In the last couple of weeks, I've had a rash of personal problems popping up all around me with friends and family: two marriages blowing up of two couples I care about deeply, issues with my teen-age boys, getting along with co-workers, etc. I've discovered that being Mr. Fix-It is exhausting. The Bible has some powerful wisdom on how to deal with personal problems.
First, get the log out of your own eye. That is often my first problem. Dealing with someone hypocritically (especially our children) is usually a train wreck waiting to happen. Romans 2:3-5 addresses this directly and without pulling punches. Then, realize there are two sides to every story. Proverbs 18:17 is one of my favorites: "The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him."
My most recent discovery is realizing that in the midst of their messes, others are not just problems to be fixed, but people to be loved. I often forget that when I'm in the middle of a crisis situation and looking for a solution. Jesus gives a great example on striking the balance when he was approached by the rich young man. The version of this story in Mark 10 has some additional insight beyond the synoptic version in Matthew 19. Mark's gospel gives this account:
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'"
"Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy."
Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
This passage is almost always used for teaching about money and possessions, but it also teaches us the art of helping someone with a personal problem. First, be careful of giving unsolicited advice. In this case, the rich young man came to Jesus asking for help. Second, work from a position of log-free humility. Jesus was perfect yet he deferred the goodness and honor given to him over to God rather than engaging from his position of perfection. None of us have a perfect position from which to counsel others.
Third, engage the other person on the basis of Biblical truth. Jesus gave the rich young man the law from the Book. Fourth, note how in v.21 Jesus loved him. This is more than just warm fuzzies and emotional affirmation. It is telling the truth in love rather than what would tickle his ears. Jesus gave this rich young man some hard truth and still loved him. Finally, the ultimate advice always points back to Jesus himself. We do well to follow Him, and point others in the same direction.