When my son was much younger, he came home one day with instructions from his teacher to review his double-digit addition skills. When we sat together at the kitchen table to work practice problems, he slouched over the page with his pencil hovering over the first problem for several minutes before he looked up at me with uncertainty.
“Do you need help?” I asked.
Clearly he did, but he shook his head and continued pondering the problem through the blur of tears filling his eyes. It seemed he thought that the answers would come flooding out if he sat there long enough. I imagined him sitting at his desk at school doing much the same thing, with the hope that his silence and eager pencil would fool his teacher into believing he knew what he was doing.
I gently prodded: “It seems like you don’t know how to answer these problems. Have you asked your teacher for help with this?” He shook his head and burst into tears, telling me he was afraid to ask for help.
I thought later about the reassurance I gave him: “Everyone has to ask for help sometimes.” Initially, it had seemed silly to me that Will chose to sit through an entire class period of confusion and panic rather than simply raising his hand to ask for help.
But then I considered how much I am like my son.
When life is emotionally difficult or I am struggling with sin, I’m afraid to raise my hand and ask for help. I’m afraid to draw attention to myself, admit my weaknesses, or confess my need for fear of inconveniencing others or being rejected. I tell myself just to push through it, that I'll figure it out somehow. So often I sit with tears in my eyes and a pencil poised over a problem I don’t know how to solve while the Lord patiently questions why I haven’t asked for help. “You have asked Me for help, but have you asked the loving, wise people I’ve purposefully put in your life? They are my answer to you.”
We all, at some point, are overwhelmed with burdens that are too heavy for us each to carry alone. Sometimes God acts in our lives without using others to meet our needs, but His normal mode of operation is to use wise believers in the Body of Christ—His church— to help us understand, grow, and grieve. The catch is that we cannot receive their ministry unless we raise our hands and ask for help.
We find it difficult enough to ask for help with our children or to ask for prayer, we can't even imagine what it would be like to ask for help from others to name our shame, confess the sin that caused it, and walk through repentance toward healing. We were long ago silenced by our shame, and we've too often determined that we're sufficient in ourselves to mute what screams inside of us or to change ourselves.
There is a woman in Scripture who raised her hand and asked for help: the woman who'd been bleeding for 12 years. Her ask for help seems a last-ditch effort; she simply reached out her hand to touch Jesus' hem and receive freedom from what'd plagued her, believing by faith He could heal. And He did, but not without also persistently questioning the surrounding crowd for the name of the one who'd touched Him. He already knew who it had been, but He asked that she speak it out loud. Speak her name. Speak her request. Speak about her need, of why she touched Him. He wanted her to speak her darkest shame out loud so He could proclaim His healing. It was if He was saying to all of us: "See what I can do? See how far my healing can go?"
What keeps us from raising our hands? We’ve misunderstood the church to be a group of put-together people, rather than a gathering of broken, needy people collecting together to touch the grace-hem of God's. Sometimes we feel the pressure to have everything under control. Or perhaps we’ve experienced rejection and condemnation from those in the church who appear religious, but lack an understanding of their true brokenness and need. Mostly, I don't think we know that healing comes from naming out loud and from reaching out for help. We might rather drown in our self-sufficiency than admit we need something outside of ourselves.
But the help and healing are available when we raise our hands.