Unanswerable Questions?

When I have a question banging around in my head, my brain runs like a hamster on a squeaky wheel.  Right now, I need to find an answer or shoot the dang hamster.  I’m sick of waking up in the middle of the night thinking about it.

Many times over the past year, I was asked if I had only agreed to be someone’s friend because I wanted someone to “fix”.  I insisted that I didn’t, but that this person had come to me needing so much help and I helped because I could. I helped because I felt it was the right thing to do.  I helped because I like knowing that I’ve made a difference in the life of another.  Mostly, I helped because I knew what it felt like to be alone in the world when my life was falling apart and I had no one who would help me.

I enjoy helping people and have a history of “being taken advantage of”.  This means that while I sometimes request boundaries, I don’t actually enforce any.   When the other person challenges, dismisses, ignores or “forgets” my requests, I feel as though bringing it up again will create a big conflict.  That makes me feel angry and resentful, which manifests in my speech and actions.  Then I get accused of only “helping” the person because I wanted to “fix” them.

That’s another theme in my life.  Someone asks for my help (in the beginning anyway– they ask me for help) and while I pitch in, I also make suggestions for how they can avoid having the problem in the future.  I have learned that most people who ask for assistance don’t want to know how to prevent problems, they just want relief from their current situation.  They definitely don’t want my know-it-all “insights” into why his/her life isn’t working.  I try to present it in love, but I am a very blunt “so there it is” kinda gal.  It frequently does not go well.

I have learned that this is called “Co-Dependency”.  I now know that I am the one that is getting myself into these messes; I have no one else to blame but ME.  I really need to abandon this cycle.  It’s really, really not working for me.

But how can I be compassionate and NOT co-dependent? I’ve been involved in some hard-core personal development workshops and they are helping significantly.  I am working on strengthening my “boundaries” and I know that I can not be taken advantage of without my permission.  But the work I’ve done doesn’t really address the issue of compassion.

As a Christ follower, I am commanded to be merciful and offer help to the helpless and needy.  Where do I draw the line?  How can I please God with my choices without getting sucked into the co-dependency cycle?  I know that Jesus Christ Himself didn’t help EVERYONE He encountered.  As God, He had the discernment to know who to help and who to pass by.  Why did He pass them by?  I don’t know, maybe they weren’t ready for it yet.  Not being God, I lack that level of discernment.

Over the years, I have given money to people who claimed torturous poverty, only to find out they made more money than I did or had a serious drug addiction.  I’ve given of myself in other ways, too, only to realize later that the agony that the person endured each day was brought about by the continual and consistent choices they made.  My “helping” them was, in reality, only encouraging them to continue their heart-ache.

Christ had the wisdom to see when to help and the specific help needed.  He passed by all the others (seemingly) without remorse.  It is written that He did no miracles in Nazareth because of their unbelief.  Were there no sick people in Nazareth?  I doubt it.  

I don’t want to be like those hypocrites that pray for the poor, but keep their purses tightly locked.  I don’t want to keep anyone who doesn’t have their act together at arm’s length.  I want to make a difference in the world without getting the life sucked out of me by (intentional and unintentional) users.

Where is the balance?

That’s the BIG question; the question that pulls relentlessly at my heart.

My book, Dating, Sex, & Jesus is now available at Amazon.com. Please “like” the Dating, Sex, & Jesus Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/DatingandJesus for fun and interesting content and book excerpts in your feed. Thanks!

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About howhardcoulditbe

While this started as a chronicle of my many (sometimes ill-conceived) "Do It Yourself" projects, it has morphed into a journal of my 9-year journey as a single Christian woman striving to live by God's design.
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6 Responses to Unanswerable Questions?

  1. Dewey says:

    We all struggle with this question. Several things have come to mind recently. related to your topic.
    -We are not able to help everybody, so we HAVE to be selective; we have no choice. We can’t help every “homeless” (or whatever) person we see, but we don’t have to. We are a support “network”, so there are others who are also stepping up to meet other people’s needs. All we can do is give if we feel especially compelled to in a particular situation. If not, then perhaps God will speak to someone else that day to fill that need.
    -And it is true that it is not possible for us to discern if a person is truly in need or not. But we aren’t ultimately responsible for that considering that only God knows a person’s heart. We can only make a limited assessment and rely on our instincts. We won’t always be right, but again it doesn’t really matter, because God knows our intentions, honor us for our obedience and trying to do what we thought was right and good.
    -I think sometimes we have to risk letting someone take advantage of us… once. There might be a chance someone is just trying to “set us up”. BUT there is also a chance that we might be able to make a difference in their life and really help them get to a better place. What to do? If the potential outcome for good warrants it, the decision can be made to give whatever it is that is needed, with the knowledge that it may never yield the desired result, but it is OK. The risk was worth it, the “loss” acceptable, BUT there won’t be a second or third chapter to that story. We need to turn it back to God to sort out and handle.

    It is a complex and difficult subject, and on any given day, none of these thoughts will adequately address the situation. Be comfortable with the idea that God is working though us and that we won’t do it perfectly. But God can use ALL of our work, perfect or not. Discern the best we can, and don’t give so much of anything that you are no longer able to help yourself or anyone else.

    • That was an awesome response, Dewey. Thank you, it helped a great deal.

      God does know that I would help the whole world if I could but if I am not careful, I will pour myself out until there is nothing left but anger and resentment. Then I will be of no use to anyone!

  2. Actually I have some answers for your questions. Jesus actually did help everyone who asked him for help. The only people that he turned down was the Pharisees who wanted him to perform miracles for their enjoyment.

    As far as people asking you for money, there is a very easy filter that you can apply. Tell them that you have work for them to do to EARN money at minimum wage but no more than $10 per hour. 99% of them will go off in search of an easier mark. I can document this with the guys standing out there with a sign saying that they will work for food. I used to be a contractor and told each guy that they could work for money for me and I would even buy lunch and would pay them $10 an hour. All of them except one turned me down because they did not want to actually work and that they had a better hustle panhandling.

    I hope that this helps.

    Blessings on you and yours
    John Wilder

  3. Indeed, Jesus DID help everyone who ASKED, but some He just reached out and helped, much to their surprise; I’m thinking in particular of the man at the pool of Bethesda.

    My point is that while He was on Earth, Jesus didn’t heal every Leper in Jerusalem, or every blind person in Bethsaida. He didn’t abolish slavery or rescue women from inequality. He didn’t even end the brutality of Roman rule. In other words, He didn’t fix everything that was within His power to fix. Now that He has ascended, He doesn’t grant every prayer like a genie in a bottle would.

    The concept I grapple with is discernment; holding at arm’s length those that are capable of taking care of themselves but would prefer that I carry them instead. Offering assistance to those that truly have had a bad run of luck and just need someone to give them a break for a few months until they can get back on their feet.

    My next post will explain why this is close to my heart…

  4. Sometimes you have to be brutally honest with yourself. If you feel taken advantage of, perhaps you are. Perhaps you need to really set and keep those boundaries. Perhaps your giving can be less informal and more structured within a charitable group. You do not have to be on the front line, perhaps have the helpful back room role. It is not glamourous but shelves and store rooms always need to be cleaned.
    I know exactly where you are coming from. I became a bit of a hermit instead.

  5. Thanks. I am getting much better with my boundaries and learning that there are some people that are so good at getting around them, it’s best if I avoid them altogether. This week I learned that there are some people who are incapable of being honest with themselves. That explained a lot.

    Being a hermit is okay for a while, but I think you have a lot to give…. and I’m sure you do to your kids, your family and your friends.
    And those of us who read your stuff!
    :~)

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