What a great question! Many of us like to help our friends but sometimes we find that we are getting more involved than we intended. We can end up feeling overwhelmed or guilty. The short answer to your question is to recognize that we all have different capacities for staying connected to hurting people. Some of us are like a one-lane bridge, we can only handle one car at a time and others are like the Golden Gate Bridge which can handle hundreds of cars at a time. So know that you can only handle so much. That’s okay. You are human. You might want to ask God to increase your capacity by healing the places where you are broken (we are all broken) but it doesn’t usually happen overnight. Sometimes we get so overwhelmed that we even blame the hurting one. Ouch! We don’t want to do that!
The second part of the answer is to do all that you do out of love, not fear. If you find that your are helping because you are afraid of what will happen if you don’t, you are motivated by fear and you are in danger of forming a co-dependent relationship with your friend. When we help out of fear we are helping because we are afraid: What will they think? What will others think? What will happen if I don’t? We feel trapped, cornered. When we help out of love, we are helping because we want to. That is our desire. We are motivated by love.
Wounded people need people to come alongside them and love them, to stay connected to them right in the middle of their distress. But our help is not enough! We are limited, frail, broken ourselves. We all need God, the perfect lover, the one who sees all the darkness in our heart and still embraces us, the one who delights in us his children and cries with us when we are in pain. Ultimately we all need the comfort only God can give.
We don’t want to get in the way, occupying a place in someone’s heart that is intended for God.
So be honest about your limits (I can only talk 10 minutes or I’m in the middle of studying for a big exam, can I call you later?). Pray for your friend. Help out of love, not fear and lastly, make space in your life for God so that you develop such an intimate relationship with him so that you hear his voice and know his heart. He can show you his perspective on your friend. He will guide and mentor you so that you know with certainty what you should or shouldn’t do.