When Help Arrives, but We Send It Packing

How often do we pray for help, but when it arrives, reject it and send it packing? Much more frequently than we’re even aware.

There’s a simple explanation for this: we think we know what the help should look like. When it comes in a form we don’t recognize, we assume God didn’t answer our cry.

I see this played out in my both my personal and professional life every day. I can’t tell you at how many kitchen tables I’ve sat and heard people complain that life is harder now that help has arrived. The family or individual wonders if anyone really heard them. They consider sending the help away and returning to the familiarity of their crisis-filled lives.

Sometimes we grow nostalgic for enslavement in Egypt, because freedom requires faith, fight, and facing the unknown.

Countless times, I’ve experienced this in my personal life. I devote intensive prayer to a situation of my own or a family members’ only to suddenly face a crisis of epic proportions or see my loved one filled with angst or enduring hardship. Did God ignore my cry? Does God not understand what we’re made of?

Of course, the fault lies in our response to the help God sends, not in God’s comprehension of what is necessary.

Following the Exodus from slavery under Pharaoh, many of the Israelites rejected God’s passage to freedom. It was hard, wearisome, lacking in comfort, and demanded faith.

After centuries of praying for Messiah to come, many religious leaders rejected Jesus because He preached a message of personal repentance that discomforted the comfortable and upset the status quo.

Families in crisis turn help away at the door becomes it arrives, not with large checks or transformative pills, but with challenges to expectations, requests to face hard truths, and painfully small steps of incremental change designed to redirect their ship the long way out of troubled waters.

In 2011, with my last child poised to graduate from home school, I dedicated myself to following Jesus into the next adventure. On 1/1/11, I started a Christian writers’ accountability group and asked God to use my writing for His glory. I thought I knew what that meant.

Within the month, we’d lost our home. My husband lost his health, and shortly thereafter, his job, but not before we moved into a “fixer-upper” he’d stripped of walls, floors, and ceilings. I was offered full-time work I didn’t want, and we now lived across from my parents so that family dynamics shifted like tectonic plates.

In the flash of a lightning strike, I went from being a stay-at-home homemaker with a writing dream to an empty nesting, full-time working woman who lived in an unforgiving wooden box, not a home. My dream of writing full-time seemed yanked out from under me as the day job and caregiving for family took precedence. I asked God for help and He sent me this?

To say I wept for a year is no exaggeration. To say my soul was as deconstructed as our new home is not hyperbole. To say I finally understood the Israelites who wanted to go back to Egypt, is just honest confession. To say God knew what He was about all along is eternal truth.

As I wept, I also prayed. I’ll spare you the narrative, it wasn’t always pretty, but God’s heard it all and He stuck with me. “How is help? How could this possibly be the way?” I cried. And He answered, “It is always the way to have no other home than my heart. It is always the way to receive the help I send. It is always the way to know that I am The Way and to follow only me, not the paths you imagine.”

Israel had been enslaved for so long in Egypt that freedom was almost too uncomfortable to bear. And with freedom, came choices, personal responsibility, conflict, and an entirely new dependence on God.

Jesus did not act like the Messiah Israel had long-imagined. The religious leaders were so focused on the oppressor they could see (Rome), they’d grown blind to the oppressor of all time who had worked his way into their very souls. Jesus wasn’t there to free them from Rome. Rome was nothing. He came to free them from what would keep them enslaved eternally.

In stripping the comforts of the life I knew, Jesus saved me from a hundred levels of self-righteousness and independence I didn’t see until He peeled them away. He wouldn’t be glorified by my words until they emerged from a heart that had returned to make its home in Him. To think I nearly ran from help, braces me now when it continues to arrive in unpleasant and unappealing forms.

This is the place where several Bible verses collide, and we must mature (just a bit) in our approach to our own lives and the lives of those we love.

Proverbs 3:5-8 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.”

In James 1:2-8 we are warned, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

Cry out to God for help, for this is right. Know that He hears. Ask for wisdom to recognize this help when it arrives, even if it looks like trouble. Be careful not to send His help packing. Believe and see what God will do.

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    The Conversation

  1. Yes, and yes again! This is definitely my experience! God is most concerned with my character and forging a close relationship with me… and that trumps my personal happiness everytime. Wonderful post! Thank you for your encouraging words!

  2. Rob McCullough says:

    Thank you for sharing your heart Lori. Be Greatly Blessed!

  3. Sid says:

    We have a tendency to believe that we already know how to fix our problems (as Lori says, we just need a little help). But even the assumption of knowledge of this kind is akin to idolatry; when we think we know better than God we are putting ourselves on His throne. The rich young ruler of Matthew 19 and Mark 10 provides a lesson few of us ever really “get”.

  4. Marge says:

    Exactly! It must have been so disconcerting at the time! Blessings, Memarge 🙂

  5. Jan Clough says:

    Dear Lori how your word spoke deep into my heart as it echoed a similar situation in my life.

    For 19yrs l prayed for my husbands salvation. He was a man with the most tender heart yet mood swings of deep hurts affected our relationship for the best part of those years. The situation hit an all time low when l knew l could no longer live with the man l loved, but did not like. We had taken some years to lovingly refurbish our beautiful home and garden. It was a house l had put my soul into, to leave it would be heartbreaking.
    One morning during my time with The Lord l cried out to him in my brokenness and as l went deeper into my despair l saw a picture of a pile of rubble and bricks, next to it l saw my self standing naked, The Holy Spirit spoke to me and said My child this house is just bricks and mortar; You came into this world with nothing and you will leave this world with nothing; l will provide all your needs and so much more, trust in me.
    I cannot tell you the overwhelming peace l felt at that moment knowing all would be well, no matter how difficult the situation was.
    My husband and l found separate homes but continued to see each other ( reluctantly at first ). After a year apart he called to say he would like to visit me, he had something important to tell me. Nothing could have prepared me for what that was, as unbeknown to me my husband had been going to church.
    This as you can imagine is a long and detailed story, however as l have reflected many times, like you Lori, it was my will l was seeking,not The Lords.
    In that brokenness l was taken to a place l had never been before and those 19 yrs of prayer for my husbands salvation had to come out of pain and separation.
    My husband gave his life to Jesus not long after, he then went onto Bible college gaining a degree in Theology and became a Pastor. You couldn’t write it could you!
    Life hasn’t been plain sailing it never is, however we are now evenly yoked. My 19 yrs of prayers for help were answered, not in my will, but most importantly The Lords Amen!

  6. John Seither says:

    You dear sweet sister! The Lord has granted your petition to use your writing to honor Him. I’m married to a writer and know well their lonely struggles and need for encouragement. My heart also goes out to your husband. I too lost my job and we lost our dream home. So many precious truths become ours in experiencing great loss. This is from His loving hand.

  7. Anthony Cooper says:

    There is an old song I never liked except for one line. “Yes I am wise but it’s wisdom born of pain.”
    When someone comments on how wise I am and how they too want wisdom I share some of the tough times and then ask if they are willing to go through whatever it takes.
    In our case, we regularly ask for whatever fire it will take to make us like Him.

  8. M D Powers says:

    Always good to hear of God’s goodness in others lives. Thank you for sharing.

  9. Tess Womack says:

    Thank you for sharing these words…they have ministered to me deeply. May God bless you and the call He has on your life.