ID-10079748Many years ago as a new Christian I befriended a visitor to the church I was attending. Vickie needed someone to confide in, a ride here and there, and a family to embrace her until she found a job and a place to live. I didn’t pray about getting involved with her. I simply jumped in and pulled my husband right along with me.

We invited Vickie to our home for Thanksgiving that year. We bought her a Christmas gift, drove her to and from church services, gave her groceries, and picked her up from appointments.

Within months, however, I felt overwhelmed by her constant phone calls, bids for attention, crying jags, and a general invasion of our life—all of which I had allowed and even encouraged because I was so caught up in being what I considered a good Christian.

Every time I decided to pull back I felt guilty. “The least you can do,” I scolded myself, “is share your overflow with this poor soul who has so little.” I carried on for a while longer. Then I found out she’d been drinking so I became even more determined to help her. I told her about Alcoholics Anonymous, took her to a prayer meeting for healing, and spent hours talking to her about how she could straighten out her life by turning her will over to God. Nothing changed. In fact, it worsened.

There came a day when I couldn’t take one more phone call or give one more ride or listen to one more sob story. I was worn out and I broke down in tears on the phone to my pastor. I felt like a failure.

That day he taught me one simple lesson I have never forgotten and it led to what I now know about living in God’s strength—instead of my own. “Karen,” he said, “if what you’re doing for Vickie brings you energy and joy, then it’s coming straight from Heaven. But if it’s wearing you out and causing you to cry and feel sick, it’s coming straight from you and you need to stop now. Release Vickie to the Lord.”

I thanked him, breathed a huge sigh of relief, and told Vickie I could no longer help her, that I had been trying to do for her what only she and God could accomplish together. From that point on I began paying attention to God’s voice instead of mine, to his strength and grace, instead of my so-called good ideas. That life-saving lesson has carried me through all the days since.

Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually! (1 Chronicles 16:11)

Have you ever run ahead of God and then realized what you were doing? How did you get back on track living in God’s strength? I’d love to hear from you.



Living in God’s Strength or Mine? — 12 Comments

  1. Karen, this is so good and so REAL ! It is a sobering thought also to wonder if I am doing something for my own good/glory or if I am really doing it for GOD?! After all, we are the hands that do God’s work here on earth and HE needs all the glory. YOU have really given us something to think about. Thank you!! We definitely need to help those who need it but your ministers advice was wise!! I like the statement “Wisdom comes from listening”. You listened and became wise knowing that we sometimes have to encourage people to make their own choices.
    Blessings to you. Margaret

    • Thank you, Margaret. You’re so right. The choices are sometimes difficult to make but the more we ‘listen’ the easier they become.

  2. Wow Karen, What a powerful story and lesson. Your Minister was very insightful and right on. Yes, We all need and want to help others when asked …. but it is not always advisable ….. and putting them into GOD’s hands with love and prayers is a great way to go forward. Thank you dear one for sharing such a touching and meaningful part of your past. Blessings to you and all your readers.

    • Thank you, Kathleen. I appreciate hearing that what I learned has helped you too.

  3. I think most of us learn this lesson the hard way. When my girls were little we took in a lady to help her short term but it went on too long. At one point we drove her to the bus station and said good bye. More recently I had a phone ministry with a lady who just missed her mom but her calls became more and more frequent. I asked her to get some real help for herself and let me know when she did. And I said call me less please. Sometime we do not help other when we try to carry their load along with their burdens.

    • Thank you, Lynn. Sometimes we learn the hard way but the lesson is always valuable. 🙂

  4. Sometimes our good intentions end up being more about ourselves than God. I know all about that. But good can come out of any situation. (Romans 8:28) What a good reminder to seek God in all we do—before taking that first step! Saves us from a lot of pain and tears. Thanks, Karen!

    • So true, Sherry. Thanks for reminding us that even when we overdo it, God can use our actions for good in some way.

  5. Dear Karen, thank you for teaching us all a good lesson of real common sense.

    In the name of God, some people really are just out looking to take advantage of others, holding them “hostage” by tapping into their lofty sense of “guilt” as a “good” Christian’s “duties and responsibilities” for themselves. These sneaky people dodge their own personal responsibilities by taking care of themselves but by exploiting others’ fruitful life after their lifelong hardworking discipline to earn it.

    I think the person that tricked you into helping her was a good example. They seek a church group not to sincerely pray out of their hearts or seek God or practice God’s presence but with other purposes.

    I’m still having trouble to find myself a regular church where I can go and feel at ease in my heart. I know I’m sometimes not trusting enough, but growing up in extremely harsh times on the other side of the earth, I’m ashamed to say that I’m not as generous as a fortunate American in the world of abundance. But I do love Jesus, God, and try not to bother anyone for my own selfish gain. (Hope I’m making any sense here.) Jing

    • Thank you, Jing. Of course you are making perfect sense and I can imagine how difficult it is for you to trust others after the childhood you experienced. But I love hearing that you love and trust God and know that the Lord is always on your side.

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