Thoughts on Helping 4: God’s Grace

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.      Mathew 7:13-14   NIV

When he spoke those words Jesus was talking about the kingdom of God and eternal life, yet I find them to be true of many aspects of life.  Certainly life is difficult and it’s hard to live well.  Filled with challenges and temptations, our world tends to lead us through the wide gate onto the broad and unhealthy path.

Lured into materialism, consumerism and the worship of objects, power and money, we take the broad path.  Addicted to drugs, alcohol or food, we take the broad path. Zoning out on the couch watching TV night after night while our bodies and relationships suffer, we take the broad path. Our individual circumstances may vary, but we all have many opportunities to turn through the wide gate and take the broad path.

Few find the narrow path of healthy discipline.  Few addicts find recovery.  Few individuals with lifestyle disease find health and wellness.  Few born to disadvantage rise above their circumstances, culture and environment to find robust physical, emotional and spiritual health. The common wisdom is that “people don’t change.” Yet some people do.

How is it that one alcoholic finds sobriety in Alcoholics Anonymous and another, with seemingly identical circumstances, drinks himself to death?  How is it that one severely overweight patient in a physician’s practice “wakes up” one day and makes dramatic and long lasting lifestyle changes, while the vast majority of that doctor’s other patients never make even small changes. Same doctor, same advice, same tools and resources, but very different outcomes. I’m sure you have also seen this dichotomy among your friends, family, and/or patients.

Who can explain it?  My only explanation is God’s grace. When I examine my own life and ask, “How did I get better?  What was it within me that allowed me to change?”  I have no answer other than that.  Sure I did the work, but I didn’t create my own personality or strength of character.  I didn’t create the circumstances and relationships through which I found the help I needed. Who did if not God?

How true the statement, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” is for most of us. Ultimately God is the source of all wellness.  God decides who to call to himself, who to help and who to hinder, and he will have mercy upon whom he will have mercy. (see Exodus 33:19) If you found help to change for the better – great! Thank God!  If you managed to help someone else to health and wellness – wonderful! Praise God! God is the cause. People and circumstances are the mechanism.

That’s an interesting thought, but what are the implications for me as a wannabe helper? This view of things calls for humility, faith, patience and perseverance.  Some people will get better, and some won’t.  Outcomes are not up to me.  And my role is subordinate to God’s plan, both for me and  for any potential “helpee.” So I try to pray for guidance, God please show me how to help this person, and of course I pray for that person directly. God please help ______, and let me know what I can do.

Praying is always a good idea. Then, ideally, I try to listen, wait and watch for him to make an opportunity. God knows what I have to offer, and I can trust him to use it wisely. I say, “try” because, honestly, I’m still learning not to try to push help where it can’t be received.  Meanwhile, I stay ready.  A friend of mine likes to say, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink…..but you don’t take the water away!”  I like that.

And it reminds me that Jesus is the living water, available to all who are thirsty.

 

Other posts in this series:
Thoughts on Helping 1: What Do People Need?
Thoughts on Helping 2: Who Wants To Be Well?
Thoughts on Helping 3:  Like Helps Like

Comments

  1. Dexter Simanton says:

    Great post Pete

  2. Joan Truchelut says:

    Gene forwarded your post to me and I thought it was great.