Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Repost: Caring Do's and Don'ts

Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.

                        1 Peter 5.7 (New King James) 

A Hard Lesson

My first real job was teaching in a Christian high school down the street from my best friend’s apartment. During my first year, horrible tragedy struck his family. His three-year-old daughter lay in critical condition. His wife was confined to a mental health facility. The spiraling bills kept him working to maintain their healthcare coverage. Despite unbearable grief and exhaustion, day in and day out, he drove himself to spend valuable time with his daughter and wife.

Being closest to him—in distance and spirit—I tended to his needs: laundry, housekeeping, cooking, etc. Soon the wear and tear started to show. One day, the principal dropped by my class. “I know you care for him and his family,” she said, “but you assumed this burden. Could you be doing too much on your own instead of trusting God’s grace for him?” She was spot-on. I had all but abandoned the young lives entrusted to me to compensate for losses that weren’t mine. My motives were solid, but my methods were shaky.

Do What You Can

As Christians, our love should know no bounds and bear no conditions. But as humans, we also recognize our ability to care has pragmatic limits. Before diving into someone else’s troubles, we should assess its costs on lives we’re already accountable for (including our own). They can’t go untended.

Don’t Count on People

Perhaps worse than not caring is caring on purpose—thinking if we help others, we can count on them when we’re in trouble. That won’t always happen. We offer care not expecting its return, knowing help is always available to us. In Psalm 46.1, we hear “God is an ever-present help in trouble.” We depend on that.

Do the Right Thing

We call people who help others hurt themselves enablers, contributors to the problem. Romans 14.16 advises, “Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil.” We can’t always steer others we love from harmful behaviors. Yet we’re not genuinely caring for them if we tacitly endorse their actions with indulgence. Encouraging what’s right means discouraging what’s wrong.

Don’t Work Solo

Caring often feels like lonely work. But keep in mind we’re never alone. As Peter reminds us, Jesus cares for us. Caring is really a two-step process that puts us in the middle. When we help carry someone else’s burdens, we don’t hang onto them (as I did). We cast them on Christ. The finest way to care for others is letting Christ care for them through us.

We must love our neighbors---and we owe it them and us to do it wisely.

(Tomorrow: Lake You)

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