Your Job Is To Care, Not Fix

By Jacob Eckeberger on April 14 2014

When I was in high school, my Mom was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. In a matter of hours after the diagnosis, our family life plunged into a whirlwind of hospital visits and church prayer sessions. I still remember one specific night while my brother and I were praying with my mom in her bedroom that I became overwhelmed with feelings of confusion, frustration, anger, and helplessness. Those feelings seemed to come from every corner of my mind and consumed my thoughts.  
After that night, several people in my life took notice of the change in my spirit. In an effort to “fix” me, well-intentioned friends and family lined up with an arsenal of encouraging Bible verses. They would swoop into my life for a moment, drop a verse that they believed would fix me, stay just long enough for it to be awkward and then move on. But none of it worked. My spirit was never fixed and it actually did more harm than good.
Looking back, I realize that what I desperately needed was someone who would truly care for me. I mean care in the way that James 1:27 describes true religion as “visiting orphans and widows in their affliction.” True care for someone in the midst of an affliction requires you to sit with them in the middle of their pain, even when you can’t do or say anything to fix it.
In Out of Solitude, Henri Nouwen describes caring for someone as “the participation in the pain, the solidarity in suffering, the sharing in the experience of brokenness.”
People wanted to fix me by dropping their Bible verses into my life, lighting the fuse and running, hoping that the Spirit would allow the ignition at the proper time. But they never stayed long enough to care for me.
Nouwen goes on to say that “[to fix] without care is as dehumanizing as a gift given with a cold heart.”
I didn’t need Bible verses dive-bombed into my life from people passing by. I needed someone who would be with me in the awkwardness of my mom’s hospital visits, in the anxious searching for hope, and in the angry moments of questioning God.
That’s where you can come in. No matter where you are on the spectrum from youth pastor to youth worker, you have a responsibility to sit with students in the awkward and painful parts of life, especially when you can’t fix it. Wade into the suffering with them. Fight the urge to fix their pain and choose instead to truly care for them. After all, only the Creator of all good things can make all things new, even our suffering.


Jacob Eckeberger is the content and community manager at, an itinerant worship leader, the husband of a church planter, and a long time volunteer youth worker. Follow him @jacobeck.


Picture of Joel Diaz

From Joel Diaz on April 16, 2014

I’ll be sharing this with my small group leaders. Thanks for sharing.

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From Jacob Eckeberger on April 16, 2014

Sure thing, Joel! Thanks for taking the time to read, share, and comment.

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From samnang on April 25, 2014

Thanks for sharing this. It is very encouraged me so much. I am a youth leader in one church here in Cambodia, sometimes I am so discouraged because I see my youth didn’t obey the way of the Lord. I was so angry too and sometimes, I want to run away and stop working with them. I wanted them change, but they didn’t. Now your post encouraged me keep caring for them not try to fix them, God will take care of their way.

Thanks again

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From Jacob Eckeberger on April 25, 2014

I’m glad it was encouraging for you. I know though that it doesn’t make student ministry any less frustrating. Keep your head up and keep loving students well.

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