Amy Carmichael, missionary to India, once said, “If I slip into the place that can be filled by Christ alone, making myself the first necessity to a soul instead of leading it to fasten upon Him, then I know nothing of Calvary love.” True, Christ-centered friendship is a rare treasure, and a woman who seeks to point her friends to Jesus is a gift to those she encounters. Friendship is more than simply learning someone’s likes and dislikes; instead, friendship is selflessly pointing to Jesus as the one who has the right answers. Listen as Leslie talks about making the deliberate choice of directing friendships back to Christ rather than self.
Leslie Ludy: Hey everyone, it’s Leslie Ludy! Welcome to the Set Apart Girl Podcast: Biblical Encouragement for Women of All Ages.
In this episode we’re going to be talking about how to be a Christ-centered friend or mentor. It’s so easy for us as women — in our friendships, in our relationships, in mentoring situations — to try to draw someone’s heart to us rather than point them back to Jesus Christ. I love this quote from Amy Carmichael. It’s from her book, If, and she wrote, “If I slip into the place that can be filled by Christ alone, making myself the first necessity to a soul instead of leading it to fasten upon Him, then I know nothing of Calvary love.” This is such a powerful and biblical truth, but it’s often overlooked by Christians today. We’re so prone to becoming indispensable in someone’s life and making ourselves their first turn, rather than Jesus Christ.
I remember when Eric and I had been married for about ten years a group of young people asked us why our marriage had stayed so strong when there were so many Christian divorces and marriages that were falling apart. People in their lives were saying, “Don’t get your hopes and expectations up too high for marriage because you’ll only be disillusioned and disappointed.” They were asking us if that was what they had to look forward to. And we looked at our relationship and our marriage and we thought, We have never, in ten years, looked across the table from the other person and thought, “I’m disillusioned with my marriage. I wish I was married to someone else.” We asked ourselves, Why has our marriage stayed so strong? Is it just because we’re amazingly gifted at romance, and we’re so sensitive to each other? Definitely not! The conclusion that we came to of why our marriage had stayed strong and has stayed strong, for the past twenty years, is because we’ve learned how to point each other back to Jesus Christ.
Instead of me looking to Eric and saying, “You need to meet all of my needs. You need to fulfill me at the deepest level of my soul, and if you don’t, then I’m not going to be happy with our marriage.” I’m able to go to Jesus Christ and say, “Lord, You are my All in all. You are my ultimate satisfaction, my ultimate strength and joy.” Then I can come to my spouse and say, “How do I love, and serve, and give to you?” It’s not that your spouse isn’t to fulfill you or satisfy you at any level, but Jesus Christ has to be your All in all. That’s what has made our marriage work, and it’s a very, very simple secret to a marriage or any kind of a relationship staying strong through the years. If we seek to make another person emotionally dependent on us, rather than seeking to fasten their soul to Jesus Christ, then we become a barrier to their intimacy with Him. And it also strains the relationship because you’re always going to be looking to a human person to fulfill needs that only Jesus Christ can really meet.
So if I come to Eric with a problem, and he tries to make himself the ultimate answer to my need instead of turning my heart back to Jesus, who is the true Comforter, then he robs me of a precious opportunity to pour out my heart to Christ, and to make Him my All in all. We can look at Psalm 62:8, and 1 Corinthians 15:28, as references to the kind of relationship we are to have with Jesus Christ. He has to have first place in our hearts, and in our lives. When Eric reminds me of God’s promises, when he prays with me, when he encourages me to cast my cares upon Jesus — then my spiritual life is strengthened, and I learn to look to the right source for comfort and peace. And that’s when I become free to serve Eric without constantly nagging him about meeting all my needs.
I really believe that before I was ready for marriage or for ministry, I had to learn how to point others back to Christ and not to myself. For me, it was very easy to try to take first place in another person’s life because I had this natural, prideful desire to be indispensable — to be that person that people wanted to come and share all of their cares and troubles with, the person who always had the right piece of advice to give in any type of situation. When it came to romantic relationships, I wanted a guy to adore me and find his satisfaction in me, and feel like he couldn’t live without me. And our culture teaches us that this is the highest form of love we can achieve. You always hear songs on the radio that say things like, “I’m lost without you; I can’t live without you,” and you oftentimes feel that even in friendships or mentoring relationships if you can make the other person dependent on you — where they have to come to you with everything — then you are truly being a good friend. But in romance, or in friendships, or in mentoring relationships that is actually the opposite of God’s pattern.
Take a look at the Apostle Paul. He had such a deep and heartfelt unity with the churches that he discipled. He was constantly pouring out his life for them. He had a very, very strong intimate friendship with so many Christians, and yet he always desired to point them back to Jesus Christ. In 1 Corinthians 2: 2, he says, “I determined not to know anything among you, except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” Instead of saying, “I came among you, and I had all these great answers for you, and you came to me with all your problems,” he says, “I determined not to know anything among you, except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” And then when some believers tried to attach themselves to Paul in an unhealthy way, then he rebuked them, and he said, “Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Cor. 1:13) When Paul describes the kind of love that God has called us to as Christians, he says love is not self-seeking (1 Cor. 13:4-5).
So in other words, Christ’s love does not selfishly seek first place. It always considers the other person’s highest good, and think about this: the highest good that any person can ever find is not something that we can offer them — it’s found only in Jesus Christ. Therefore, our goal in every friendship, in every relationship, in every mentoring situation should be to fasten that soul to Christ and not to ourselves. So we’re called to be a reflection of Christ’s love in our relationship, but we should never try to take first place in another person’s heart. That position has to be reserved for Jesus Christ alone.
I want to share some practical ways that you can begin to put this principle into action because maybe you’ve always approached it the world’s way, which is saying, “I want to make myself indispensable in another person’s life.” Rather than, “I want to point this person’s heart continually back to Jesus Christ.”
Keep in Mind: Jesus has the Answers
Leslie Ludy: So the first thing I would encourage you to do is learn how to encourage someone the right way. As women we often have a great love for details. We want to know all the details of so-and-so’s baby and how the birth went, or a wedding and what so-and-so wore, and all the details of everything. There is such a big difference between men and women when it comes to this because usually men are fine to hear, “So-and-so got married yesterday,” or, “So-and-so had a baby yesterday,” and they don’t even really want to know more than that. Women want to know every detail, and this can actually be a positive thing, but it can also be negative thing.
The good thing about being interested in details is that you can show true concern, care, and empathy with what other people are going through. But it can also become a negative thing, because we can end up pushing ourselves into other people’s lives and hearing too much information under this banner of, “Oh I want you to share openly and honestly with me.”
I have learned that when I am mentoring women, and they have to share something with me — or they want to share something with me that involves another person — I usually will ask them not to share names or specific details about this specific situation, because I do not want them to unwittingly share more with me than I really need to hear. I am not the one who has the answer to the challenge or the struggles that they’re going through, it’s Jesus that does. So I don’t necessarily need to know the name of the person who did this to them, or the details of what this person did. If they share in general with me, then I can share biblical principles back and encourage them to take this challenge to the feet of Jesus.
When you’re listening to people share their heart with you or pour out their problems to you, keep in mind the words of Psalm 62:8, which says, “Trust in Him at all times…pour out your hearts to Him: for God is our refuge.” Just stop and think about that verse for a minute. We are to pour out our hearts not necessarily to each other, but to Him because He wants to be our refuge. And so, when we end up pouring our heart out to another person, or encouraging someone else to pour out their heart to us, then we’re robbing them, or we’re robbing ourselves, of the opportunity to make God our refuge.
Human counsel and human encouragement does have its place. But God is first and foremost the One that we should be pouring out our heart to, not our girlfriends. And God is first and foremost the One they should be pouring out their heart to, not us. So I encourage you to let God become the primary sounding board and listening ear in a person’s life because He is a far better listener than any human could ever be.
When people come to you, and they want to share things with you, here are some things to remember:
It’s not your job to have all the answers. You’re only called to point them back to the only One who does, and there is such freedom in that. When you are in a counseling situation, a mentoring situation, or even in a friendship – when you feel that pressure to have all the answers – then you can become paralyzed, or you can think, Well, I just need to give them my wisdom. But when you realize that you’re only job is to point them back to the One who does have all the answers, there is tremendous freedom in that.
Keep in Mind: Make Jesus Their First Turn
Leslie Ludy: Secondly, instead of feeling like you need to spend hours and hours listening to a person’s tales of sorrow and woe, and then coming up with a perfect answer to their problem, encourage them to first and foremost take their cares to Him.
I love the story that is told about Oswald Chambers. He was in a counseling situation with his young niece, and they were leaving a church that he had spoken at. And this young woman came up to him and said, “Mr. Chambers, I just need to tell you everything about myself.” The young niece sat down and thought, Oh this is going to be a really long wait if this woman is going to tell him everything about herself. She and Oswald went off to the side, and then a few minutes later, Oswald came back and told his niece it was time to go. And she said, “Well, I thought that woman was going to tell you all about herself.” And he said, “Well, I first asked her if she had ever told Jesus all about herself, and she said that she hadn’t. So I told her to go home and tell Jesus all about herself, and then if she still wanted to come and talk to me, she could.”
It’s such a great example of pointing someone back to Jesus. You can still show encouragement and support, but they don’t need to spend hours and hours pouring out their heart to you. They first need to go to the feet of Jesus.
So ask them if they have truly laid their cares at Jesus’ feet. I think so often people are tempted to skip over that step because they think they are going to find more comfort, wisdom, and encouragement by venting to another person; but every one of us needs to learn how to first and foremost take our cares and lay them at the feet of Jesus. So make sure that you ask that question before you become a sounding board — they really need to be taking their cares to Jesus.
Keep in Mind: Point Them to the Word of God
Leslie Ludy: Ask them if they have truly searched the Word of God for specific answers to their situation. There’s really no problem that we can ever face where there is not an answer in the Word of God. God certainly can speak through His Word through other people, but ask them if they have taken time themselves to go to His Word and look for answers to their situation.
Keep in Mind: Direct Them to the Prayer Closet
Leslie Ludy: Ask them if they’e wrestled in prayer and cried out to God for their needs to be met. In many cases they will have skipped over those steps because they believe that their answers can only be found in human wisdom or human comfort.
Remember, no matter how complicated a person’s issues may be the root problem is always still the same — it’s sin, and the solution is always the same — Jesus Christ. We don’t need to overcomplicate people’s needs for counseling, venting, and needing a sounding board. It all comes back to the problem being sin, and the solution being Jesus Christ.
Keep in Mind: Examine Your Motives
Leslie Ludy: If you’re always the person who is the counsellor or the listening ear, then ask yourself whether you are truly exhorting people to take their cares to Jesus’ feet — or whether in a prideful way you are making yourself their first turn, and you’re making yourself indispensable to them. That can happen in a romantic relationship. That can happen in a friendship. That can happen in a mentoring situation. Remember, it’s not wrong to share empathy and to offer encouragement, but when you become someone’s first turn, that’s when you know you need to be more proactive in fastening their soul to Jesus Christ.
John the Baptist set such a powerful example of this. In John 3:29, he said, “The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.” And he was saying that the reason his joy was complete was because the bridegroom had come. His job was not to draw the bride to himself, but to point the bride back to the bridegroom. And that is what we are called to as well.
Leslie Ludy: So remember, Jesus is the truest, most faithful, most trustworthy friend that we could ever have. Human comfort and human wisdom will always fall short of what He can offer. There is no problem He cannot solve, no need that He cannot meet. Let us never take the place in anyone’s heart or life that only He was meant to have.
Thank you for listening today! Have a blessed and Christ-centered week!