Three Temptations We Face When Helping Others
Here's how to guard against temptation.
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted...
When we carry each other’s burdens, Satan loves to whisper, distract, and throw temptations at us. As we help others, we must be mindful of our responses so we don’t become ineffective counselors, caregivers, and people-helpers.
Here are three temptations you might face when helping others – and what to do about them.
The Temptation to Despair
She lost her husband unexpectedly. I didn’t know it until we met, but she was an immigrant with no family in the country. She was working with a fertility doctor to conceive their first child, and her husband’s salary paid their bills. When her husband’s heart stopped, she felt like her hope died.
As we sat together, she cried, “Lord, why?!” I shared Scripture. I prayed with her. I said the right words, but after our session, I began to cry hot tears to the Lord. I questioned, “Lord, why?! Where is her hope?!” I was tempted to believe that nothing we could do would be enough.
Quickly, deep in my spirit, I heard Him: “If you don’t know where her hope comes from, you’re going to have to hush, Haley.” The Lord was her hope. If I was going to guide her to that truth, I had to believe it myself. We began leaning into the God of all comfort instead of leaning away from Him in despair.
What to do: Stand on the hope of Christ. Through Him, every situation has the opportunity to be redeemed, redirected, or restored. There’s always hope. Be convinced of it. When we counsel others, we have the opportunity to practice standing on hope unseen.
“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail;they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:21-23)
The Temptation to Get Angry
She brought her husband, two teenagers, and preschooler in for “family counseling.” She explained the family dynamics that brought them to counseling. With respect, but definite exhaustion, she detailed how she did everything in the home. She had a full time job, cooked, cleaned, helped kids with homework, got them to bed at night and up for school every morning. She explained her husband didn’t have a job and sat in his bedroom playing video games all day.
As I watched him for a sign of remorse (that I didn’t see), I got angry. Over a few sessions, I used counseling techniques to help him realize how I perceived he was failing his family. Exasperated, I asked my supervisor for the right words to get through to him. He asked me, “What’s his story, Haley? What was his family life like growing up?” I replied, “I don’t care! There’s no excuse for how he’s treating his family!” Knowing my blind spots, my supervisor encouraged me to listen to the dad.
In the next session, I half-heartedly gave him the opportunity to share. “Tell me about your home growing up.” He talked about his childhood and how great his dad was. I said, “It sounds like you’re really close to him.” He said, “I was, until he died of a heart attack when I was 11.” My heart sank. This man stopped growing emotionally when his heart broke as a child. He turned to drugs, music, and video games to escape reality. It was too painful for him. As he grew up, it was all he knew. God gave me an opportunity to see past his selfishness to his broken heart that set him on his current course. I fell to the temptation to be angry at him – not his sin, but him. It may not have been a good excuse for his behavior now, but there was a reason – and I was initially too angry to consider it. He needed my help, not my condemnation.
What to do: Pray to see others through God’s eyes. When we see selfish and destructive behaviors that hurt others, we must look past their sin and see their need as Jesus did. What needs are they trying to meet? What pain are they trying to avoid? What actions are they using to cope? Anyone can see what’s wrong and judge, but God wants us to see what’s broken and bring it to Him to heal.
“The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.” (Psalm 145:8–9)
The Temptation of Pride
Helping others and seeing God change lives is an incredible blessing. It’s a high calling and sacred trust. As God works through us, people often come back to us with gratitude. “When you said that, it was just what I needed to hear. It made all the difference!”
Words of gratitude and compliments vary, but the temptation we face is the same: pride. I’m pretty great at this! If we take pride in our words, our wisdom, or in the ground gained in our client’s lives, we’ll lose our footing. We have no wisdom, no healing, no help in and of ourselves. God’s Word and His Spirit do the work. We are vessels. When we counsel others, and see God move in great ways, we get to glorify him first-hand – and we must avoid taking credit for the work of His hand.
What to do: Practice receiving gratitude. Genuinely receive it and direct it to God. “I’m excited to see how God is working in your life. He has done great things and I’m so thankful to get to be part of it with you.” Plan your response so you don’t forget where our help and healing come from – and fall to the temptation of taking credit for God’s work.
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
Used with permission by Global Media Outreach from Hope for the Heart. This article was first published on May 7, 2021.
Pray this week:
Lord, thank you for allowing me to care for others who are in distress. Give me Your words to share with them so they will know You are their peace when they are in the difficult places in life. Please help me listen with compassion and grace, and to always direct them back to You for answers, comfort and hope. In the name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.
Where do you find hope in the midst of life’s difficult circumstances? What would you share with someone who needs answers?