I failed. Miserably.
A few weeks ago, a friend stopped by to update me on a longstanding trial in her life. I’ve been praying for her and checking in on her periodically. But this time she made sure to find me and tell me how things were going. All things considered, she was doing well. But she was stressed and battling fear.
I listened. I made sure I understood as best I could. I told her again that I’d be praying.
And I failed her.
When she walked out of the room, all she had were some paltry assurances that I would do my best for her.
(To which I say, “Whatever.”)
According to Dictionary.com
People have problems. (!!!)
People have doubt, uncertainty, and difficulties that they desperately want solved.
I tend to do one of two things when people come to me with problems, and it mostly depends on my mood. If I’m in a good mood, I might try to fix the problem, or at least dispense wisdom. (Are you gagging?) If I’m in a bad mood, I offer a stiff smile, listen if I must, then go away huffy wondering where I’m supposed to find the strength for everyone else’s problems when I barely have enough for my own.
In either case, I overlook the one important thing:
Problems are entry points.
And doubt, fear, and difficulties are invisible doors.
Immediately after the conversation described above, I found myself in another conversation with two friends, one of whom is pregnant with her first child. This first-time mom was, like millions who have gone before her, worried about the unknown. The conversation took on this general form:
1. Mom-to-be would share a concern, a worry, or a fear.
2. Either I or the other friend would offer comfort, encouragement, or a story about how we’d learned to deal with those things as moms.
We went on like this for a little while, when I realized something: all of my assurances, and all of my stories will never to be enough for her. She needs to hear that God will help her. She needs to hear that He won’t leave her alone. She needs to hear that she can trust Him to give her whatever she needs to be a good mom.
So that’s what I told her.
Then I did a mental wink at God. I get it. Lesson learned.
We can walk through the doors of difficulty in others’ lives and boldly proclaim, “I’ll save you!” We can rub their shoulders and tell them “it’ll be okay.” We can listen intently and dispense advice. And congratulate ourselves that we’ve assuaged fears with our problem-solving tips and promises of prayer.
I did that in the first case. (YAY, ME!)
But the invisible doors aren’t for us to barge through. They’re for God.
Comfort a friend? Sure. Offer advice? If she’s asking.
But never make ourselves the hero. Instead, open the door marked “problem” and point to the Savior on the other side. He will carry and equip and strengthen. He’s the only one who can.
When someone shares a problem with us, it is our opportunity to open the door to Christ. Depending on the person, we may have to make an introduction first. 😉 Or it may simply be a reminder. Depending on the situation, we may be called upon to help in a concrete way. (No need to sneak away. God will equip us for this if we need it.) But we never have to be the hero, nor should we try to be.
When people come to us with problems, we don’t need to run away, and we don’t need to save the day. We just need to see the door.
And open it.