By Dan Crain
ATLANTA – A few years ago, I was going through some very dark periods in my life. I knew I needed help but was not willing to ask for it. I was visiting my home in Pennsylvania for a party, and I ended up sitting next to a friend who is a trained counselor – the kind of person who, when she asked how I was doing, peered deeply into my soul. Her eyes pierced any superficial mask I wore. I immediately grew extremely nervous and started to sweat.
Reality confronted me: I needed help, and I wasn’t seeking it. It did not feel good as I began to lose control. Yet my initial fear and trembling gave way to redemption, as God spoke deeply to me, to my soul. My friend helped me to realize that I didn’t trust God enough to ask for help.
Face it: No one likes to ask for help.
We don’t like to confess our need for help because it reveals that we are weak, small, messy and vulnerable, and that we actually don’t have our act together. I mean, come on: Who wants to be known as “needy”?
News reports often tell of families in foreclosure, losing their homes and “being forced to move in” with relatives. Too often the media portray these stories of economic hardship as the worst event that could ever happen – a loss of independence.
The biggest problem with such thinking is that it is completely antithetical to the themes you find in Scripture regarding community. I absolutely love the book of Philippians, particularly the relationship the Apostle Paul models with the church in Philippi. There is a deep sense throughout the letter that Paul needs their help. He needs their prayers, their friendship, their financial gifts, and their encouragement.
Paul writes that the church in Philippi was the only one that entered into the matter of giving and receiving. He gave to them, and they gave back. But it wasn’t just a transactional relationship. They needed each other.
And as they asked for help from each other, who received the praise? God.
In the midst of this giving and receiving, God was helping Paul and the Philippians through each other. Paul’s comment at the end of the letter is brilliant: “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”
God meets our needs as we ask for help from one another. If I don’t ask, I short-circuit God’s help through community. The beautiful, shared relationship – God, others and self – breaks down.
And there’s a flip side to this: Why we are so good at giving and really bad at receiving?
Giving puts us in control. Receiving usually makes us feel weird, as if we actually need help. Bob Lupton writes, “Receiving, I am beginning to realize, is a humbling thing. It implies neediness. It categorizes one as being ‘worse off’ than the giver. Perhaps it is for this reason that we tend to reserve for ourselves the ‘more blessed’ position.”
I have experienced asking for help from the most vulnerable people who live on the streets. There is something so raw and authentic in having someone who lives on the streets take your hand and pray over you. It is life giving not only to me but also to the one now in the helping position.
Be aware of the ways in which God wants to help you through others. We all need it.
Consider signing up for Dignity Serves, a six-week course that helps you rethink the way we serve others in our community. It teaches you to see problems differently and respond in a way that empowers those you serve rather than just meeting their immediate needs.