Do you practice the habit of having a word of the year? In 2021 the word God gave me (or two words) was pull back. Why? What does that look like? I started praying and was stopped in my tracks when I read Peter’s admonition,
“But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.” (I Peter 4:15, emphasis mine)
Is meddling really in the same category as murder, theft, and evil? And are there areas where meddling is God’s reason for my pulling back? I began to pray. I began to seek the wisdom of my friends. I began to hear stories. And I began to hear God whispers.
Three lessons rose to the surface:
- We who are entrusted with leadership are highly susceptible to meddling.
- Meddling can have serious consequences.
- When I don’t pull back and cease meddling, my time, capacity, and energy to give myself to God’s purposes designed for me are in jeopardy.
My friend Amy gave me permission to share her story.
Serving alongside my husband in the leadership of our mission organization makes me privy to decisions and situations that involve our staff. It is a place of high calling and high privilege. I’m thankful that he and the other leaders trust and value my perspective.
Sometimes, however, valuing a perspective does not mean agreeing with it.
Recently, we secunded an expat couple who were serving in our region to temporarily do some work for us in an area where the husband had special expertise.
Because the need was urgent, and he was willing, the normal processes for vetting new team members was bypassed. I expressed concern, quite passionately! I believed that my gift of discernment gave me insight and permission to evaluate if they were qualified to be missionaries within our organization.
My husband listened to me and my concerns. He did not agree with me, and I was overruled. He and the other leadership moved forward with bringing this couple into our ranks.
As this temporary situation became more permanent, I felt an even deeper sense of responsibility to voice my dissent. So much so, that for several months I continued to involve myself in the situation without being invited.
Meddling: involving oneself in a matter without invitation. Trying to have an influence on things that are not your responsibility.
This situation became the catalyst behind heated disagreements between my husband and me. Every time the subject came up, our conversation deteriorated into conflict.
I was in constant turmoil.
My strong feelings caused me to draw hard lines to prove my point.
I was not treating this couple as a brother and sister in Christ.
I was meddling!
Suffering As a Meddler
At one point, my husband lovingly, yet strongly, reminded me that he was the one who was entrusted by the Lord to lead this ministry. And he was constantly seeking God’s wisdom. He valued my opinion; he disagreed with my solution. And I was meddling. Would I trust God?
I heard God’s whisper, Amy, the gift of discernment I have given you is a trust. It must be stewarded well. It must be exercised with humility, under the authority of the Spirit, and within community or it can become destructive.
Or it can become destructive! God had my attention. I allowed my sinful flesh to control my gifting. My relationship with God deteriorated. My relationship with my husband grew difficult. My relationship with the other couple was in jeopardy. Dissension and pain swirled around me. Meddling invites suffering. The suffering touched me; it touched my husband; it touched the couple in question. Meddling is destructive.
Meddling is a heart issue.
Amy is a dear friend, a godly woman, and she is human. All of us want to be wanted. We want to feel significant. And we want the gifts God has entrusted us with to be used. We want to be seen.
“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you …for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (II Timothy 1:6 & 7)
Initially, Amy’s heart was to fan into flame her gift of discernment. Her husband heard her. Because he disagreed, she didn’t feel seen. She faced the question: was her heart to force her gift of discernment in the situation? Or was her heart one of humility and submitting not only to the leadership of her husband, but also submitting to God?
The Hope and Freedom of the Gospel
Her husband’s reminder that this situation was ultimately God’s trust to him was the beginning of God softening Amy’s heart.
The gifts of the Spirit are powerful influencers, and they are for the common good.
“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (I Corinthians 12:7, italics mine)
In Amy’s words, “My sinful flesh had gotten mixed in with my gift of discernment. And when I sought to exercise that gift in areas that were not my responsibility, I caused dissension and pain.
When I saw my sin for what it was, I was cut to the quick. I immediately confessed and repented to the Lord, and oh, I found new freedom! God led me to see reconciliation not only with my husband, but with this couple.”
Meddling and God’s Alternative
“Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.” (I Peter 4:16)
Let him glorify God! Instead of suffering as a meddler, decide to glorify God. The notes in the ESV Study Bible say, “Christians are to suffer in such a way that they bring honor to God instead of disrepute.”
Amy honored God as she submitted to him.
Amy honored God in her confession and repentance.
Amy honored God in seeking reconciliation with her husband with the couple.
Shortly after Amy submitted her heart and her gifting to God, God moved the couple on to a new place. God used this situation to do a good work in Amy’s heart, in their marriage, and in her relationship with the couple.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)
 The ESV Study Bible, English Standard Version (Crossway Bibles, 2008), 2412.
Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash