There’s a difference between doing what is right because you have always been told to do so, and doing it from your heart. There’s a difference between helping others because it is your duty – even if you truly wish to obey – and being prompted by true empathy for someone.
I’m not saying that one is holier or more correct. In fact, it is not usually possible to tell why someone else is helping you, and no one should even ask.
I’m just saying that when someone has faced a trial and experienced the strength and comfort of the Lord, it can make one very eager to encourage others.
When I was 20, I fell off a horse and broke my right collarbone. It was the biggest trial I had ever faced in life. It was painful and inconvenient, and it seemed it would never end. The week after my clavicle brace came off, I was walking towards Sears when I noticed an older person with a cane walking towards the door. With more compassion than I’d ever felt before in such a situation, I sprinted forward and held all the doors open for her. I was truly glad to be of help, and I was surprised at myself.
For the first time, I had discovered what it is like to need help. I had appreciated all of the help I received and I had been very disappointed on some occasions when people didn’t seem to want to help or to care. Compassion awoke within me.
I have often observed that there are three kinds of people in the church. There are those who do not help, those who help and whine about it, and those who joyfully serve. I am certain that I have been in each of the three categories at one time or another – haven’t you?
I don’t always like that word “serve.” All of the ads I hear or read tell me that I “deserve a break today,” and that I “should take care of myself.” Even when people are being recruited to help somewhere, the reason given is often that it will “help them feel good about themselves.” Can we not even help others without our pride and selfishness sneaking in?
Hebrews 4:15 teaches us:
“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.”
How wonderful it is that Jesus understands everything that we experience, and truly cares as well! Verse 16 goes on to say:
“Let us, therefore, draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.”
We are so sinful and yet He gives us mercy and chooses to use us in the lives of others.
Recently some online friends and I were discussing our difficulties in an effort to encourage and challenge one another. It often seems like those very honest conversations are easier to have over the Internet than they are in person, although it would be better if that were not true. We discussed how often we find ourselves praying for strength, guidance, etc. as well as for particulars that might make our lives a little better.
We talked about our roles as helpmeet and mother and sister and church member, and how it is too easy to become focused on our own needs rather than the needs of others. I was very challenged by one friend’s remark. She said, “Maybe each morning instead of praying, ‘Lord, help me,’ I should pray, ‘Lord, how can I help?’” We are still, of course, asking to help through His strength, but the perspective is entirely different.
When someone has a “time of need,” let us seek to help. And at the same time, let us look to Him for grace to help us in our time of need: that we may serve with a willing, uncomplaining, and humble heart, in His strength.
This article first appeared in the October 2006 issue. Sharon L. Bratcher’s “Soup and Buns” book includes 45 of her articles, very much like this one. For information on purchasing her book, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.