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.