In the American culture which encourages the value of independence, how reluctant we often are to accept help from others. It feels like a sign of weakness or dependence.
And yet for Christians, this runs counter to the teachings of Jesus and Paul that we are created for community, with openness, vulnerability and mutual support. “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15). “Carry each others burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)
As a pastor, it felt good to help others carry their burdens. I wanted to be a strong leader. But seeking help for myself seemed uncomfortable. It was like a sign of weakness.
Then one Sunday morning, the Lord gave me a powerful reminder that I needed an attitude change. A month prior, the local funeral director asked if I would conduct a funeral for the husband of a woman who lived in another town. Although she had a pastor, her husband and the pastor did not get along. So she felt uneasy asking him to do the service. Normally, as a professional courtesy, I would have consulted the other pastor first. But the funeral director explained that the pastor would not take this gesture kindly, and would create further emotional conflict for the widow. I conducted the service after helping her work through some of her emotional struggles. The service was small but healing. I doubted I would see her again.
One Sunday she appeared in church. Meeting me at the door, she thanked me profusely for all the help I had been. She then asked, “What can I do to thank you for all you have done for me?” My immediate thought was to say, “Thank you for your kind offer. But you do not have to do anything. I was glad to help.” Before the words left my mouth, however, the Lord spoke very clearly to my mind, “Do not say that. She needs to do something for you. Remember you have not had a dinner date with your wife for several weeks because you could not afford a baby sitter. You know how wonderful a grandmother she is. Thank her and ask if she would be willing to sit with the children one evening while you and your wife have a dinner date.”
So I did, right there at the church door. Impulsive to be sure. She was delighted. She came. Our two young children, ages 2 and 4, had fun with her. Weeks later she asked if she could reaffirm her faith in Christ and come to our church regularly. It all happened because I let her know my need.
Reflecting on this afterwards, I realized that my “independent spirit” was often perceived as a sign of rejection. I knew how happy and blessed I feel when helping others. But I often robbed others of similar joy when I turned down their offers. At least, that is what the Lord taught me that Sunday morning through the widow’s question, “How can I thanks you for what you have done for me?”
How about you? Do you find it difficult to accept help from others? Do you want to say, “Thanks anyway, but I am OK!” Well, think again. You may be keeping someone else from being blessed!
Dr. Larry Selig