This was written as a guest post for [un]common, originally published at http://jonathanpearson.net/2010/09/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.
12 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… 16 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.”