Don’t Bother Me With Your Problems

Confession: I’m not a big fan of other people’s problems. I’m a wicked sinner who’s got a pile of his own sin to deal with on a daily basis. When someone comes to me with a problem, whether it be physical, financial, relational, or spiritual, I’m not doing a jig of excitement.

Working through problems with others takes work. My lazy heart doesn’t like work. It takes work to sit down and have a long, painful conversation about a friend’s current struggle with lust. It takes effort to pick up the phone and call a friend at 10:00 PM when all I want to do is sleep. My mind sinfully begins firing off excuses.

  • Look Stephen, these aren’t your problems. Let them deal with them.
  • You’ve had a long day and you just need R&R, TLC, and ABOC (A Bag of Chips).
  • Why do I always get sucked into these situations?

Can you relate to my sinful, selfish distaste for the problem of others? The truth is, I don’t want to get my hands messy. People (myself included) are messy things, and I don’t want to get my hands dirty messing with other people’s problems.

Yet when I read the example of the Apostle Paul I’m deeply challenged. Paul was a guy who, out of deep love for the saints, didn’t hesitate to get messy. The book of Philemon illustrates this wonderfully.

Here’s the deal. Philemon has a slave named Onesimus. Onesimus, not being a Christian, steals from Philemon and then proceeds to high-tail it out of town. While on the run Onesimus meets Paul, who in turn leads him to Jesus. After becoming a Christian Onesimus realizes that he needs to return to Philemon and right what has been wrong. All this equals a very messy situation between two messy sinners.

Enter Paul. He writes a letter to Philemon, pleading with him to be reconciled to Onesimus. He offers to pay any monetary debt owed by Onesimus. He even asks Philemon to prepare a room for him so that he can come and visit. Out of love for Onesimus and Philemon, Paul gets his hands very messy.

I want to be like Paul. I want to have such a love for my fellow Christians that I’m not afraid to get my hands messy.

What about you? Can you relate to my distaste for messy people problems? How do we grow in our love for the saints?

+photo © Jenny Rollo

  • http://barrywallace.wordpress.com Barry Wallace

    I can relate. My excuse is usually more like this: But I really want to do ______. I can be very selfish with my time, to my shame.

    Paul’s example is challenging and very convicting. Even more so is the example of Christ (Phil. 2:4-8)

  • http://fancyfarm.blogspot.com Courtney

    Call me crazy, but I actually like to help people with their problems. I’ve been through more than many women my age and by the grace of God, I came out of all the trials a stronger person with much wisdom to share and a heart to help other women caught in similar circumstances. I think compassion or whatever you want to call it is a gift that comes easily to some and others have to really work at it. I’ll admit there are times when I’d just as soon not get involved, but having walked a mile in those shoes, I know I can’t just turn the other way.
    How to grow in love for the saints? Grow more in your love for God. The closer you get, you can’t miss catching His heart for people.

  • http://www.trillfitness.com Trillia

    I relate to Courtney and for me this can actually be a problem! I have to really guard my time to make sure that I am caring for my family first (Thern my sweet hubby and Weston my little son). It’s easy for me to want to talk and help everyone around me! I too have been through some difficult trials (mostly physical- miscarriages, some emotional-father’s death). All in all I believe God desires me to pray for people more than give out my time though I tend to try to do both (time being less and less these days).

    Thanks Stephen. Hope you are enjoying the PC! ABOC- funny!

  • Stephen Altrogge

    Barry – I can relate to you totally. You’re right, I am very grateful for the example of Christ.

    Courtney and Trillia – I’m reminded of 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, which says” Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,
    4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

    How wonderful that you can comfort people out of your affliction.

  • http://his-wrath-is-satisfied.blogspot.com/ Meg

    This is another great and challenging post, Stephen. I appreciated what Courtney said:
    “How to grow in love for the saints? Grow more in your love for God. The closer you get, you can’t miss catching His heart for people.”

    I think that could be the key right there to having the Lord’s heart for others.

    I struggle with this area in having been burnt by others in the past who have used my husband or myself as ‘dumping grounds’ with no real desire to grow or change, but rather happy to wallow in their problems like pigs in mud. Often we realised this too late, after giving way too much time and emotional energy to the situations.

    We learnt out of this that firstly, we need to be seeking the Lord in wisdom as to how best serve others in trouble. Is it time, money or resources, or is the Lord only leading you to pray for them.

    Secondly, I learnt the painful lesson that it is often my pride that leads me to over extend my help with others problems. I get to thinking that I am God’s gift to help them with all my amazing pearls of Godly wisdom that I can offer, and that without me, they may never get the help they need! Oh, how the Lord can humble us!

    I think that we need to approach others problems with Godly wisdom and discernment, and seek out whether or not theya re truly interested in gospel-centred solutions, or whether they just want another sympathetic ear to offload to.

    This may sound harsh, but I also would confess that I need to ask God for a heart that is not selfish in the face of serving others.

  • http://reicheru723.wordpress.com/ Rachael

    I am insufficient and will never be “there”, but I hope and trust God will grow me, and, if another person is put in my path, it would be neat if I could direct that person to Scripture that may have been or will be used by God in His work in me. And I need to pray WAY more, but, if given the chances, I may like to remind people (and myself) to pray, like to follow Phil. 4:6-7, for example. I want to practice my faith more and grow, and hope that that can help others as well. Not to be the ‘doctor’ to help other ‘patients’, but to be a beggar sharing with another beggar where to find bread…I know where that bread is at, and know that it would benefit all of us beggars to eat it.