Asking For Help

Asking For Help

Our Problem with Independence and Privacy

Do you know what one of my greatest fears is? It’s having some sort of accident or disease that leaves me completely dependent on other people. I hope this doesn’t offend anyone, but I really don’t want to ever be in a condition for an extended period of time where people have to feed me, help me go to the bathroom, get dressed, blow my nose, wipe my mouth – you get the picture. Maybe it’s because Michelle tells me that when I can’t feed myself she’s going to feed me pudding (a food I can’t stand), and leave a little on my chin.

I think there’s something inside most of us that says, “I don’t need your help.” We want to be able to handle our own business, take care of ourselves and not be dependent on anyone. This rugged individualism is really an American ideal, although it’s not that way in every culture. Many cultures are much more communal.

Where I grew up in Wisconsin, we had a huge population of Hmong people who helped the U.S. troops during the Vietnam war. When we withdrew, we helped bring out thousands of the Hmong because they were being slaughtered for helping us.

In our Wisconsin town, the Hmong people typically pooled their money and bought a house together as one big family. A married couple, their parents, their married children and a dozen or so grandchildren might all live together in the same house! It made for really full backyards! I remember that my family and our neighbors simply didn’t understand how so many people could all live in one house. We wondered why they couldn’t all get their own houses.

However, the closeness of the Hmongs fostered a dependence on one another. When Grandma got old, they didn’t move her into assisted living. They took care of her until she passed away. Her family members knew that when their day came, their extended family would do the same for them. Growing old and depending on your family wasn’t something they feared (like I do) but was totally accepted and normal.

One of the biggest problems for people struggling with anxiety and depression here in America is their reluctance to ask for help. I’m not the only one who has a fear of needing help. Most people do. A symptom of our unwillingness to share our burdens is that most people who give me prayer requests mark them “confidential” because they don’t want anyone else knowing what’s going on in their lives. They’d rather keep things private. Most of us have big burdens in our lives or in our families, but very few are willing to share those burdens with others who would gladly offer prayerful support.

Having said all this, I must now state the obvious as we look at our fourth tool for defeating anxiety: if you struggle with your mental health, you need to attack your anxiety by asking people to help. You can’t fight your demons alone. Satan may want you to try to suffer silently, but that is far, far from what God has made available to you for your good.

Remember, we are made for community by a communal, trinitarian God. God himself exists in perfect harmony as three persons, not as a stoic, individual rock. Yet we try to deal with our problems all by ourselves, thinking THAT is somehow the better way. Spoiler: it’s not. It doesn’t work, and you won’t get any better if you continue to hide your worry and anxiety from everyone in your life.

Why Receiving Help is Better

Today we go back to a scripture I touched on in the opening message of this series several weeks ago. It’s Ecclesiastes 4, a passage often reserved for weddings. I want all of you who self-identify as worriers or people with anxious personalities to listen closely to these words. This was put into scripture for you – to show you that you need to stop trying to do this on your own. You need to ask people for help.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 9Two are better than one
because they have a good return for their labor;
10If either of them falls down,
One can help the other up.
But pity anyone who fallsAnd has no one to help them up.
11Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone.
12Though one may be overpowered,
Two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

In this passage I see four points I want to discuss.

Two are Better than One

It’s obvious that two are better than one! Of course I would rather have two pieces of pizza than just one. The author also adds a clarifying statement here: “because they have a good return for their labor.”

In mathematical terms, “two is better than one” is written this way: 2>1. However, I think it’s also true that 2>1+1. That may not be true mathematically, but there is something special that happens when two people work together. They can accomplish what two working alone could never do. Using a term from the business world, there is a “synergy” that occurs when the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. It goes against our preference for independence and privacy, but God is trying to tell us that maybe being completely independent and keeping all your problems to yourself is not His plan for how you should live your life.

The rest of this passage gives three examples to prove that “two are better than one.”

Get Help When You Fall Down

I know for a fact you have fallen down before. So have I, and as I get “older” I find it sure is easier to get up when I have someone to help grab an arm.

There are lots of ways to fall down. You might fall into a finance pit. Or you may experience health issues. Maybe you are faced with the death of a child or a crushing divorce. In all these situations, trying to get back on your feet can feel impossible without someone there to help you find your footing.

The same is true for people who are facing constant anxious thoughts or depression. The fact that nobody can see your struggle doesn’t mean you don’t need a helping hand to get you back onto solid footing.

Finding a friend to talk with about your darkest thoughts is surprisingly helpful in reducing the weight those thoughts put on your shoulders. Sometimes you might need more than a friend to talk to. You might need to talk with a therapist to unpack past trauma, or to a doctor who may discover a chemical imbalance that can be corrected.

Whatever the situation, don’t be embarrassed. Ask for help. Keep asking until you have all the assistance you need to stand back up on your feet.

Create Warmth Together
The next example given is that of keeping warm. In an emotional sense, you experience a feeling of warmth when you know a friend is by your side during your trial. Rather than feeling alone and isolated, you are reminded that somebody cares enough about you to keep checking on you and praying for you. That makes a huge difference!

Defend One Another
Finally, having people help you also means you have someone to defend you. Remember, we have repeatedly talked about how so many of these struggles in our minds are created by the flaming lies of the enemy: you are crazy you are all alone; this will never end. But having someone fight alongside you means you have a person to help you correct your mental filter – to keep reminding you that those lies are just that: LIES! That person can keep pointing you toward the true promises of God so you will stop ruminating on the problem and the lies and instead focus on that which is true, pure, and lovely.

Hiding Your Struggles is Not a Solution

From what we have seen so far, piece by piece, it’s clear that we, God’s people, are not supposed to do life on our own. Proudly being self-sufficient and not being willing to ask anybody for help may be an American ideal, but it’s not a Christian virtue. As Christians, we are a family. We are supposed to help one another and lift up a brother or sister who has fallen down. Hiding your struggles is not a solution.

The problem is, when it comes to mental health, people become pretty crafty about hiding their anxiety and worry. They simply use the widely accepted excuse, “I’m just a private person.” The result: no one knows you are struggling. No one knows you don’t sleep well at night and sometimes cry alone at home rather than attending events you are invited to. While you may feel that you are sheltering the people you love (possibly even your spouse) from the depth of your suffering, you need to understand that you are constructing the walls of your own isolating prison.

If you’re struggling today, I want you to know: YOU MUST REACH OUT FOR HELP. You must decide who you want on your team, and then you must boldly ask them for help. I know it can be scary to disclose the ugly truths of your darkest feelings, but that’s where freedom and support are found.

James 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

I know it’s uncomfortable to talk about your crippling anxiety as a sin, but a part of that anxiety might be unwillingness to release your worries to God. It may reflect control and a lack of trust; and we’re told that to break free and find healing, we need to confess to others and pray for each other. I’m sure confessing your darkest thoughts, worries, and maybe even suicidal ideation is even more terrifying for you than my fear of having to be physically cared for by Michelle and her pudding spoon!

Satan does not want you to bare you soul so you can find healing. He wants you to feel shame and embarrassment. (That’s why you might be willing to share a bit of your story with others – tell them you’ve been “feeling stressed” lately, but you can’t bring yourself to share all of your feelings.)

However, you can’t be fully loved and fully supported unless you are fully known. Your family and friends can’t actually support you and pray for you in specific ways unless they understand the fight you are in. Rather than viewing total self-disclosure as a painful experience of shame, you need to recognize it as a critical step in the healing process. If you are here with an anxious heart today, I encourage you to fearlessly and completely share your struggle with someone you trust and ask them for help.

How to Support an Anxious Person

Maybe you have sat through the messages in this series without anxiety of your own, but thinking about people you love who are suffering in this way. This next section is for you.

Galatians 6:2Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Getting involved in someone’s mental health struggle is not just a kind thing to do, it’s how you actually fulfill the law of Christ. It’s a demonstration that you understand your role in the family of God and that you love those in His family. Here are three concrete steps you can to do get involved.

  1. Offer to help. If you see someone struggling, ask if they want to talk about it. Tell them you are behind them and want to support them in any way possible. Ask if there are any specific ways you could pray for them.
    However, you also need to understand that some people aren’t yet ready to share. They might be battling through the shame of their struggles and trying to muscle it through on their own. If this is the case, you might gently suggest that sharing the burden with others would be a possible step toward healing, and that you would be there to listen if they are ever interested in talking about it.
  2. Be a gentle, listening presence. We cruised past verse 5 in Philippians 4, but it says: “Let your gentleness be evident to all.”  That is crucial advice if you’re trying to come alongside and support someone who is hurting. This is not a time to be firm and tell them to “stop throwing a pity party.”
    Additionally, they don’t need to hear a bunch of advice or stories about what your niece’s cousin did when she was depressed. What they need is for you to be a careful listener. Ask questions to better understand.
    Most importantly, as you listen, invite the Holy Spirit to help you hear this person’s deepest need.
  3. Consistently Be There. This is actually the most challenging part for many people. It’s one thing to be a listening ear the first time a person confides in you about their struggles, but then life happens and you are a busy person with lots of other priorities.
    This is one of the reasons people with struggles don’t want to open up to anybody. Oftentimes they talk to someone ONCE, but that person isn’t there for them when they need them the next time. Then they tell themselves the story that NOBODY cares and they must struggle with it alone. So if you decide to be in, then you need to be all the way in! You need to make yourself available (with some boundaries) when they need to talk.
    Personally, I have found this to be a challenge. As a pastor, I have many people who share their burdens with me, but I don’t have the capacity to be fully present for every struggling person I know. I am most present for those in my household. Outside of that, everybody gets less of me. The ideal, after someone shares something with me, would be for me to let them know that while I would love to support them further, I don’t have the capacity to do that. I would also tell them I want to help them find another person who can be on their team.

Discipleship Groups

I see this as an opportunity we need to pursue as a church. I know there are many of you who would be amazing supports for those within this church who are struggling with various mental health challenges. While I could never support every person in need, I absolutely can connect people who are willing to stand together to help one another.

Some of you may have heard me talk about Discipleship Groups – groups of two to four people of the same gender who meet weekly to talk about life and what God is teaching them. I have seen a great deal of spiritual growth in these groups, but they are also an amazing place for people to find support for anxiety and depression.

If this message has led you to feel strongly that you need to find a Christian to support you in your journey to healing, but you don’t know who to ask, please let me know right away. And if you would like to be a support for others who struggle – if you feel that God might be asking you to take a role in helping care for people and grow in your faith together – I need you to let me know as well. I’m trusting that if God wants a group or two to form as a result of this message, I will hear from everyone God’s Spirit is speaking to today, and I will be able to help you connect and support one another.


Romans 15:5-6May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ultimately we are all in this together. When one person in the family struggles, we all struggle. So, if you are in the pit, PLEASE ask someone from the church for help. If you know someone who is in the pit, offer to help and then BE THERE for them.

Finally, remember it’s a cord of THREE strands that’s not easily broken. Even as a team, we are still not strong enough to find breakthrough. We need a third strand. When we invite the power and presence of God into our relationships and into the battle, that’s when we see the enemy defeated, and we experience the victory each of you hopes for.

Build your team of support, and make sure Jesus is the first person you invite.


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