“Have you ever jumped in to help someone only to discover that your intervention did no good and may even have prolonged the difficult situation? This can often be the case when a parent wants to protect an erring teenager or young adult child. Instead of letting the child suffer the consequences and learn from the mistake, the parent rescues them, thereby sabotaging an essential life lesson God could have taught them.
Knowing whether or not to help someone isn’t always a clear-cut choice. After all, Christians are called to bear each other’s burdens, help those in need, and show compassion and kindness. I’m not saying we shouldn’t do these things, but I am recommending caution in overstepping what God wants you to do … He alone knows the best way to help a hurting, straying, or mistreated person … Sometimes our motivations for helping others are not as selfless as we’d like to think. Our main concern may not be God’s will but our desire for someone to do what we think is best.”
—Charles F. Stanley, From the Pastor's Heart, September 2018
The best advice I’ve ever gotten regarding intervention is to ask myself, Have you earned the right to speak into this person’s life? In other words, how much time and energy have you invested in this relationship, and does the person trust you? If not, he or she has no reason to listen. This question has become a helpful filter for moments when I need to speak up with my husband or hush up with acquaintances on Facebook.
But even among good friends and family, intervention is a sticky thing. Because unfortunately, as Dr. Stanley reminds us, confronting our loved ones can be more about us than the other person. Looking back, I know I’ve grown tired of friends’ issues and forced my advice upon them, straining our relationships with frustration and rejection. Though it always starts from a place of care, my involvement contains traces of fear, control, and impatience—with the long-lost notion of God’s sovereignty buried somewhere deep underneath.
The key to fiercely loving our people while respecting God’s paths for them may be found in Paul’s famous exposition on love in 1 Corinthians 13. The very first word He uses to define love is patient (1 Corinthians 13:4). And isn’t that the quintessence of True Love and His relationship with me? How many times have I strayed from Jesus—run from Him, even—or gotten distracted, and all the while, He waited for me? One thing is clear from gospel accounts of Jesus and from Paul’s letter—love does not rush or force its way. Though we often confuse patience with giving up, there’s something very active, purposeful, and accepting about God choosing to wait and be with us as we flounder. May His ever-patient stance be true of us with our loved ones, and may our waiting be just as compelling as our speaking.
Illustration by Adam Cruft