Change is not as hard when you partner with Jesus. I have used the Word, counselors, and medication for my severe depression. I have attended lots of Bible studies to help me navigate my way clear of always feeling under the codependent gun.
Earlier, we explored 1 Corinthians 10:13:
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (NIV) [temptation and tempted can also be translated testing and tested] (NIV Study notes)
You will be tempted or tested to just dive in and rescue someone who has triggered that loving response in you. The problem is the way you will go about it is unhealthy for you and unhealthy for the person you want to help. So, this verse gives us some excellent guidelines.
God is Faithful
First, your response is not unique. There are many of us who just react to others’ pain and want to take it away quickly. So, I am not alone in this, nor are you. But God is working to grow you. These tests do just that, for we must decide then and there who we are going to draw upon: our own resources or on God?
God is faithful. You do not enter a time of testing alone. If you choose to rely on God, He won’t allow you to be overwhelmed.
Paul put it very well when he said,
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Cor. 4:8-9)
Paul endured a tremendous amount of pain and persecution for the sake of the Gospel. But he knew the mightiness of the One he served:
For God, who said, ‘Let there be light in the darkness,’ has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. (2 Corinthians 4:6-7 NLT)
He also knew that there is nothing in the universe that can separate us from God’s love:
Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?... And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35, 38-39 NLT)
So, dear one, even if you are overwhelmed by the needs you see in others, and feel you are being tested to the breaking point in how to handle the situation in a new and healthy way, let’s return to our key verse.
Remember how we looked at the phrase, “a way out” or “a way of escape”? The word in Greek means “exit.” So, I have learned that God will make a way for me to walk out of a situation that needs to end. Is it easy? No. You will still be afraid and anxious as you follow the Lord out of a situation that for you seems impossible. You will probably be guilt-ridden for a while afterwards; that’s OK, for it is never easy to hand over people you care about to God.
Remember how I talked about that burning building and how our Firefighter comes to lead us out? We think of those we are helping in the burning building. We rushed in to save them, not allowing the Firefighter to do His work.
When He leads us out, we will want to run back in and save them. But they have the same Firefighter as we do, and He wants to take their hand as well. If they refuse and stay in the building, that is their choice.
Paul and The Corinthian Church
Paul was faced with a terrible burning building. In the first letter to the Corinthians, he was aghast that a man was sleeping with his stepmother. (1 Corinthians 5)
He was adamant that this man should be removed from the church there, because he claimed to be a believer yet was behaving in an atrocious way. Talk about needing to speak truth into the situation! Paul did just that and wrote in this first letter to the church at Corinth to deal with this man in no uncertain terms.
Now, in his second letter to this church, he says,
I am not sorry that I sent that severe letter to you, though I was sorry at first, for I know it was painful to you for a little while. Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way. For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.
Just see what this godly sorrow produced in you! Such earnestness, such concern to clear yourselves, such indignation, such alarm, such longing to see me, such zeal, and such a readiness to punish wrong. You showed that you have done everything necessary to make things right. My purpose, then, was not to write about who did the wrong or who was wronged. I wrote to you so that in the sight of God you could see for yourselves how loyal you are to us. We have been greatly encouraged by this. (2 Corinthians 7:8-13 NLT)
Do you see what happened? Paul was “severe,” yes, but he did it in love for the church and for this sinful brother.
God wants us to repent of our sin. Paul, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, wanted the church to step up and let this man know he needed to repent. It is interesting that “sorrow” in God’s hands can lead a person out of sin and into forgiveness and restoration. Just making people feel bad is not what Paul is advocating here. The Holy Spirit must move deeply in the heart of the one who is sinning as well as in the hearts of those who seek the restoration of this person. “Godly sorrow” leads to freedom and Paul is so glad that the church acted on Spirit-led directions.
Did the man repent? Paul says earlier in this letter:
I wrote that letter in great anguish, with a troubled heart and many tears. I didn’t want to grieve you, but I wanted to let you know how much love I have for you. I am not overstating it when I say that the man who caused all the trouble hurt all of you more than he hurt me. Most of you opposed him, and that was punishment enough. Now, however, it is time to forgive and comfort him. Otherwise he may be overcome by discouragement. So I urge you now to reaffirm your love for him. I wrote to you as I did to test you and see if you would fully comply with my instructions. When you forgive this man, I forgive him, too. And when I forgive whatever needs to be forgiven, I do so with Christ’s authority for your benefit, so that Satan will not outsmart us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes. (2 Corinthians 2:4-11)
Paul didn’t enjoy confronting the church over this issue. But the church was at sake, and this man was at sake. What if Paul had downplayed the seriousness of the matter? Paul compares sin to yeast in dough, and how only a little can affect so much. In fact, when Paul first confronts this issue about the man, he is appalled that the church is “boasting” about it. (1 Corinthians 5:6-7). The people at Corinth saw nothing wrong with this man’s behavior. Perhaps they thought they all had such freedom in Christ that if this man wanted to hook up with his father’s wife, who were they to judge?
The very people who may need for you to speak the truth to may have a whole group siding with them, and your voice may seem small in comparison. A little sin goes a long way and adversely affects a lot of people beyond the original person. So, you may be called by God to say such words as “sin,” “repentance” and “forgiveness” to these people. It will not be easy. Paul found it hard but the Holy Spirit gave him the strength to advise, guide and warn.
Prayer is the Greatest Gift of All
Perhaps the Holy Spirit will call you to pray. Praying for someone is the greatest gift you can give. As CoDeWo’s, we feel better when we are doing something. But consider prayer doing something BIG:
Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. (James 5:16 NLT)
This is one of my favorite verses, and I could have written this book with just this one verse in it:
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16 ESV)
That says it all. You may be called by God to pray this person through a situation; you may be called to speak truth into this person’s life, or you may be called to assist in a limited way to ease some of the suffering.
Prayer is the key. What am I to do, Lord? is the motto of a recovering CoDeWo. The “What to do” is found in prayer. It will take time for God to answer. But time waiting on Him is never wasted.
Just like Jesus, we do nothing more or nothing less—only do what you know you are called to do.
But what if I do not know what to pray?
The Word’s got you covered:
Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. (Romans 8:26 KJV)
But why would God listen to me?
The Word’s got you covered:
All who follow the leading of God’s Spirit are God’s own sons. Nor are you meant to relapse into the old slavish attitude of fear—you have been adopted into the very family circle of God and you can say with a full heart, ‘Father, my Father.’ The Spirit himself endorses our inward conviction that we really are the children of God. Think what that means. If we are his children we share his treasures, and all that Christ claims as his will belong to all of us as well! Yes, if we share in his suffering we shall certainly share in his glory. (Romans 8:15 Phillips)
But what do I say? What kind of comfort do I give?
The Word has an answer for that as well:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Cor. 1:3-4)
You are never alone in this journey.