The Chronic Sufferer

We all prayed for Gary – a lot. Whenever a call for prayer requests was voiced, Gary was the first to respond with an issue that needed our prayers. Conversations with Gary quickly turned towards his problems, and he always had a problem. Gary was an addict, addicted to attention. People began to resent Gary. They would roll their eyes when he spoke. They tried to ignore him when he tried to enter into conversations. They began to avoid him.

As one called to shepherd, it breaks my heart to see a “Gary” because I know that there is nothing we can really do for him, because he suffers by choice. I’m not saying that he self-inflicts, but he doesn’t really want to be delivered. How do I know this? Because he has been shown the way out of many situations but chooses not to take the out. He chooses to suffer because that is what gets him what he really wants – attention, and lots of it. When given a chance he latches onto people like a sand-spur to shoe laces. And it hurts when trying to pluck him out.

What do we do with Gary? We are called to love Gary, but not to enable his dependency addiction. We are called to fellowship with him, but not to allow him to hinder community.

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart…  Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:12,16)

Somewhere along the way, Gary lost sight of the power of God’s grace. He has forgotten that deliverance and peace come from the “throne of Grace” – not us. We need to help Gary see that instead of craving our prayers, he should crave the presence of God himself, directly and boldly approaching the Prince of Peace. Maybe then he (and we) can finally find peace.

While no one is irredeemable, the unfortunate reality is that someone cannot be rescued if they don’t want to be. It is ultimately up to Gary to choose a victorious life instead of suffering. That does not mean that we cast Gary off, but it may mean that our only actionable recourse is to pray for him – to sincerely pray for him – to pray that he finds the “throne of Grace.”

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This is a guest post by Herb Halstead.
Herb is a church planter, pastor of Thrive Church of Jackson, TN. Father of two young adults, of whom he is very proud, and husband to his bride, Angel. He’s an advocate for his fellow bi-vocational pastors, those who work outside the church in addition to our full-time ministry. He blogs at http://herbhalstead.me


21 Comments

  1. This is a tough subject and one I just talked to a friend about yesterday. I have another friend whom I love dearly that I want so badly to believe will grow spiritually. They have the right words but they continue to fall into a pattern of sin and addiction.

    It was becoming an unhealthy relationship for me and I was being strained mentally, physically and emotionally (this has been over the course of 3 years). After one situation that was worse than normal, I finally had to take a stand. I did it in love but I told them that I could no longer spend time with them on a regular basis. I wasn’t offended and I wasn’t angry and I made sure it came across in my words and my tone.

    I let them know that I would continue to pray for them but I didn’t want to any longer feel like I was enabling their issues.

    I feel like sometimes you have to turn people over to themselves and remove the covering over their life. Once that covering is gone, you will have to trust that your prayers and the conviction of the Holy Spirit will bring the authentic change needed.

    Thanks for addressing an uncomfortable subject, Herb. Much needed.

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    1. Thanks, Tony – you describe exactly the scenario I’m speaking about. The visual I always get in these situations is a prisoner who doesn’t know that the door to their cell is unlocked.

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  2. I too have seen this way too much and it is tough to deal with – but we were given much grace and so I see it as we are to give a lot of Grace. We should be agents of God’s Amazing Grace and helping those who do not see HIM – to see HIM – by as you said through prayer and modeling.

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    1. One of the things I hope I did not communicate is that “letting go” is our first reaction. I think we need to be there, and be there strongly, as long as we can, until it is clear that we can’t do any more. Then, it is not only appropriate but also prudent for your health and the “Gary’s” health to step back and let prayer be your main weapon.

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  3. Sometimes people don’t realize how much of a victim they’re choosing to be…and it is a choice. Grace, the breaking of strongholds, prayer…all are needed. Thanks, Herb…you have provoked a deep musing in me.

    Galatians 5:1
    “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”

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  4. I have to remind myself of this often. All we can do is love and share Jesus… We cannot bring a person to accept the redemption, restoration, and rescue being offered by the Holy Spirit. It is up to each individual to choose.

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    1. Dusty, you’ve verbalized a good point that I wanted to expound more on, but could not due to space – ultimately, their situation is their burden – in love we try to share it to redemption – but our responsibility is in “walking with them”, not “fixing them” – that is an issue between them and God.

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  5. I know many “Garys” and pray that I do not become one of them.

    It is our magnificent Lord Who heals, Who delivers, Who comforts, Who supports us.

    I say Amen to leading others to His throne.

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  6. You’re so right, Herb. We need wisdom and we need to pray not from our own wants but from the reality of the Holy Spirit. I know people like this and they want counsel and prayer, but ultimately they shy away from taking the full responsibility for their actions so they can allow grace to change them. We keep loving and praying, but not unwisely…

    Thanks Herb.

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  7. ani

    It’s all because of His grace. I always pray for people like Gary and others who hear about God but just don’t grab it, that the eyes of their hearts will be opened. But I got tired of it and had to let it go. It wasn’t for me to carry on. There are obviously others who can handle this kind of people. Because God loves all, He gave His Son for all. Thanks Herb for your kindness, love and faithfulness.

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