How to Keep from Being Overwhelmed by People Problems

Nobody loved people more than Jesus. Nobody was less controlled by people than Jesus. He found and lived in the perfect relational sweet spot of, “I love you, but you will not control me.” How about you?

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The most discerning parents, pastors, small group leaders, and other caregivers are those who can love well, while not being weighed down by the problems of those who are receiving their care.

Have you ever crossed the line when providing care to others? If so, you may be able to recognize some of the attitudes and actions that come from a person who over-feels the weight of people’s problems. Here are a few for your consideration.

  • Anger
  • Despair
  • Frustration
  • Impatience
  • Apathy
  • Fear
  • Guilt
  • Criticalness
  • Harshness
  • Retaliation
  • Reactionary
  • Accusations
  • Faithlessness
  • Burnout
  • Regret
  • Escapes
  • Procrastination
  • Blame
  • Avoidance
  • Anxiety
  • Worry
  • Hopelessness
  • Shame
  • Health Problems
  • Grumbling
  • Defensiveness

Are any of these things recurring patterns in your life? All of us have dropped the ball to some degree. We’re not perfect. But it’s vital for you to know that these things are only problems if they become patterns in your life.

The most common situation where a caregiver will struggle with some of the things listed is when they come up against an unchanging person. It is kind of like when the immovable object meets the irresistible force.

It is rare for me to struggle with a person who responds to counsel positively. Where I get in trouble is when I go around and around and around again with someone, and they don’t change. This tension is one of the more unusual things about the life of Jesus.

He was a man of sorrows, who was acquainted with grief, but His sadness and grieving did not rule His heart (Isaiah 53:2-3). He is our example when it comes to dealing with difficult people (1 Peter 2:21).

And the good news is that there is a way for us to cast our anxieties on the Lord (1 Peter 5:6-11). Because we all are called to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20) we can rest in the assurance that the Father has provided the grace we need to do the heavy lifting of soul care (Romans 15:14).

  • Is it normal for you to be overwhelmed by those you want to help?
  • Do you tend to lose faith for certain people who are not changing according to your timetable or your expectations?
  • Are you easily frustrated by those who don’t seem to receive and respond well to your advice?
  • Do you over-worry or over-fret about those closest to you who are making unwise decisions?

If this describes you, my appeal is for you to consider the “Jesus Model for Soul Care.” He had a replicate-able way of helping people, that if emulated (1 Corinthians 11:1), will position you to be more productive today while giving you the perseverance to care for others for years to come. Here are six things we see in the life of Jesus that I hope will benefit you.

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Don’t Let Others Control You

I know Jesus was not disinterested in people, but sometimes it felt as though He was. He had a fantastic ability to release Himself from people’s manipulations and drama. People had no power over Him.

There was nothing people possessed that He needed. If you are a full cup, there is no room for anything else. The Savior’s cup was full and overflowing (Psalm 23:5). If the person you’re caring for has something you want, they will control you.

Something will capture our hearts. If it is not Sovereign Lord, it’s open season on our souls, and we will be vulnerable to the thing we believe we must have. God is calling us to trust Him regardless of what is going on in our lives. There is an active and powerful grace for this—a grace we must appropriate to rise above our problems.

If this is how you struggle, the first step in the process of grace appropriation is to admit (confess) that what you want from others has ensnared your heart. Confess your sin to the Lord (1 John 1:7-10). Tell Him how this problem has weakened your faith. When Jesus became overwhelmed, His response was to get help from His Father (Luke 22:42).

Determined Your Relationship Quality

Jesus knew what was right and wrong, and that is where He drew the line. If anyone wanted to have a relationship with Him, they knew where they could find Him. They knew where He stood. This posture put the onus for change on them, not Jesus.

If they wanted to hang with Jesus, they came to where He was. This attitude was not arrogance or stubbornness on His part. If you’re trying to walk in holiness, while shunning that which is evil (Job 1:1), stand your ground. If others do not want to walk with you, let them go the way they believe they should go (Isaiah 30:21).

  • Joshua 24:15 – Joshua was not arrogant when he drew a line in the sand by letting people know where he and his house stood.
  • Matthew 12:46-50 – Jesus was clear when He told the crowd that those who did the will of God are closer to Him than blood kin who did not do the will of God.
  • Mark 10:22 – He was also able to give clear counsel to the rich young man, even though it was possible for the young man to walk away from the potential relationship he could have with the Savior.
  • John 3:7; 19:39 – Nicodemus decided he wanted to walk with Jesus, so he eventually heeded the counsel to become a Christ follower.

You don’t have to be mean-spirited about your holy expectations regarding your relationship with the Lord, but you do need to be clear about them. If you’re trying to walk with Jesus and your friends are pulling you away from this honorable desire, you need to let them know what has to change for a relationship with you to continue.

Learn to Say, “No”

When Mary and Martha came to Jesus, asking Him about hot-footing it over to where their brother Lazarus was dying, Jesus essentially said, “No, not now” to their request (John 11:3-6).

The reason He did this was that He wanted them to have a more substantive faith in the Lord, which meant their brother had to die (John 11:14-15). This kind of clear-headed thinking can happen when you want what God wants most of all.

Too often we’re not thinking about what is best for our relationships. Our thoughts become confused by what we want rather than what God wants (John 4:34). What was best for Mary and Martha meant Jesus had to stand up and do a hard thing (Proverbs 27:6).

It is impossible to serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). When our friends and family begin to master us, we will not be able to hear from the Lord, and we will compromise the help our friends need from us.

Don’t Be Over-responsible

When we try too hard for the desired outcome, we will probably blow up the relationship. People rarely change when and how we want them to change. It nearly always takes more time than we prefer.

“The things I have learned in forty years, you should be able to master in twenty years.” – Myopic Discipler

And when their progress is slow, we tend to speed things up by trying harder. It is like the illustration of the person talking to someone who speaks a different language. What is the solution? Talk louder.

After you try to get someone to make the right choices by your wise counsel and they don’t respond appropriately, you resort to some of the things I listed at the beginning, e.g., harshness, unkindness, impatience. In essence, you talk LOUDER!!

This response is not the way of Christ. Your job is to water and plant while resting in the Lord to provide the growth (1 Corinthians 3:6; 2 Timothy 2:24-26). It could be that the kind Lord will grant the change you want.

Then again, He may not. Either way, you must trust Him. If you try to force the issue, be assured you will blow up the relationship and may even fracture it beyond repair. Without question, you will do things you’ll eventually regret.

Prepare to Say Hard Things

Jesus was never harsh. He was never unkind. Christ always cared deeply for people. His words were measured, and He dispensed them for the sole purpose of being redemptive in people’s lives.

There was no place for hate speech. Jesus never tore down or hurt anyone. He was not condescending or inappropriate. Still, yet, He said hard things to people. There is a way to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

If people control you, they will govern your speech. The way to experience release from their power over you is for you to be willing for them to walk away from you and never to come back. This truth is why Jesus could speak the truth to the rich young man.

There was a possibility the Lord’s words would send him away, never to return. It appears that is what happened. If you can’t embrace this possibility with the ones you want to help, you will never be able to speak the loving truth into their lives fully.

Focus on the Main Thing

Whatever you do, your main goal must be to glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31). If you want to pull this off successfully, all other purposes must bow the knee at this perfect goal. Let me explain.

  • If your main goal is the salvation of your child, you may not be able to glorify God.
  • If your main goal is for your friend to be obedient to Christ, you may not be able to glorify God.
  • If your main goal is for your husband to stop being mean, you may not be able to glorify God.

Someone wrote to me in response to my article, Nine Ways to Disciple Your Husband While Submitting to Him. One of the points the person made was that you could do all of these things and the husband may not change. I fully agree.

My point for writing that article was not primarily for a wife to do those things so her husband would change. The main reason for her to be Jesus to her husband is that it would glorify God.

If she did those things, she would put Jesus on display. Whether he changed or not is a secondary matter. If your primary motive for discipling someone is for them to change, you have the wrong primary motivation.

Too many people think they do what the Bible says to do because they expect a preferred outcome. If this is how you believe, you will not be able to glorify God fully. You are still controlled by your preferred outcome, even if it is a good one.

You have to be fully willing to let a person go to hell to be completely free to help them in the fullest ways the Bible teaches us. If you try to manage or control the outcome, according to what you believe the result should be, you will not be able to do all that is needed to help them freely. Your motives will be clouded by what you believe should happen.

You cannot manage outcomes. While this may not be a big problem for those who are not close to you, it’s a big deal with those who are in your families or your most intimate network of friends. This concept is what makes the Lord’s words so profound:

Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd.  And he was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you.” But he answered them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” – Luke 8:19-21

If your main aim is to do the will of the Father, rather than trying to pull off your will, you will be entirely free to offer the needed counsel to any person, while trusting the Lord for any outcome, even an outcome that might break your heart.

For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. – John 6:38

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