We Must Be Willing to Share Our Concerns If We Hope to Receive Help
One of my newsletter subscribers emailed me with a question. He wants to do what the Bible says about loving one another (such as in 1 John 3:11).
He’s willing to sacrifice to meet the needs of his brothers and sisters in Jesus, but how can he do that when he doesn’t know what their needs are? How can he hope to help one another?
Even praying for them—something everyone can do—is hard when they won’t share what their needs are.
When his church takes prayer requests, “the tendency is to request prayer for someone else who is sick” he says, and not themselves. “It seems that the lack of openness and transparency prevents Christians from fulfilling the command to love one another.”
I get this. I’ve experienced it.
I too often hear people complain about their spiritual community for not being there to help one another—of helping them during their time of crisis.
Yet they guard their struggle as if it’s a huge secret and won’t let anyone know what they’re dealing with. How can Jesus’s church love one another, help one another, and pray for one another, when we keep them in the dark?
A Friend in Need
Once God brought to my mind a friend who had moved away. The Holy Spirit prompted me to reach out to him because he was struggling. Beyond that I had no clarification.
Did God want me to pray for him? Was I to encourage him? Perhaps I was supposed to visit him to help with something or just to be present. Or was the need financial?
It had been a couple of years since we had any direct contact, but through others I knew the general trajectory his life had taken. So, I wasn’t surprised when the Holy Spirit told me to reach out to him.
I emailed him and told him that God brought him to my mind that morning. “How are things going for you and your family? Do you need anything? How can I pray for you?”
He responded later that day, giving me a glowing report of his life, his work, and God’s provisions.
I felt a failure for thinking his life was in crisis. According to his report, he was doing better than me. I assumed I hadn’t heard correctly from God. It sometimes happens. But I wondered how I’d gotten things so wrong when the instruction seemed so clear.
Discouraged, I pushed aside my desire to help one another and my failure to correctly hear the Holy Spirit’s nudging.
A year later he and his family were in town. He invited me and some other long-ago friends to visit them at a vacation condo someone had gifted them with for two weeks.
We had a marvelous time catching up and renewing our friendship. During a quieter moment in their visit, it was just my friend and me.
He gulped hard and told me about the struggle he had the year before, how he lost about everything and the difficulty he and his family went through. I asked him when, and he told me August. That was when he was at his lowest. It was in August when I had emailed him.
I wanted to scream. “I would have helped you! I was ready to do whatever I could. But you didn’t give me a chance.”
Yet I kept my frustration to myself, because letting him know now of my readiness to help then would do nothing to alleviate the pain he went through.
I’d heard right from the Holy Spirit after all. Should I have pressed into my friend’s assurance that everything was okay? Should I have tried harder to help him even though he said everything was fine?
Basically, he lied to me. As a result, he missed the blessings God was preparing to give him through me—and perhaps others.
If we are to help one another, our community must be appropriately transparent and honest.
We Must Seek Balance
We all know people in a perpetual crisis. Their life seems to bounce from one disaster to another, and they’re always pulling everyone around them into it. It’s a quick way to lose friends and alienate others, especially when their own bad decisions are the continual cause of their problems.
Yet to avoid being that person, we often overreact to this concern, shielding others from our struggles. When we do this, we miss God’s blessings through them, and they miss the opportunity to serve us in Jesus’s name.
We must learn how to properly share the difficulties of our lives with others and avoid being stoic when we should be honest.
This is the only way we can hope to help one another.
Two Questions to Help One Another
If we are to truly help one another, we must ask ourselves two questions:
1. Who should I share my concerns with?
2. Who needs my help, even if they insist that they don’t?
And if we don’t know the answer to the second question, we can pray for them (James 5:16). Though I did pray for my friend, despite his insistence that everything was fine, I could have been more diligent about it.
In the future, when the Holy Spirit’s direction doesn’t align with what people tell me, I’m going to defer to God.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.
Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.
9 replies on “Help One Another”
Thanks for addressing this very common problem among Christians. It seems like not being more open about personal needs hinders others from obeying Christ’s command to love one another and hinders us from loving others.
Trent, you are so right!
Peter we are so good at beating ourselves up. And I will add, we are good at dividing God up as if we can defer to God when the Holy Spirit nudges us. Your friend was in trouble. Your spirit picked up on it. Our spirits can be like radar at times. But your friend wanted to work through his troubles by himself. In his mind…even though he was in trouble he felt as if God had expected him to have faith in his own abilities and deal with it. As a friend, you left it to God and your friend’s faith in God. Because of some of the mistakes I’ve made, I now believe the mistakes one makes are God intended so that one learns and hones one’s skills to become a more mature capable person. As a seasoned Mom, I also know it is difficult to be a parent and co-parent. Moms sometimes want to protect the children and Dads often times disagrees with Mom, wanting the child to experience the bumps and bruises of riding a bike etc so that the child learns how to ride and fall without getting seriously hurt. As always Peter, keep writing. When you write, you always causes me to think and ponder …what would Jesus the Holy Spirit do?
Linda, may we all do a better job at listening to the Holy Spirit.
Peter, I’m glad you asked. These things that you’ve mentioned are perineal problems that have probably been within the Church since it’s inception. But I believe it’s an especially American problem because of the culture we live in. Why is that? First of all, all Christians still have within them the residual effects of the Old Adam, which, because of pride will resist asking for help. We live in culture which glorifies the “self made man”. Secondly, many Christians attend a church where the relationships there aren’t deep enough to share information about their failures, therefore the spiritual facade. Fortunately we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. During the spiritual awakening that John Wesley was involved in, many new believers were brought to faith in Christ. In order to facilitate these new believer’s progressive sanctification, John instituted the class meetings. These were small groups of 7 to 12 members who met weekly, led by a lay person, whose purpose it was to watch over their souls. The question asked of each person in attendance was, “How is it with your soul”? Here the folks could share the trials and temptations that they had faced the previous week so that they could receive prayer and extortion, whatever was needed. This type of accountability/spiritual formation group was the reason why the Methodist Episcopal Church was in the early history of this nation, the largest denomination. As they grew in affluence and institutionalism, this practice was abandoned and the rest is history. I personally believe that if more Christians were to revive this ancient practice, we’d see much less mental and spiritual disease and much healthier congregations.
Robert, may we all find ways to pray for one another,
Robert as an adult who grew up in the 60s in the United Church of Canada, I think that because the Methodist Episcopal Church is similar to the Anglican and Methodist Traditions here in Canada that helped to form the United Church of Canada, I can speak to the idea of a spiritual formation group. In the United Church we tried it in the 80s and 90s. What I found was that the group brought neighbours together who were at various levels of their spiritual and faith development. One would think the different levels would enhance the group. However, my opinion then was that some people were staunchly against even having a glass of wine at a dinner party and this caused many people to feel safe and others to feel like church was a straight jacket. And once, perhaps knowing this (and wanting to push the boundaries a bit) I brought a bottle of wine to the house party and was rebuked by my host. I bring this small little example up to illustrate how this encounter did not make me feel like sharing my soul or my temptations with the group. The host explained that her husband who was not joining us at the party, was an alcoholic and she had a strict rule that there was to be no alcohol in their house. She was honouring this rule. As the years went by, the group formation we tried in our church was abandoned. Perhaps they were to heterogeneous. Groups like AA seem to work because everyone faces the same addiction and it is always tempting to fall back and rely on the thing to which one was addicted. In the Church perhaps our greatest addiction is doubt. We are constantly tempted to doubt the fact that people do come back to life. For as the Pauline letter to the Corinthians says, “For if the dead are not raised, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, [our] faith is futile; [we] are still in [our] sins.” 1 Corinthians 15-17
Linda, thanks for your response. What I was sharing about the original class meetings would have been different than what you’ve described. I can understand how the situation that you commented on could have defeated the very thing you were trying to accomplish. The class meetings were structured for the specific purpose of spiritual formation through sharing one another’s burdens and prayer for God’s grace. There was even a separate group composed of 3 persons of the same gender, who met for the specific purpose of confessing one’s sins and being assured of forgiveness the the grace of God.These were called bands and were inspired by James 5:16. I was personally raised LCMS, a very conservative Lutheran denomination. I’ve been active in several other denominations and have seen none that are currently are doing these types of meetings on a wide scale. There have been other denominations in the past that have had success with small group spiritual formation. The Moravians and early Lutheran pietists for instance. We have a small group of believers who meet at our place on Sunday afternoons. They range in church membership from Pentecostal to Church of Christ and even one Roman Catholic couple. There are times when Paul’s exhortation to “bear with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2-3) come into play, but this group manages to weekly share their praises and prayer concerns. If the Holy Spirit is present; all come away blessed.