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 I will not be controlled by you.”
The most effective parents, pastors, small group leaders, and other caregivers are those who can love well, while not being weighted down by the problems of those who are receiving their care.
Have you ever crossed the line when providing care to others? If so, then 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.
Are any of these things recurring patterns in your life? All of us have dropped the ball to some degree. We’re not perfect. These things are only problems if they become patterns in our lives.
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 immoveable object meets the irresistible force.
It is rare for me to struggle with a person who responds to counsel in a positive way. Where I get in trouble is when I go around and around and around again with someone and they don’t change.
This is one of the more amazing things about the life of Jesus. He was a man of sorrows, who was acquainted with grief, but His sorrow and grief 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).
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 be fully assured 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 I have described you, then 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 effective 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.
He was not controlled by people and their problems
I know Jesus was not disinterested in people, but sometimes it felt as though He was. He had an amazing ability to be released 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 then 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, then they will control you.
Something will capture our hearts. If it is not Sovereign LORD then it’s open season on our souls and we will be vulnerable to the thing we believe we must have in order to be okay.
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 in order to rise above our problems.
If this is how you struggle, then 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. Though Jesus was not sinning, He was overwhelmed. His response was to get help from His Father (Luke 22:42).
He determined the quality of the relationship
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 put the onus for change on them. If they wanted to hang with Jesus, then they came to where He was. This 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), then stand your ground. If others do not want to walk with you, then let them go the way they believe they should go (Isaiah 30:21).
- Joshua 24:15 – Joshua was not arrogant when he drew the 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, then you need to let them know what has to change for a relationship with you to continue.
He learned to say, “No”
When Mary and Martha came to Jesus, asking Him about hotfooting 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 because 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 the help our friends need from us will be compromised.
He was not over-responsible
When we try too hard for a 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 of this piece, e.g., harshness, unkindness, impatience. In essence, you talk LOUDER!!
This 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.
He said hard things
Jesus was never harsh. He was never unkind. He 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. He 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 you are controlled by people, then your speech will be governed by them. The way to be released from their power over you is for you to be willing for them to walk away from you and to never come back. This is why Jesus could speak the truth to the rich young man.
There was a possibility that 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, then you will never be able to fully speak the loving truth into their lives.
He focused on the main thing
Whatever you do, your main goal must be to glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31). To pull this off successfully then all other goals must bow the knee at this paragon of goals. Let me explain.
- If your main goal is the salvation of your child, then 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 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 the piece 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 because it would glorify God.
If she did those things, Jesus would be put on display. Whether he changed or not is a secondary matter. If your main motive for discipling someone is for them to change, then you have the wrong main motive.
Too many people think this way. They do what the Bible says to do because they expect a preferred outcome. If this is you, then you will not be able to fully glorify God. 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 in order 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 outcome should be, then you will not be able to freely do all that is needed to help them. 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 us, it’s a big deal with those who are in our families or our closest network of friends. This 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 (ESV)
If your main aim is to do the will of the Father, rather than trying to pull off your will, then you will be perfectly 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