Though I grew up in a stable home, I witnessed my fair share of hard situations with less-than-stable people. Whether they were homeless, addicts, battled a depressive illness or simply lacked social skills, these men and women were attracted to the kindheartedness and generosity of my Christian parents. One woman has knocked on their front door and asked for money for nearly two decades.
Now, as an adult, I find myself wondering, How do I share the love of Christ with people while avoiding a potentially codependent relationship? Do I err on the side of love, or of caution?
I recently met a pregnant woman at church (I’ll call her “S”) who seemed like the perfect potential friend. We learned we’re the same age, have similar interests, and we both have toddler girls. Conversation flowed between us naturally. Imagine my surprise when we got together for lunch and I discovered the following: S has very little money, she’s divorced, her family has disowned her for having a child out of wedlock, and she has bipolar disorder. She revealed her intention for getting together was to ask my advice on whether or not she should put her unborn baby up for adoption due to her tough situation.
Talk about heavy stuff!
I quickly realized that this was a woman in desperate need of help — both practically and spiritually. Through the grace of God I was able to listen to S’s story, offer her some information regarding my own experience with adoption (we have an adopted daughter), and pray for her.
But, after that first meeting, I wasn’t sure what to expect next. S texted me a few times suggesting more get togethers. I received a long text and voicemail from an older woman at church, encouraging me to be a friend to S. I felt torn, and even a little bit burdened! On one hand, I like S and want to share the love of Christ with her. On the other hand, I want to protect myself and my family. Some of the fears and thoughts that have run through my head include:
- What if she starts texting and calling me all of the time?
- What if she asks me to adopt her child?
- What if she asks me for money?
- I don’t have the time to be a friend to her.
- I don’t have the energy to be a friend to her.
- Why am I the one tasked with the responsibility of this friendship?
I cannot predict the answers to those questions and “what ifs”, but I can choose to listen to the Holy Spirit’s guidance instead of listening to my own thoughts of fear and selfishness. I can call to mind God’s words calling me towards love, humility and grace.
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:1-3
“But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7
While we are called to love one another and show hospitality (Hebrews 13:2), we are also given wisdom and discernment. The more I’ve prayed and pondered over how I can have a healthy friendship with S, the more I’ve come to realize that the wisdom and grace I have received from God is sufficient.
“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” 2 Peter 1:3
Have you faced a relationship with someone who isn’t easy to love, someone who takes up your time and energy, or someone who relies on you more than you’d like? Perhaps you, too, have asked yourself some hard questions about whether or not God is calling you to start, continue or end a relationship.
What a blessing it is that God invites us to bring our burdens to Him (Matthew 11:28). When God brings someone difficult into our lives, we can trust that the wisdom He puts on our hearts is enough for today, and that He will take care of all our tomorrows.
Laura Rennie lives in Maryland with her husband and daughter. She loves reading, writing and playing word games. Her greatest desire is to share Jesus through her words and actions as she learns how to be a better wife, mom, daughter, sister and friend. She blogs at laurarennieinteriors.com.