Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Growing Weary, Part Two

So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith. ~ Galatians 6:9-10, The Message

The above Scripture verse is another translation of Paul's encouragement for the people of Galatia to not grow weary and give up in doing good to others. Yesterday, I began a two-part blog post about what happens when you DO wind up growing weary and just give up. Because it happened to me.

If you didn't get a chance to read it, why not take a minute to scoot over to read it now by clicking here.

As a result of the roller coaster of emotions I was experiencing as I tried my best in 'doing good' for both my neighbor and my friend, (while also feeling I was being manipulated and used by them at times, which I failed to mention yesterday), I found myself spiraling down into depression.

I spent several months ‘hiding’ from God.  For a time, I stopped attending church (we all attend the same church). I dropped out of Bible study (which my neighbor also attended and in which she was causing some chaotic moments for everyone). I purposely made ‘other arrangements’ on the Tuesday nights that my prayer group would meet.  I avoided my Bible like the plague and pretty much ostracized myself from my church family and other Christian friends.

Is it any wonder, then, that my relationship with the Lord, as well as with the members of the Body of Christ/the Church, had suffered, becoming weak, dry and very close to non-existent? I woke up one day to the realization that I was in a self-imposed form of exile. 

I know all of this sounds awful and some may be reading this thinking, “What kind of Christian (or maybe more appropriately, what kind of NUT) is she, anyway?” I’ve been wondering that a lot myself. 

There's just so much that confuses me.  I feel like I'm being bombarded from all sides by Bible verses that are continually popping into my head. And I hope I'm not taking them out of context. 

Once again, in Galatians 6, Paul reminds the people that they are to "Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ."  And in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, Jesus tells this to the crowds gathered there: "Whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and don't turn away him who desires to borrow from you."  That is sacrificial living right there, and is part and parcel of the Christian daily walk. 

But when does it become a matter of being able to say "STOP! Enough is enough!" when you feel someone is manipulating you and taking advantage of your kind, loving, giving, sacrificial Christian nature? Or you come to the realization that you are enabling instead of helping?

Yesterday, I wrote that terms like 'enabler,' co-dependency' 'toxic' and 'dysfunctional' are all words you won't find in the Bible. And with good reason, for these are terms that come from the secular and psychological community. So do they truly have a place in Christianity? Should we even be identifying with these terms or are we just kidding ourselves? 

And perhaps I'm just using them to justify my backing away from helping these two people in my life because obeying Jesus's command to do this just became TOO HARD TO DO?

Through all of this madness, I had some well-meaning, godly friends with whom I’d shared my struggles and questions about this – friends who know my neighbor and friend well, and are aware of their situations and needs – tell me things like:

“Ask God to make you willing to be made willing”

Really?! What does THAT even mean? To me, it translates into “Better you than me, sister.”

Or this gem:

“What would they DO without you? You’re ALL they have.”

Is that true? Am I really ALL they have, because family, friends, other neighbors and members of their faith community, for whatever reasons, have chosen to look away from these folks and avoid them like the priest and the Levite in the parable of The Good Samaritan, washing their hands of any responsibility? I'm sorry, but I can't go along with that.

I never realized this before until a month or so ago, but as I read that parable again, it suddenly came to me while the Samaritan traveler was the only one who stopped to help and care for that beaten, bruised and broken man lying on the roadside, he didn’t take on all responsibility for him. He didn’t take the man with him to wherever he was headed.  When the Samaritan left the inn where he had taken the wounded man and spent the night tending to him, he left him there and enlisted help (paid help, though it was) from the local innkeeper:

'The next day, he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ (Luke 10:35, NIV)

Please know I HAVE asked for help and a bit has come from an unexpected source. But due to all the legal and familial roadblocks, as well as the stubbornness of the people in need, it really hasn't been as much as I'd hoped.  Believe me when I say this – I’m NOT asking for sympathetic, figurative pats on the head here. Nor am I looking for kudos and applause from anyone for hanging in there and doing as much as I could.

What I am looking for at this point -- and which I'd forgotten about until now -- is The Lesson.  A sweet friend of mine who passed away several years ago from cancer, would often tell me -- even and especially in the midst of those times when she found herself in horrific pain and was struggling just to breathe and speak: 

"God has a lesson for me in all 
of this. I just need to find it."

I'm desperately trying to find the lesson God has for me 'in all of this.'

So I’m wondering if this has ever happened to anyone else out there; if anyone has ever experienced a time when serving others just became too heavy a burden to bear....and you made the difficult choice to walk away. 

And I don't normally ask this, but PLEASE DO SHARE this post series with others, especially if you know of anyone who is a pastor or Christian counselor. I will welcome any and all comments and insights -- good, bad or indifferent (or you can send me a private email, too, if you’re more comfortable with that) -- on what I’ve said and on the questions below:

   How do you serve without enabling, being taken advantage of or becoming the victim of another's manipulation? 

Does setting healthy boundaries for oneself conflict with the Biblical theology of sacrificial living?

Some hard questions. But then, nobody said following Jesus would be easy. Many thanks for taking the time to read this and hopefully share your insights. 


  1. We can set boundaries. Jesus did. We must set them for us to be able to do what Jesus needs us to do. I think that is one of the biggest emotional traps in our faith world - that a Christian is expected to always give, no matter what. Until they can't and then they are seen as failing or being weak. We need our churches to teach boundaries. Healthy boundaries are so important.

    When I struggle with the people I am serving, and wondering if my 'helping' is getting in the way of God I pray this over them:

    Dear Lord,

    I am emotionally spent. I am surrendering this person, _____________ to You. I will continue to pray for them but I am giving them to You as I need a rest. If Your will is their return to my life I pray, Lord, for strength and wisdom.


    And then I let them go. I tell them, if they ask, that I need a break and while I am praying for them I cannot be there as I once was because I had to take care of my own things God has tasked me with. I encourage them to find help elsewhere. And I leave them to God. And I find some peace and rest.

    Bless you girl as you seek His will and set those ever so important boundaries. I'm here for you in friendship and in prayer.

    1. Shanyn,

      This is an awesome prayer. So simple. Yet so powerful. And you are an amazing person. Thank you for your friendship, your prayers, your blessings.

  2. Pam, I have a friend who was asked what his greatest strength is and he replied that he was able to "get things done." When asked what his greatest weakness was, "I am able to get things done." He had trouble letting God be God in situations.

    In a life of surrender to God we are called to obey like Jesus obeyed His Father. Jesus said that He only did what the Father told him to do. I believe that Jesus asked for instructions daily and then obeyed.

    We tend to interpret that as obeying the Bible in a general way, such as "Care for strangers" or "Love one another" but we cannot possibly care for everyone in the world or even love every single person in the world can we? It is physically impossible. Maybe we are meant to listen for instructions on a day by day basis or situation by situation basis.

    Like when the "crisis" phone call comes, ask God how He wants you to respond to that phone call and obey that. If you are burnt out from caring for others it is often due to stretching yourself beyond what God specifically asked YOU to do. One situation at a time.

    Church life is famous for making us feel guilty for never doing enough. It can be never ending and I do not believe that God leads through guilt. People do.
    this is getting too long but it is a place I am very familiar with.

    Regarding the strength and weakness thing...It is a trick of the enemy to guilt us into over-working for God and then watching us move into bitterness and exhaustion and thereby blaming God for our burn-out. he is so sneaky that way. Look at Jesus being tempted in the wilderness to use His giftings in the wrong way.

    Bless you dear one and talk to God about taking a sabbatical of some kind. When the joy is missing, it could be a sign of taking on more than you are assigned to take on. we all do it.
    I hope this helps.

    1. Susie,

      This helps IMMENSELY. I'm so grateful you took the time to say all these things. Your reply isn't too long, but just enough.

      'Talk to God about taking a sabbatical of some kind.' I really, really do need one. Yes indeed. Thank you for that suggestion.

  3. Pam: I just read both posts and I will prayerfully respond when I have time (still at work) at first glance it sounds like you and your family are suffering over this. Both people sound like "takers" and nowhere in the Bible does it say to sacrifice your sanity or that of your own family for someone else. BUT, having said that, I will prayfully ask the Lord in prayer for wisdom. God knows you want to do what is right! And bless you sister for your giving and extremely generous heart and spirit! I think you need a break :-)

  4. is this situation progressing? I have been praying for you.

    1. Thanks, dear one. I sent you a response privately, hope it went through.


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