The Right Tool for the Right Job
And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 1 Thessalonians 5:14
My own story of recovery is an important part of how I may be of help to those who still struggle. I’ve been there – is a powerful connection. I didn’t invent addiction and most of us who’ve wrestled with it have many shared experiences. It would be an error though to assume that everyone must go through exactly what I went through.
I do this sometimes though. Because I was addicted and found recovery in such and such a way, I feel that everyone should travel the exact same road. I went to treatment . . . So, you must go to treatment. Not everyone requires inpatient treatment though. I needed tough love . . . So, you must be hammered with tough love as well. Often, in addiction medicine, I do need to wield the hammer of truth and tough love. The problem in carrying a hammer though, is that everything looks like a nail. I have one tool and I’m going to use it one everyone. Not everyone needs all hammer all the time though.
Tough love may often be necessary. Sometimes however, the individual in front of me is so broken that they just need to know that someone cares and that there is hope. The challenge for me, is to stop, take the time to listen, understand where that person is, and then approach him or her in an appropriate tone, with the appropriate message. In my self-centeredness, I treat everyone as I needed to be treated. In pausing, looking outside myself, and considering the needs of others, I’m able to address them appropriately.
In today’s passage, Paul exhorted the Thessalonians to use the right tool for the right job. He said to admonish, encourage, help, and be patient, all in turn, in the right situation. Not everyone needs to be hammered with truth, but some do. Not everyone needs encouragement or help, but some do. Paul said they must learn to identify the problem so that they may respond appropriately.
When we encounter those in need, we would do well to listen and understand. Then, we must follow Paul’s instruction, seeking the suitable solution for the problem at hand. God, what does this person need from me? Then, we must respond appropriately. Sometimes we must be tough. Sometimes we must be soft. Sometimes we must help and sometimes we must refuse to enable. At all times, we must be God’s tools, doing what he asks us to do, and loving those around us in the way that best carries out his will in their lives.