Saturday, June 21, 2003

Father Knows Best

There's a downside to being a person with a "helpful" personality. If you have been blessed with the gift of being able to see where things hurt, a desire to want to make things better for people, a hunger to improve conditions, a longing to leave the world better than you found it, you (like me) run the risk of thinking that you know how to fix things. When a friend loses a job, you know where to tell her to look and which role will be "right" for her (I'm notorious for this...just ask my daughter!). When someone close to you suffers a disappointment, you sift through the damage to find the root of blessing that's in there somewhere. Neither in itself is a bad thing. The problem comes when we forget that there may be countless other options, and we lose sight of the fact that God may be at work in the situation in a way we can't even imagine.

What I've found in my own life is that the "helpfulness" that comes out in the form of making suggestions, offering reassurance, giving encouragement, or suggesting interpretations, is an attempt to make the other person feel better and perhaps offer a solution they haven't thought of yet. The catch-22 is that in so many of the most difficult situations in our lives, the real point of change happens only when we dig in and begin working through things with God. While we struggle within ourselves, or listen to the counsel and suggestions of others, we may still unknowingly be trying to put a temporary bandaid on something God wants to heal and wipe completely away. When we reach out to help others, we mean well; we simply want their pain to go away. But God may have something deeper, something eternally healing in mind. Would I step in and reassure another if I knew all my "help" did was delay the moment she turns to God?

Our companionship with each other is vitally important as we walk through this life. Our joining is God's purpose; our love and compassion for each other is the greatest visible manifestation of God at work in our world. I do think God gives us insights and ideas we are meant to use to help those around us. But perhaps I need to be more discerning about the "help" I offer. If I listen very closely to God, I hope I'll learn when my "counsel" is an idea from Him and when it is my own intense desire to help. And as I continue to learn, I suspect I'll discover that in many cases, the best way for me to help others is not to try to change them or solve their problems, but to love and understand them and demonstrate what I'm learning in my own life--that I need to look to God for the real answers, the lasting gift, the eternal Love.

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