Note: This is the first post I ever wrote for this blog, way back around September. But for some reason, every time I stumbled on it in the drafts folder, I felt like it wasn’t the right time to share it. Today, however, I was again reminded of the principle in this post, and so I’m sharing it with you. I hope it will be an encouragement to someone today.
It’s been over two years.
From the beginning, I knew I was getting into something huge, something complicated, something that would be difficult.
People always are.
But I also knew it would be worth it.
People always are.
There’s a saying, “The older I get, the more I realize I do not know anything.” And that has already proved to be true in my life. Because over the days and weeks, months and years, I have learned that much of what I thought I knew was actually wrong. It’s a difficult thing to understand people, sometimes. Every time I think I finally understand something, later something else comes to light and I realize I was wrong. I did not understand. And, inevitably, sometimes I wonder if I ever will.
It’s a complicated and messy and confusing and just plain hard thing to love people, sometimes. Especially those with life stories so different from my own.
When people trust me enough to talk about the beyond-surface level of their lives, I consider it a privilege. I try to understand them and where they’re coming from as best as I can. And I try to share truth with them as it relates to their situation. And I pray. I always, always pray. But sometimes…sometimes I feel helpless.
If you care about someone, naturally, you want to be able to make their life better and fix their problems.
But that’s not the way it works.
It took me a long time to learn that. To learn that it’s not my job to fix things, to always have the perfect word of advice, or anything like that. It took until a moment of understanding, a moment where things finally “clicked” and I understood why things were the way they were with someone, and a moment of cold, hard realization–I cannot do anything about this.
I think as humans, our reaction to things that we see as problems is to fix them. To figure out what’s wrong and what happened and how to make things the way we think they should be. It’s kind of an instinct. And that’s not always bad. In fact, sometimes it’s a very good thing. If someone never wanted to fix problems in life, I would be very worried about them, because they must have a serious case of apathy.
But sometimes, this intense desire to fix things can be just another way we try to control our lives and the lives of those around us. We forget so often that we are not in control, don’t we? We forget that God is in control.
“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” – Proverbs 16:9
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28
“He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” – Colossians 1:17
“Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.” – Psalm 147:5
“The LORD works out everything to its proper end.” – Proverbs 16:4a
We can make all the plans we want. We can desperately brainstorm and try to come up with a solution. But God is the one who knows exactly what’s going on and has a plan for it.
When we come to the realization that we are not in control–that we cannot do anything–we are finally ready to let God work. How did that night go for me? I realized the only thing I could do was pray and continue to love. But then the other thing that hit me was, “that’s all I’ve ever been able to do.”
Nothing had changed about the situation. The only thing that had changed was my understanding of it.
Jesus didn’t command “love your neighbor and.” There was no and. No “love your neighbor and…fix all their problems.” No “love your neighbor and…be sure you always have something to say about their life situation.” No “love your neighbor and…it’s your fault if they don’t become a Christian.”
There simply is no and.
All we are commanded to do is love.
Do you see how freeing this is? It means it doesn’t matter if we don’t know what to say. It doesn’t matter if we spend months or a year or two years or ten years or our whole lives loving someone who’s lost only to die without seeing them trust Christ. It doesn’t matter if we can’t see the results, as long as we are faithful to love.
All God asks of us is to love the people around us. We trust Him for the rest.
Loving people is still hard. It’s still confusing and uncertain and painful and patience-trying. But if we remember it’s not about us and what we can do, and leave the rest to God…it’s so much less complicated.
Have you ever had that moment before, where you looked at a situation in your life or someone else’s life and realized you just couldn’t do anything? Take heart, friend. Nothing changed. God is still God, and He is still in control. Trust Him.
What are some of God’s commandments you’ve recently seen in a new light? How do you think realizing we cannot do anything helps us to live freely?