August 18, 2014

Four Truths to Hold Onto When Family Members Don’t Change

Gary Thomas — 

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Sometimes those we love most either get in a rut and seem unable to change or they refuse to change. Often we respond by “doubling down” and tirelessly try to change them by our own pleading and actions. But what if we are part of the problem? What if God has other ways to bring about change?

How not to change someone

The woman was adamant: “I just think I need to tell him that what he’s doing is wrong.”

“Do you think it’s at all possible that he doesn’t know you think what he is doing is wrong?”

“Oh, he knows all right.”

“Then what’s the use of telling him what he already knows, as if what he lacks is a shortage of information?”

This mom was frustrated with one of her family members.  With a good heart and good intentions, she was bound and determined to “turn him around.”   But sometimes in our determination we lose all sense of logic.  By her own admission, the person in question knew what she thought and felt but she thought what she needed to do to “change” him was to let him know what she thought and felt.

I understand this frustration.  I really do.  When we are concerned about someone our natural thought is, “What can I do to save them?”

I’m not saying we shouldn’t try.  It’s noble and godly and a testimony to love that we want to get involved when a loved one goes astray. But sometimes, we have to recognize that there are many ways for God to reach a person and often those ways don’t involve us.

For instance: wives, you may have an ongoing issue with your husband.  You may have stated your feelings and concerns so often that as soon as you say the first sentence your husband could give you, verbatim, your next ten sentences.  And yet you continue to think that another “talk” will fix everything.

There comes a time when we have to say, “Lord, apparently I’m not getting through here.  Would you please send someone he will listen to?”

The same is true if you’re trying to reach a child or a recalcitrant wife.  We naturally want to be part of the solution, but we must learn to love the solution more than we love being a part of it.

Hope For Change

Here are four truths that will give us hope:

1) God loves this person more than you do.  He isn’t blind to what’s going on.  You don’t have to convince Him that something needs to be done.  He’s already on it.

2) God knows this person better than you do.  If you can’t get through to them, do you honestly think God throws up His hands in despair and says, “Well, I guess I’m out of bullets?”  Not a chance.  Have faith that God will engineer another avenue of revelation.

3) God can adopt a long-term playbook. In Sacred Influence, I interview a wife who loved her husband well for over two decades before he became a believer. I’ve talked to parents (a very famous one, in fact) whose children terrified them with their actions until they finally submitted to God and became active workers in God’s Kingdom. Any approach you take toward change has to be something you can do for the long-haul.

4) As long as you are fixated on you being the only solution to this family member, you become blind to the fact that there are things that need to be fixed about you as well.  Focus on those things.  You might even be part of the problem.  Maybe you’re only five percent of the problem.  But focus on your five percent.

It’s difficult, but necessary

This is admittedly difficult to do.  It’s painful to intercede for someone and then hear God say, “You’ve done what you can.  It’s time for you to leave this in my hands.”  These four truths, however, should help us do just that.  We must acknowledge God as God and accept that His solution may not involve us.

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2 responses to Four Truths to Hold Onto When Family Members Don’t Change

  1. Excellent info! Now if I can just apply it, in spite of my loved one who struggles with mental health issues and prescription med addiction. It is so difficult to stand by and watch the path of constant pain being walked…mental pain, emotional pain, physical pain and spiritual pain. I am the only person in the same physical space due to total isolation from family, friends and the Body of Christ. I remind myself that God is bigger than this illness and nothing is too difficult for Him.

    • Putting into action is the hardest part. It makes perfect sense in my head but struggle doing it.