The gracious act of receiving help

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Several months ago I wrote a post on offering help that is actually helpful. Several themes came up in the comments about the frustration of people who don’t let you help.

I knew it was something I needed to write about, but honestly this is a difficult one because this is an area I have often struggled with myself. I’m writing this post as much to me as to anyone.

There are many reasons we don’t want to receive help. The over-arching one is lack of humility. It is very difficult for us to need someone else. In our humanness we want to prove that we can figure out and take care of all our problems.

But that is not what God intended. In fact, that is the furthest thing from how God intended us to live life. We are to bear each others’ burdens.

Whether that is something as serious as helping someone through the emotional depths of losing a spouse, or as simple as bringing a coffee by to brighten up a worn out mama’s day, in that moment we are bringing glory to God  by relieving and sharing that person’s burden.

So if we know that God is being glorified when help is being offered, then why is it so difficult to be on the receiving end? The same reason it is so difficult to really and truly accept God’s unconditional gift of salvation…for free.

We don’t want to feel indebted. We want to earn and work for what we get. I know some people that when they absolutely have to ask for help they insist on paying because they can’t bring themselves to simply receive the gift of help. As ugly as it sounds, I have to call it what it is. Pride.

It may be that we are horrified at the thought of being the ever-present “needy” one of the group. Or maybe we constantly assume our need isn’t as important as another so we don’t admit we even have one.

I fall into this one at times. I mean, needing someone to stop and pick up a gallon of milk for me because my kids are all sick and I can’t get out doesn’t even compare with someone who is struggling through cancer.

Sometimes we don’t even stop to acknowledge our need of help. We are so used to being self-sufficient, solving our own problems, and maybe even being the regular problem-solver for others that we don’t even consider being on the receiving end.

This too is pride, but it’s a little more subtle. We fail to realize that living life with others where help is mutually being extended and received is an act of grace from God.

Did you get that? It is God’s grace that made us need one another. Because in offering and receiving help, salvation is being modeled in a very real and tangible way.

Just like when a friend freely brings me a meal to help me through a hectic time of life and I receive it without any payment, so God freely gives me the gift of salvation and I accept it without any payment.

When this kind of help is being offered and received regularly in our churches, we are tangibly modeling to each other what salvation is. This should be happening all the time. Not just for the big things, like a baby being born,  a death, or a serious illness, but regularly.

When we refuse help, we are robbing another person of a blessing.

A couple of years ago, our pastor at the time told us very pointedly that we were robbing people of a blessing by not asking for help. This was such a break-through moment for me.

Of course I knew that, “it is better to give than to receive,” but having someone look me in the eyes and tell me I was robbing someone else of that blessing of giving was like a brick being thrown at me. You mean, me, saying in my nicest way possible, “we’re fine!” was robbing someone else of a blessing? I thought I was just being responsible!

God used that to start chipping away at my own pride and self-sufficiency, and began to show me that God intended us to need one another.

When we refuse help, we are robbing our families of the opportunity to see Christ’s love modeled.

You and I need to see this kind of love modeled. We need to model it ourselves, and we need to let it be modeled to us. Our children need to see this. They need to see us offer help to someone in a meaningful way, and then humbly and graciously receive help.

If this kind of thing is happening regularly it keeps us both from irresponsibly taking advantage of people, and from being proud.

When we are regularly offering help, we bring our own needs into perspective.

When we are regularly receiving help, we bring our self-sufficiency into perspective.

The next time someone offers you help, stop yourself before giving a casual “No.” Accept the help, and then let them know what they can tangibly do to relieve your pressures.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2).

What are some unique ways you have given or received help?


  1. Weird. I just submitted a guest post about this very thing! Receiving help allows us to keep grace in our hearts in a tangible way. We experience grace in the every day, which helps us appreciate the grace extended to us by our Father.

  2. Johanna, this was really good for me to read. Despite my obvious (or not-so, perhaps) health limitations, I have a really hard time asking people for help. Which results in me pushing too far, and others thinking I can do more than I really should. If that makes sense.

    If they notice on their own, and offer help, I have no problem accepting. It’s stepping out and speaking up for myself that’s hard. I feel like the squeaky wheel. Like, why can’t I pull my own weight — be “self-sufficient” as you say. I totally relate to your story of needing milk — how can I ask for something so small, when others have such huge needs?

    Convicting. Thought-provoking. Prayer-inducing.
    Thanks for sharing it.

  3. Yeah, I definitely have trouble asking for or accepting help. And pride sums it up quite nicely…though I hate to admit it. I like your explanation of refusing help as robbing both the person offering it and our families.

  4. This post brought tears to my eyes. Today I am feeling like that worn out home school mama who would love that cup of coffee if for no other reason than to know that someone thought of me today. On days like this, I find that offering help to someone else brings me a sense of peace, grace and humility. Thanks for the encouragement and I hope this post inspires many!

    • Rebecca, I wish I could be the one to come over and bring you that cup of coffee. I agree, though, turning it around to bless others really helps my spirits.

  5. Beautifully put. It is so important to receive as well as to give help.

  6. That was an excellent post ! So true ! I’ve just recently experienced lots of help from church ladies with my 5th pregnancy and delivery and though it was humbling, I’ve learned a lot about being on the receiving end. And yes, like you said, the whole concept of accepting help really is the heart of the Gospel of grace.
    I was so impressed a few months ago when I saw this video : Even without being a Christian, this guy “gets it”. Yes, the Gospel is sooo relevant to today’s society and culture, if only they would open their eyes to it !

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