(September 23, 2022) Robert McQuillan responds to a friend despondent about caring for someone.
Dear Dr Robert
I’m having trouble with a friend. Well, I better explain it this way… he keeps on doing wrong things, believing wrong things and isn’t living his life as he should. And he’s a Christian! Over and over I’ve pointed out to him that he’s not thinking straight, he’s being blind to so much. He’ll say that he’s sorry and won’t do such things again. I’ve even prayed with him. But again and again he phones me or calls and tells that he’s either done some ‘old thing again’ or made some other mistake. I find myself praying each day for him but it’s heavy on me. What else can I do? Harold
I know what you’re expressing above. I’ve found myself in the same situation at times – even recently – sharing commonsense, scriptures, giving warnings and, what I know from experience, is good advice. And just as you did, I’d pray with the troubled brother or sister-in-the-Lord. But although the person I’ve talked to would agree (even nod their head if present with me), either they would come back later to confess not having done as we’d discussed, or I’d hear it from another source.
- Harold, I’ll keep this reply as short as I can… because the truth is that you’ve done all you can.
And why? Unless that person really wants to change, you can’t make them. Now you have to leave it with the Lord! If they won’t listen to Him and obey, they won’t listen to you.
Remember that young man in Matthew 19, that told Jesus he wanted eternal life? He even confessed to having done some good things, but when Jesus challenged him about what was still closest to his heart, he couldn’t, wouldn’t let go, and walked away sad.
In his case, his blockage was having lots of money. Whatever problems that chap you’ve been trying to help has, what Jesus said in verse 24 still stands: ‘I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’ Instead of ‘rich’ think of your friend’s issue or issues.
My advice is that you continue of course to care for that ‘friend’ and remembering him in prayer… but back away. Leave it all with the Lord: He can handle it better than you. I know that you feel for him but if that person doesn’t really want to change, and won’t listen to God, they won’t change for you, even though you’re giving good counsel.
Something to be careful of is that heaviness you’re feeling, that can be dangerous as they’re using you up!
Trust this blesses you, Harold.
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Good wise, spiritual counsel, Robert. Also speaking from my experience, it is not ‘my job’ to change people — a mistake I’ve made in the past.