Many years ago, my wise husband said to me, “Lori, don’t pick up what doesn’t belong to you!”
He was not talking about my children’s toys and things on the floor of our home; rather he was warning me not to take “ownership” of other people’s problems, situations and/or projects.
He understood my desire to help people and serve, as we are all called to do. He was not telling me to stop helping or be callously indifferent or insensitive to peoples’ hurts or needs. Rather, he recognized that I had crossed the line from helping to “owning” another’s problem/situation. I had put way too much thought, time, energy and emotion toward something that was not even mine. It was unhealthy for me, our family and those I was “helping.”
Too often, we can get so emotionally involved with a friend or family member’s situation, that we take on their negative emotions and stress, and can experience turmoil and even grief. It’s not even ours but we can be going through it as though it is. Also, when people always look to us for help, we can create a dependency upon us, which is unhealthy and unwise.
Shortly thereafter, I had another situation where someone had asked me to be involved with a project. As time went on and much energy and emotion were involved, it become clear that our expectations and vision for the completed project were different. Feeling disappointed, I reflected upon my husband’s wise words and then prayed about why I was experiencing frustration and anguish. The Lord spoke gently to my heart and said, “This project/situation is not yours; it is someone else’s.” Then He went onto to speak metaphorically, “This is their ‘baby’ and it is not yours to raise. You can speak truth into its life but you did not conceive it, nor is it yours to raise!”
My husband had wise counsel, but when the Lord revealed this to me, it got my immediate attention. It was difficult at first to recognize I had taken ownership. I thought I was doing what the Bible says in Galatians 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” I thought I was fulfilling Christ’s law of love and helping my friends carry their overwhelming burdens. However, there was a fine line that I had crossed and took on their burdens as my own. This is not what the Bible tells us to do. Jesus said to cast all of our burdens/cares onto Him because He cares for us. (1 Peter 5:7, Psalm 55:22) He alone is Lord and Savior. We are to come along side people and encourage them, but ultimately we are to point them to Jesus so they can receive His love, strength, comfort, joy, peace, and wisdom. The Holy Spirit is to be their Comforter, Teacher, and Counselor and will lead them into all truth and show them things to come (John16:13).
Once my eyes were opened, I repented for picking up what was not mine, released it all to God, prayed for the people and their situations and projects involved, and then experienced so much peace. I continued to pray God’s Word over them and “helped” when and how God showed me.
Although those situations I mentioned were many years ago, I still go through the process of evaluating if I am taking on ownership of something that is not mine. My husband’s question still comes to my mind and then I ask the Lord about it. I read His Word, pray and focus on what the Holy Spirit tells me to do. That’s abiding in Him, and living a life dependent upon His leading. Even if I miss it sometimes, I just repent, renew my mind with God’s Word and move forward.
Especially as the holidays approach, I encourage you to not pick up someone else’s expectations, responsibilities or situations as your own. Get alone with the Lord to be quiet, pray and read His Word. He will show you where, how and what to be involved in, because He has only the best for you!