When Helping Hurts

Helping Hands“Helping”…it seems like such a noble word, such a noble act. We are taught to help others. We are taught to be helpful to those around us. We are told that helping someone else may sometimes mean we have to sacrifice some things in our own life or situation but that it is good for us to do so. If we don’t help, then we are told we are “selfish.” If we don’t help, then we must have a cold heart. Even the Bible reminds us:

  • “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” Hebrews 13:16
  • “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2
  • “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” James 4:17

So helping IS a noble thing to do. When we find ourselves in situations where we can offer help to another, we should take that opportunity to do so. Sometimes that is an easier thing than others. When our help requires us to do something, it is easy to act. If it costs us something, we may give it more consideration before we do it. If we must sacrifice in order to help, it takes it to yet another level. But what about when helping requires us to NOT do something but instead to be still and let a situation unfold? That is a different matter all together.

Recently I was reminded of a situation many years ago when someone I knew had put herself in what I thought was a dangerous situation – physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. She was not making wise decisions and I did everything I could in order to get her to hear me, but nothing worked. I was terrified for her and tried to help but eventually I began to realize my hands were tied. She was a grown woman and there was nothing I could say or do that was going to change her mind. The only things left to do would have done more harm than good so I was forced to stand by and watch…helplessly. I prayed constantly for her. I loved her without condition and vowed to be there to pick up the pieces; I just hoped there would be pieces to pick up. For someone who always wants to help, it was excruciating at times to have to stand back and watch.

lost and alone

Sometimes the most helpful thing we can do is to be still and let things happen. That goes against the grain for many of us because those old tapes play loudly in our head and tell us if we do not “help,” it means we are selfish and don’t care. When someone you love is in a situation that is detrimental to them or they are making choices that are taking them down a path that will bring them nothing but pain, it is natural to want to alter their course! If you love them, it is natural for you to do everything in your power to get them to change direction or make a better decision. It is natural to exhaust your resources to make things different. It is NOT natural to step back and allow something to run its course. To do so means accepting the risk and possibility that something terrible may happen. It means living with the fear that a person may end up with very severe and painful consequences. In my situation, I truly feared I might get a phone call telling me someone I loved was dead. Thankfully that did not happen, but if it had, I would have had a difficult time not feeling guilty for the rest of my life for not doing more…even though there was nothing more to do.

Help doesn’t always look or feel like we think it should. Helping is sometimes painful. Helping sometimes means we have to be still and not act. It hurts to watch someone we love go through difficulties or endure pain but when we overstep in trying to help, we often trample on what our Father is trying to work in their lives…and in ours. We cannot see the complete picture that God is painting. We look at a small portion that seems dark and ominous and try to wipe it away when it is actually the backdrop for displaying the light! Without darkness and shadows there would be no depth and beauty to the picture.

colorful skyGod can do amazing things with the broken pieces of a life touched by poor decisions and even dangerous circumstances. Sometimes the best way we can “help” is to get out of the way and let HIM do the work. When the time is right, He will open the door for you to step back in and be helpful in a more active way, or He will close that door for your involvement completely. Until then, strengthen your spirit. Get on your knees and pray. Rest…and trust that sometimes the best place to be in is the one in which you cannot “help.”


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