What To Do When...You’re in it for the Long Haul

Posted Mar 1st, 2018 in Relationships, Rhonda Wiersma, Helping Others

What To Do When...You’re in it for the Long Haul

In our last post on “What to Do When…”* I will be talking about hanging in there for the long haul. This is where the tough get going when helping gets hard. And it is hard to hang in there for the long haul when the problems feel that they never stop growing or stay stuck. How do you keep going, especially when you as a helper feel discouraged or feel lost for direction?

If you’re feeling discouraged, weary with the slogging forward, frustrated at the pace or lack of change you see in your friend remember that **he is probably feeling the same way. You, as a helper, get to go to bed at night and shut off your brain for a bit while he lives (breaths, eats, goes to bed with) the problems in his life. This shared pain is something you can talk about together and pray about together. While he needs your support, both of you are in a unique position of ministry. Sometimes this gets forgotten, adding to a sense of being a burden to your friend. He can pray for you too.

Do not be afraid to reassess your role as helper. In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul discusses the way God works, often with many people. “I planted, Apollos watered, but God has given growth” (v.6). If you have been in this for the long haul, perhaps you may have to pass the baton to someone else. What could be indicators that you may need to step back a bit or pass on the baton? If you struggle to let go of your friend, you may have latched on to him to boost your own confidence that you can really help someone! If you are the only helper to this person, this can quickly spiral into co-dependency, resulting in you being unable or unwilling to speak hard truth into his life or you may become blind to certain habits or sins that another person who is a bit more objective can see. If you are feeling burned out or even growing in resentment towards him, this is also a good indicator that you need to step back as you may have been investing too heavily (aka, investing in a way that only God can invest) into his care.                            

In light of 1 Corinthians 3, always work with the body of believers. This person, your friend, is part of God’s field, God’s building. He is God’s child, not your project. As more people come into this person’s life to help, maintain good communication between all of you. This provides support when you are weary, impatient or frustrated, and creates accountability for your friend. Make a commitment to pray together for each other and for your friend. Investing in someone’s life for the long haul ought to involve more than just one person.

Investing in the long haul also requires you to get good at saying no. You need your time with your family, and other commitments, as well as refresh and rest. In order to stick with long term ministry, you need to take care of yourself and not neglect the other relationships God has placed in your life.

Finally, investing long term means that you are at risk for spiritual exhaustion. You need to be nourished by Jesus, through His Word. Commit to studying God’s Word, not primarily for knowledge, but for your own personal transformation. Regularly attend Bible studies or small groups and church services. Humility is vital as you may be needed in one (or two or several) person’s lives, but you are just as needy as your friend. You need prayer, you need the community of saints to love you and invest in you as well. You need people to speak hard truths in your life, to be held accountable, and to experience the love and care and comfort when you are struggling. Don’t put on a tough face. Be willing to be vulnerable with people that you can trust.

I hope that these three short blog posts has been an encouragement for you. I know that these are brief and limited to what I wanted to focus on. There is much more to be said! We encourage you to keep learning and growing and so if you need recommendations to resources, try your local church library or contact Elisha House for recommendations.

*Part 1: What to Do When Your Friend is in Crisis
Part 2: What to Do When Your friend is Facing a Chronic Illness/Pain

**Male pronouns will be used in this article with the understanding that females also may need long term support too!

Some Resources:

Relationships: A Mess Worth Making by Tim Lane and Paul Tripp

Side by Side by Ed Welch

Speaking Truth in Love by David Powlison

The Trellis and the Vine by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne

True Friendship by Vaughn Roberts