We are born helpless, delighting in our need for other people and the human contact it brings. Others take delight in helping us, because we smile, gurgle and generally show appreciation. Our needs are primarily physical and readily satisfied.
Then we grow up. Our needs become more complicated and harder to satisfy. We sometimes forget to smile and show appreciation and, in our teenage years, may instead sulk moodily in a corner, gracelessly accepting whatever help is on offer. By the time we are adults, we find it extremely hard to ask for help – so strongly do we feel the need for independence.
Perhaps we are drawn to Eastern religions, but Buddhism offers bleak comfort:
The whole secret of existence is to have no fear. Never fear what will become of you, depend on no one. Only the moment you reject all help are you freed. Buddha
And in old age, as we become physically infirm and dependent on help from others for our basic physical needs, many become irritable and difficult to live with because they find admitting that they need help so unpalatable. But, long before we reach old age, life invariably presents us with difficulties which we need help to overcome.
You do not need to be an alcoholic in order to benefit from the 12 steps devised by Alchoholics Anonymous – with only slight modification they are a good description of the Christian life as a whole: for instance, the first two steps are comparable to the admission that we need God in our lives.
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
So, first we have to accept our weakness and admit we need help. As Pope Paul VI said, “Nothing makes one feel so strong as a call for help” .
Then we ask for it in prayer, remembering that “He who created us without our help will not save us without our consent.” Saint Augustine
God is not Father Christmas and is not there to offer you cargo or prosperity. And, as a French cardinal put it, “Jesus said ‘Ask, and the the door shall be opened unto you’. But he didn’t say how many times you have to knock!”
Back to the Beatles for a moment, who thought all they needed was a little help from their friends (whether human or chemical). But if you substitute the word ‘God’ in your mind, it becomes as good a ‘worship song’ as many out there.
Oh, and one last thing. You haven’t forgotten Christ’s words: A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. (John 14.34)
The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But… the good Samaritan reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?” Martin Luther King, Jr.
What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like. Saint Augustine