Have you ever met someone who sucks the life out of you? You know, the one who you keep trying to help but they never take your advice, only care what you have to say if it's exactly what they want to hear, and yet they keep coming back. They keep "needing you help".
If you're anything like me, there comes a point when you are torn between self-sanity and self-sacrifice. Do you keep pushing forward trying to help someone that seems like a lost casue? Or do you let yourself take a breather and not allow that person to burden you or take advantage of you any longer?
Tired and UsedUnfortunately, I think this happens a lot. Most of us have a desire to help others, so we pour all of our time and energy into a person in need day-in-and-day out. We feel good about ourselves because we are trying to help. But then something happens. The person we've been trying to help starts to weigh us down. They seem to become more needy and dependent. They start expecting us to bend over backwards for them.
Next, we start wilting. We become so drained by the person in need that we feel like we have nothing left to give. So over time we back away from the relationship. We realize how used and drained we feel and we decide that we shouldn't try so hard to help people anymore.
We decide that instead of trying to help others, we need to be fed by God. We decide that giving all of ourselves to help others isn't worth the price. So we focus only on God working on our hearts, and not so much on trying to encourage others in their lives.
This is pretty common. But why? How do we go from desperately wanting to help others, to being completely closed to going out of our way to help those in need?
Like most things, the problem is a lack of balance.
We Need To Be FedThe truth is, we have to be fed by God in order to have a lot to give to others. When we try to give to others spiritually and emotionally, we have to let God do the same for us. We have to seek God's grace, love, and strength for ourselves in order to be able to give grace, love, and strength to those in need.
If a person has volunteered to help build a home for a needy family, and they start their day without eating and hydrating, they aren't going to be of much use (at least not for long) on the building site. They need nutrients to give their all for others. It is the same for us as Christians.Seeking God in His Word, in prayer, and in fellowship with other believers is a necessity. We need it as sustenance to make it through each day. We need it for ourselves, and we need it for the sake of others.
We Also Need to Feed (Help)Needing to be fed does not mean we only seek food for ourselves. The idea that we just need to keep getting fed without reaching out is a form of spiritual gluttony. I have friends- friends whom I love- that take the view that people will use us and suck the life out of us, and therefore we shouldn't go out of our way for them. Most of the time, an attitude like this is coming from a past of being deeply wounded and used. I understand. But that view is so destructive when it comes to living out our calling to "love our neighbor as ourselves".
We expect people to love us, to help us, and to "be Christianly" towards us, but sometimes we are needy too. Sometimes we drain people without realizing it, and we all can have times where we use people (even un-intentionally). It's human nature and it's bad, but it's also "normal". So, if we know that we can do this from time to time, shouldn't we be understanding when others do that to us? Shouldn't we be willing to give of ourselves, even if we may get a little drained?
So what if someone expects you to give them a ride somewhere and is taking advantage of you- do it anyway. The fact that you are willing shows them love- love that they may have never seen before.
Finding the BalanceClearly, we still have to use common sense here.
If you are so tired you can't see straight, you are feeling super cranky, and you feel like you have absolutely nothing nice to say, then it may be best to take a breather. We can't help other's 24/7. Take time to rest, rejuvenate, and be fed by God. I am so bad about not going to God for that, and I know others are too. But we must. We need it desperately.
Then, after we have been fed, we can go out and feed others again much more effectively!
Don't use needing to be fed as an excuse to stay in your own bubble, and don't use feeding others as an excuse not to rest and be renewed. We are smart cookies- we can tell the difference!
Do you tend to lean towards one extreme or the other? Why do you think that is?
A Few Things to RememberEven though we should give of ourselves freely, there are some things we need to watch out for.
* If a person you are trying to help is keeping you from being there for others in need, or from your spouse and children, something is wrong. Of course you should give outside of your family, but if you are investing so much in one particular person that you are neglecting your family, your priorities may have steered off course. Be aware. You shouldn't feel like you are so trapped in one part of ministry that you're incapable of helping anyone else.
* If the one in need is trying to make you feel guilty and manipulate you into helping them, that isn't healthy. You should still show them love, but by no means should you do everything they want, simply so they will see Jesus. They aren't seeing Jesus at that point- they are seeing you as a door mat. Jesus was not a door mat.
* If your job or your school work is suffering due to trying to "help the world", then something is off.
Your employer counts on you. You committed to doing a good job with your schooling. Be faithful to those things too. Find a way to minister to the needy and be faithful to your commitments at the same time.