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Counseling, Mentoring, or Helping Friends

Part 4: Don’t take total responsibility for others, overcome impatience, entrust people to God

Doug Britton, MFT

Page Summary
Summary: You aren’t responsible to “fix” people, make them happy, or get them to turn to God. Do your part, then put people in God’s hands. We plant the seed and God gives the increase.

Part 4 of a 4-part series on “Counseling, Mentoring, or Helping Friends”

Part 1      Part 2      Part 3


Whether you are a counselor, pastor, mentor, or friend, helping others can be draining, both emotionally and physically. When they do well, you rejoice. But when they do poorly, you suffer along with them. As Paul wrote:

If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. (1 Corinthians 12:26)

However, it’s easy to take too much responsibility for other peoples’ success or happiness. When we do this, we carry a weight God doesn’t intend us to carry. We neglect to put our friends’ burdens where they best belong—in God’s hands.

Loaded with worries over others, we cannot experience the peace God offers us.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)

The peace Jesus offers is different from the peace that comes from things going well. His peace comes from resting in him regardless of what’s going on around us or what’s happening in the lives of the people we care for. As Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled” (John 14:27).

Make it personal

1. Do you sometimes take too much responsibility for others’ success or happiness? Explain your answer.

Realize that God changes people, not you

You aren’t responsible to “fix” people, make them happy, or get them to turn to God. Do your part, then put people in God’s hands. We plant the seed and God gives the increase.

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. (1 Corinthians 3:6-7)

What do you think?

2. Is it important to understand that God changes people, not you? Why or why not?

Prayerfully entrust people to God

Over the years I have met with thousands of people as a Bible-based marriage and family therapist, mentor, small group leader, and friend.

In my early years as a counselor, I felt heavily burdened by the many drastic problems I was exposed to. I suffered for people day and night.

But the weight was overwhelming, and I realized I needed to do something for my own emotional survival. After much prayer, I realized God’s solution. It may sound simple, but it transformed my life.

Here it is: After helping people, I pray with them, and ask God to help and direct them. In other words, I put them in God’s hands. Then I leave them there.

Does that mean I never pray, talk with, or help people before we get together again? No. There are times I do all of these things. But I don’t allow myself to be weighed down by their pain.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)

What do you think?

3. What does it mean to put people in God’s hands? Explain your answer.

4. Does entrusting people to God mean you don’t care about them? Why or why not?

Deal with “failure”

When you try to help people, it’s inevitable that from time to time you will be disappointed with the results. When this happens, don’t despair or feel like a failure. Everyone who has tried to help others has had similar experiences.

Make it personal

5. Have you sometimes felt like a failure when you tried to help someone? Explain your answer.

Expect problems and disappointments.

Whenever you deal with people, there will be problems—and there will be disappointments.

Realize your limitations.

Don’t take responsibility for others’ actions. Accept the fact that people make their own choices.

Look at Jesus’ example.

Many people Jesus spoke with went away without making needed changes. The rich young man approached Jesus for advice, yet he was unwilling to do what Jesus said (Matthew 19:16-22). Judas Iscariot was one of Jesus’ disciples, yet he rejected Christ’s message and betrayed him (Matthew 26:14-49).

Since many rejected Jesus’ help, it shouldn’t surprise you if some people reject your help.

What do you think?

6. Do you think Jesus failed when people rejected his help? Why or why not?

Realize that growth is often slow.

Are you ever frustrated with people, wondering why they don’t change more quickly? If so, think about your own life. Have you ever struggled with something for a long time? I have, and it’s helped me be more understanding with others.

Realize that growth may not be visible.

Some people may not appear to make changes you wish they would make. Be patient. God may be working on heart issues that aren’t visible to you.

From time to time, I’ve thought I “failed” with someone as a counselor or as a small group leader only to hear years later that this person made dramatic changes and said my help made a difference.

The energy and prayers you pour into people may help in ways you can’t see or imagine.

Realize that people go up and down.

Don’t give up if someone seems to be growing, but then slips backward or goes through a crisis. Growth usually involves ups and downs. Do your best to help someone through a downward time, and don’t give up.

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. (Hebrews 10:36)

Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1)

Make it personal

7. How should you respond when someone you helped slips into old patterns of acting? Explain your answer.

Learn from your experience.

You will make mistakes. Everyone does. Much of what I know is the result of making mistakes and then learning from them.

When something goes wrong, thoughtfully and prayerfully evaluate your interactions. Did you make any mistakes? Do you need to ask for God’s forgiveness for anything? Do you need to ask someone to forgive you for something you said?

But don’t give up helping people or sink into depression or self-condemnation. Accept God’s forgiveness, then treat this experience as a learning opportunity. Ask yourself what you could do differently in the future.

Make it personal

8. Describe something you learned when someone seemed to benefit from your help.

9. Describe something you learned when someone didn’t seem to benefit from your help.

Take steps if people need more help or protection

If you think the person you are helping needs help from a mentor, pastor, or counselor, help him or her find someone to talk to.

If you think the person you are helping is a danger to himself or others, call 911 if you live in the United States. If you live in another country, call your local police or mental health department.

Memory verse

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)

Personal application

1. Do you take too much responsibility for other people’s happiness? If so, how has this affected your life? Explain your answer.

2. Since you aren’t responsible to change people, what is your responsibility when you try to help people?

3. How can you avoid taking too much responsibility for other people’s happiness or spiritual growth?

4. Many people refused to follow Jesus’ teachings. Does that mean he was a failure? Why or why not?

5. Write two of the suggestions under “Deal with ‘failure’” that will help you, then describe why you chose them.

6. This study says to learn from your mistakes. What is one is mistake you have made when trying to help someone? What have you learned from it?

7. Say a prayer asking God to help you put people into God’s hands.

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About Doug Britton, MFT

Doug Britton, Bible-based Marriage and Family Therapist, has helped hundreds of thousands of people as a therapist, clinical director of a treatment center, seminar speaker, radio cohost, and author of over twenty books that show how to apply God's truths in your daily life. (Visit www.dougbrittonbooks.com.)

Copyright © 2020 Doug Britton. Permission granted to print for personal use. (Scripture verses are from the New International Version, copyright © 1984.) See reprint policy.

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