Answering Common Questions

This month, I wanted to answer a few questions that I get asked on a regular basis and which seem important given the climate of our times. My hope is that by sharing my answers to these questions, you will be able to do more than just muddle through and actually come out on the other side of things a more assured person of faith. Assured, at least, in what your “next step” should be when facing multiple tragedies, crises or needs around you.

If you’ve spent even a little time with me, you have probably heard me say that I believe our actions or words, as Christians, should always be based upon Jesus’ words, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). When we base our words and actions upon these two commands I feel that there is little that must be debated about right or wrong, which side to take or even which political party has it correct. It is simply not about that. It is about loving God and our neighbor. Period.

So, in keeping these two things in mind, when we are looking at the disasters around us, crime, malnutrition, homelessness and overwhelming need, how do we respond to it all? That’s the first question I’m often asked: How can we respond to every need around us? As someone who is called upon to “fix things” I often feel overwhelmed with the task set before me and have had to learn to discern what is my role and what is the role of another person. How do I do that?

First, I pray for discernment. I must fully believe and understand that God knows what is best for me and for the communities that need help. Because of that, God’s plan is perfect and that plan may not include my participation beyond prayers for their healing and restoration…and that is perfectly ok!

Second, I need to become self-aware about what it is that I am able to do and where my gifts are best utilized. My gifts of disaster management and speaking Spanish mean that there are certain communities where they are better used but I also know that I simply do not have the gift of wealth, physical strength or engineering that would lend me to be used in other areas! I must use my gifts where they are best served.

If you are not sure what your gifts are, taking time to ask God what those gifts might be, sitting and listening for the answers, speaking to your church community about their thoughts on this and being patient for the answers is a very important step. Finally, once you have discerned where God would have you use your specific gift, it is time to use it! Be it wealth, time, prayers, strength, teaching, encouragement…whatever it may be…don’t hesitate to begin using these gifts where God would send you! People in need are waiting for you.

The second question I am asked is, do I get disillusioned with people taking advantage of my service and the service of others? Do I question the validity of “need” of the people for whom I serve and whether or not they are just taking advantage of me? My answer to this has two parts. First, I believe that through discernment and prayer, God leads me to the places that I am supposed to be so I rarely think about whether the person who is receiving my help is taking advantage of me. This is part of discernment! It is also part of educating myself on the need, studying the organization I’m going to work with and validating the legitimacy of where I’m working. I don’t simply dive head-first into something just because my heart breaks over a photo or story of a need.

Second, I believe that as a Christian, I am called to serve. I am not in charge of the response of the recipient. That is between them and God. I can only control my side of things and what is between me and God. When I “gift” something (whether time, money, service, etc.) it is truly that — a gift, and no longer mine to control. I must be willing to give it away without any strings attached or I am not really “gifting” it, am I? I believe in accountability, yes, but I also believe that we (many of us) try to hang on to the strings of our gifts and still control them. That is not a true gift. Giving it away without strings removes our control and allows God full control over the gift.

I guess there is a third part to this answer…I have seen too many people whom I’ve served, who got the chance they needed to succeed, then used that chance to make a difference in this world, so I choose to believe that it’s worth it.

I hope this has helped. I believe that loving God and loving people will change lives and change our world if we make this the cornerstone of ministry. Please don’t succumb to donor fatigue or feel there are too many needs so you simply do nothing. Find where it is that God is directing you to serve and help those waiting for you, today!