouraging nor inspiring of posts. But please hang in there and join me as I wrap up the rest of this post tomorrow. I'll have some questions I'd like for you to consider and comment on. Thank you!


  1. You encourage me - bet you never saw those words coming for this post? But you do. Because you remind me we are not alone. That we can be there for one another in prayer. And that as a Christian sister I can invite you to lean on me, and to say I have been there, am there, and have set the boundaries, burnt the bridges and repaired the fences more than once or a dozen times. You are NOT a weak Christian nor are you a bad one. You are doing the best you can, and sometimes that means stepping back and letting God move into the space we left. Bless you girl.

  2. You know I'm grateful for those words. 'Stepping back and letting God move into the space we left.' WOW...what a visual! And what a truth! Thank you, my friend!

  3. Pam, how I appreciate your honesty in this post. Several things stand out to me,and not one of them suggests you are a 'terrible, weak, lousy Christian.' We have seasons in our lives and you are entering a season of rest as you learn that creating boundaries for the people you have been ministering to is a Healthy thing for you to do. Its ok to pull back when you are rebuffed regarding prayer. Reminds me when Jesus said not to throw our pearls before swine...guard your gift of mercy and compassion, use it wisely. The Father wants to take you into your new season so get ready for all He is about to pour into you.

  4. Thank you, Jeannie, for your wise words, sound advice. The Father wanting to take me into a new season is something I never even thought about. Or thought possible for me at this point. Wow! Thanks for that encouragement!

  5. I agree with Mystic Mom, those are powerful words to apply to your painful situations. Sadly it seems that when you combine Christian + Woman you often find guilt and a tendency to "over care" for people.
    It occurs to me now that the old lesson about our strengths also being our weakness may be helpful here.
    You are a nurturer and mercy driven person. The compassion required for this gift can be turned into a negative when we find ourselves doing too much for others and hurting ourselves and our primary relationships. Please do not allow the false lies about your guilt to pull you down and drain the joy away. I look forward to part 2 of this my friend and will be praying for you in the meantime. Susie

    1. Susie,

      Thanks so much for commenting. Yes, 'over care' could be my middle name. I guess this IS more common among women...Christian or not...because God created us to be more nurturing and emotional. Our strengths also being our weakness...honestly, Susie, I don't think I've heard of that. I'll look into it.

      And thanks for your prayers. :)

  6. You know how I feel PSF...it upsets me to hear that you could even consider yourself weak or a lousy Christian. You HAVE gone above and beyond into territory that others won't even enter. It would seem even walking away is impossible since the neighbor is always right there, just a few doors down. My heart breaks that you are feeling like a prisoner in your own home. I agree with what Jeannie and Sharon have both said. And to the one who won't take the advice, I give you Matthew 10:14 "Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet." to me, that says, you've given Godly advice, it has been rejected over and over, it is time to shake the dust off and exit. Love you :)

  7. Thanks, Toni, and yes I do know how you feel. You've told me. :) But seriously...it's started up again. The waiting outside our door (even her cat does it now, too). Ringing the doorbell at odd hours. The outlandish comments and behavior. Yeah, sometimes I do feel like a prisoner in my own home. Not much I can do at this point, you know?

  8. Hello! I have tried to reply a couple of time and it just keeps freezing me or deleting everything. Until I gave up using my smartphone and decided to use the computer. :)
    Well, you also know how I feel. Yet I do have to tell you that I am very proud of you for blogging about it. You are opening the door to other sisters to come to your aid through prayers. Is there anything stronger than that? I believe that you are starting the process of healing, by doing this you are not keeping this feeling and lies hidden in your heart. You will find friends that will tell you that the Lord is with you and like Mystic_Mom says it is time for you to step back and allow the Lord to take the place we left. Remember as long we keep meddling in his business he will not interfere,he is a gentleman. What I mean is that maybe it is time to let him take control and put it in his hands, it does not matter how many times the devil keeps coming back to tell you how disobedient you are. You are not my friend, and I will keep praying that you can see this truth through the eyes of our savior.... I love you!

  9. Thanks Cecilia! Thanks for taking the time to comment, I know you must be so busy packing right now. I love you, too. And I love what you said here: 'as long as we keep meddling in His business, He will not interfere, He is a gentleman.' I think everything IS His business, and He doesn't leave us on our own, He works with us. But perhaps, at this point in time, my part in this business is over, and He's got this Himself. Something to really consider.

    Thank you, as always, my friend!

  10. Sweetheart, It was brought to my attention that boundaries are biblical. It sounds like you need to either create boundaries or strengthen them. On top of that if you don't make time to care for your own needs then you are going to feel resentful of others. So when you do create boundaries, don't feel bad for placing your legitimate needs for rest first. Even Jesus had to spend time resting and with the Father. As a wise therapist once told me, you can't help someone drowning, if you jump in the water and are drowning with them. In fact there is a great book on Boundaries and how they are biblical. :)

    1. Deanna,

      I got your message late last night, and was surprised to see that your comments DID come through after all. I changed the CAPTCHA settings so hopefully, no more problems.

      That said, thank you for sharing your wisdom and encouragement with me. Everyone so far seems to be in agreement that guilt has no place here, and that I need to step back and take a sabbatical of some sort.

      And, as a matter of fact, I DO have the Boundaries book on my Nook. Guess I better set everything else aside and snap to it.

      Blessings to you, Deanna

  11. Pam, it occurs to me that perhaps you could take a different tact with this, although it is harsh. Can you treat it as harrassment even though she's not really in her right mind? Can you get a restraining order? Then, when she breaks it, and we know she will because she doesn't fully understand, the police will be bound to come out. Perhaps they will get tired of the calls to enforce the order and will pressure the family to action? Just a thought...

  12. Learning His lessons with you! Many of them hard; all of them important. Your honesty is refreshing - thank you!


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