What do we do with the miserable people in our midst? There are those who are in crisis and due to their circumstances they dispense misery like a bowl of wasabi, but the discomfort of the heat eventually goes away. And then, there are the others who are chronically miserable. When it becomes clear they are never cured from their glass half empty perspective what do we do?
I’d like to draw a wide circle around them and slink by unnoticed or hide until they’ve left and then come out. I’d like to put my politeness in my pocket and tell them what I really think about all the misery they share. If only I could snap my fingers and make it stop. But I know doing nothing isn’t the answer so when a friend needed me and I thought I could help her out of her depression I made myself available to her in every way possible, sharing all I had to give. She latched on, and drained me. After years of negativity, complaining, evaporated boundaries and heavy leaning on me, guess who was depressed? Me! I had jumped into the water with a drowning person and her panic overpowered me. If I had been smart I would have sent her something to hold onto and let her float to safety.
The next time a friend came to me with a problem, the discovery of her husband’s adultery, I knew it would be years of difficulty for her to wade through. I wanted to help but I also didn’t want to drown. This is what I told her: “I am going to walk this long road with you each step of the way holding your hand but there is something we need to get straight. You aren’t coming to me because I have some knowledge or ability you need, you are coming to me because you see God working in my life and that’s what you really want. So if you are willing to let me share God’s ways and His Word as the basis for working out this problem, then I will come with you. But if you just want me then I can tell you I will disappoint you, fail, and fall short and then you will need to find someone else to help you.” My honesty stunned her silent for a moment and after she thought about it she told me that yes, I was right, she was attracted to the way God worked in my life and she wanted exactly that kind of power. She also discovered his love and peace along the way.
So she and I walked a long hard road together but her misery was never contagious because I wasn’t using my own strength to travel, I simply allowed God to work through me. I offered her the wisdom I found in the bible. Now she can honestly say the experience in the valley strengthened her, built her character and deepened her faith in God. I would have been a fool to think I had what she needed. And as for the other friend, I pray for her and there’s more power in that than everything I tried to do for her in my own strength.