[Note: This post first ran on August 27, 2014. Two years later, not much has changed as far as regarding the world as a pretty big mess. Rather than be discouraged by that realization, I continue to take heart in remembering that it’s not up to me to fix the problems of this world, tempting as that may be.]
You don’t have to be an avid newshound to recognize that the world’s in a pretty big mess. Terror groups running amok. Nations at war. Racial discord. Economic crises. Earthquakes and other disasters, natural and man-made. It’s easy for me to read or watch news reports and play armchair quarterback for a while, ruminating on ways that I’d solve the world’s problems, but I’m usually pretty quick to give up trying.
Closer to home, when a friend or family member is going through turmoil, it’s a bit harder for me to not try to fix things. I don’t want to see those I love hurting. I want to do whatever I can to alleviate the pain, to make things better. And it’s tough sometimes to realize that, despite my best efforts, I can’t fix things. In fact, if I’m not careful, my good intentions to help can even become a hindrance–something my ego doesn’t like to readily admit.
When I’ve got loved ones dealing with messes in their lives, here are a few reminders I try to take to heart when I’m trying to play handyman (or handywoman).
• Remember that God is in control. Oh, this is so hard to do sometimes, isn’t it? Especially when it seems like a troubling situation isn’t getting any better (or is getting worse by the day). Not only do I try to remind myself that God is in control of the situation and nothing is happening without His notice and allowance of it, but also that, as much as I love my friends and family, God loves them and cares about them even more.
• Do what I can… First and foremost, I need to pray for my loved ones and their situations. I hate to admit it but sometimes I subconsciously view prayer as a last resort rather than an immediate response. Although it may seem passive, praying for someone is one of the most powerful actions we can take:
“The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” (James 5:16b)
Even if I don’t know what to pray for regarding particular situations, that doesn’t make my prayers ineffective. Thanks to the Holy Spirit, we have an interpreter who can pray for exactly what’s needed at that time:
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” (Romans 8:26)
In addition to prayer (which we can ALL do), there are certain gifts and abilities that God’s given me to help others. One of those is the gift of encouragement–He often prompts me to send cards or emails to check on those who I know could use some encouragement, and I am thankful for being used by Him in that way.
• …but accept the fact that I am not equipped to do everything. Although I’m trying to let God use me in whatever ways He sees fit to help those in my life, there are times when I’m frustrated with the realization that I can’t be there for my loved ones in all the ways that I want to be there. Sometimes I can’t be physically there for them, when we live in different cities; I can’t be there in the flesh to give a shoulder to cry on or a comforting hug, and that is tough.
In other cases, my loved ones may be dealing with situations that I have not myself experienced and am therefore not able to offer the wise counsel that they need. Again, that’s a tough pill for my enlarged ego to swallow sometimes. But I’m learning to trust that God does not expect me to do everything; He brings other people into my loved ones’ lives to also walk alongside them and offer help in ways for which they are uniquely equipped. It is a beautiful thing to see God bring people from all kinds of backgrounds and experiences together to minister to and comfort one another. When I stop trying to be the sole provider of everything that I think my loved ones need, I can take a step back and see how God’s providing many sources of help and support.
Do you, too, struggle with trying to be Mr. or Ms. Fix-It? What are some reminders that you lean on to rein yourself in when you’re tempted to strap on the old tool belt?