The Samaritan Question: Readers’ Responses


What’s the difference between meddling and helping? How do you discern God’s will when someone’s need tugs at your heart strings and you’re not sure of your proper role?

I put these questions to readers of my blog, and they gave thoughtful, detailed answers.  As they described the process of listening for God’s voice, a few common themes emerged:

Prayer is essential. Prayer is a minute-by-minute openness to God’s leading. It’s an attitude of trust, gratitude and obedience.

Advice and counsel of wise friends helps us see our blind spots.

Stepping back from the situation can give us perspective.

Our feelings can be signposts along the way. The fruits of the Spirit are peace, love and joy, not resentment and frustration. Several readers mentioned having “a feeling of peace” when acting in accordance with God’s will.

Here are some excerpts from readers’ perceptive comments:


Kathy Stauffer wrote:

“I wonder about this myself… am I doing God’s will or just doing what I think is best.

This is the point I’ve come to:

*I pray and ask for guidance.

*Windows of opportunity seem to open to me–or not.

*I feel it’s a call from God.

*I trust and go forward.

*When I feel contentment/peace, I know it’s a God thing.

*When going-forward brings frustration and disappointment, I know it was a me-thing, and I back off.

We are the hand and feet of Jesus; we are to be the living image of God in His kingdom.

Give praise.”

(Read Kathy’s insights on walking by faith at: )


 Delores Topliff said:

“This kind of situation requires extremely careful prayer and probably check and balance counsel from respected spiritually in-tune friends. Regarding one situation years ago as I prayed, ready to swoop in and intervene, the Lord impressed me it was not time to act yet, that the situation was “not bad enough yet” for those involved to learn the lasting lesson intended. I was pretty surprised to hear that.

I want to work in partnership with Him, not be an enabler, and this can be so challenging.”


Bethany shared her thoughts on how to gain perspective:

“One thing I have found helpful, is to have a routine that is a “down time” routine at the end of a busy ministry day. Like cooking (not just popping leftovers in the microwave, actually chopping, preparing, etc.) dinner and then spending an hour reading a book or watching a Jane Austen movie. If after having my “down time” I don’t feel sort of at peace and willing to interact with human beings again, I’m probably not being reasonable with my schedule.”

She also mentioned the important role of her advisors in the ministry where she works:

“The other thing that is very helpful… is that I always have recourse to the directors. Nothing that I commit to is committed to without without support, guidance, and help. I am never helping another person by myself alone. “


Rebecca agreed that outside guidance is needed:

“It is easier to see in others. Not so easy to discern when we are overstepping our boundaries.”


Monica’s comments showed how our feelings can warn us when we’re doing more than we should:

“If you start to resent that person or mourn the time lost, maybe it is time to step back.

You will know, Connie, when enough is enough… When you realize that enough is enough, do the right thing. Step back, even if it is only just a little step. Don’t stop praying, don’t stop caring, don’t stop helping. But don’t let it take over your life.”


Jean uses her feelings as an instrument to sense God’s will, but she also knows that emotions must be kept in their place. She wrote:

“When I’m walking in close fellowship with the Lord and the Spirit is intimately guiding even small decisions in my life, then the communication is through a feeling in my gut that says ‘go this way or that way’ followed by a peace after I’ve obeyed.  It’s a beautiful occurrence, really, and makes me glad to be alive, glad to be able to be sufficiently in tune so as to hear His promptings.

When the listening leads to affirmative action and I’m the hero or the savior or the provider, I feel an extra ‘rightness’ about the whole thing.  However, when obedience means that I leave a task undone (because it’s not mine to do) or a need unfulfilled (in an act of giving up the ‘good’ to tend to the ‘best’), that doesn’t feel as lofty.  Yes, along the way, I’ve coined the phrase ‘having a knot in the pit of my stomach doesn’t mean that I’m outside of His will; it simply means that I have a knot in the pit of my stomach.'”


I want to thank everyone who responded to my questions. The difference between meddling and helping seems to elude a simple black-and-white rule. Discernment is a process. Maybe God cares more about the process than the exact outcome. As Jean commented: “I might encourage you not to worry about making a mistake or not listening perfectly.  We serve a great big God who can use even our missteps for His purposes.”