Giving and Receiving Help Within Community
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.
1 Peter 4:10 NIV
Let’s pretend that we are getting to know each other at a support group for Christian women struggling with various issues. Such groups exist, but they’re sometimes called Bible studies and mommy play-dates. However, in such a gathering you’ll rarely hear a confession like this: “Hi, I’m Jasmin, and I struggle to accept help from others.” A collective head-nod would follow and polite murmurs would ripple through the gathered crowd of fellow women who also struggle with this same thing — graciously accepting help from others.
This confession hits home. While most of us wouldn’t hesitate to help a fellow sister in need, it is harder for us to admit that we ourselves need help. We tell ourselves, helping someone else is great. After all, they are the one in need, not me. Phew, I’ve still got this!
I’ve yet to meet a woman who just loves being on the receiving end of help. I’m working on becoming her.
Women like to be known as capable, and I’m no exception. But the past three years have been some of the most humbling of my life in this regard. My husband and I have had no shortage of needs and challenging circumstances: my first pregnancy during COVID-19 lockdowns, two rental property renovations while pregnant, two major moves, an emergency C-section, caring for a newborn, a journey with postpartum depression, growing our family from one to two children, four complete job changes for my husband, multiple financial struggles, a car accident, a snowmobile accident, a severely broken leg … and, well … I could go on. The compilation of these circumstances has certainly worn down my resolve that “I can do it on my own, thank you very much!” Trust me, I tried. And I was falling apart at the seams. In spite of the fear that I would appear weak and needy, there was no other way to get through. And besides, I was weak and needy!
Pride is never more dangerous than when it convinces us that drowning is better than grabbing hold of a rescuing hand when offered. (I speak from experience.) And although we may maintain an appearance of strength by doing life alone, isolation actually makes us weak and vulnerable, as described in Ecclesiastes 4:9–10 ESV. This verse is very familiar to us, but perhaps seldom applied before we find ourselves in a time of need. “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!”
Sometimes there really is too much for us to handle alone. And even if we could do everything on our own, that’s not how God designed community to work. I can testify to the incredible gift of women serving other women with the love of Christ, as I’ve often been a grateful recipient.
The following stories demonstrate the diverse ways that women have shared their lives with me, serving my family with smiles on their faces and with eager hearts. No two women were the same and no two offers of help were the same. Some were new friends, some old. But the most amazing thing? Every woman who loved on my family was available at just the right time, for just the right purpose. God lovingly governed the lives of these women and inspired them to move on our behalf, being “faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Pet. 4:10 NIV).
I hope that these examples can encourage and inspire us all to consider how we might open our homes and hearts to the women around us, inviting them into our struggles and sharing in theirs, so that when we feel weak — which is inevitable — we will not be alone. What an incredibly beautiful picture of biblical community!
“…Encourage one another and build one another up…”
1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV
Advice and Wisdom
She was a seasoned mother of four and a newer friend to me when she showed up at the door of our townhouse with a box of donuts, a baby gift, and a giant hug — with all of her kids in tow! Donuts aside, I knew she had come for a different reason — I was discouraged. I had been feeling very overwhelmed in the early weeks of caring for a new baby after recovering from emergency C-section surgery. I was wearing a giant, oversized sweater with spit-up on the shoulder, and my face and feet were swollen from everything my body had just gone through. I felt like a mess, but she didn’t give it a second thought. She swooped in, popped the box of donuts on the table (to which her kiddos and my older son flocked like pigeons on a pile of breadcrumbs), and scooped up my new son in her arms, rocking him with expert skill and making me feel instantly at ease.
She then proceeded to shower me with words of encouragement — beautiful words about the blessing of new things, the challenges that come with motherhood, and the accompanying grace God gives in all seasons, along with some practical words of wisdom from her own three C-section births. I could literally feel the tension leave my body as her words washed over my weary heart. I felt assured. It would be okay. These gracious words spoken over me were “honey, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones” (Prov. 16:24) and the refreshment that my spirit needed in that moment.
Words of Encouragement
Lovingly written words are also such a balm, like the note that a sweet friend left on my counter alongside soup and biscuits that she delivered shortly after my husband broke his leg this winter: “Just wanted to take a second to remind you how loved you are! When things feel overwhelming please know we are here to help! We are praying for God to heal Mike’s leg and for His mercies for all of you as you get through these next weeks! We also pray that there would be beauty in this trial and that you would see God’s hand at work through it all! Love you guys!” Although her soup and biscuits were delicious, the words of that note lingered with me long after the food was devoured. These words of encouragement, especially the prayer that there would be “beauty in this trial” stayed with me, and the urging to look for that beauty became my motivation during the long weeks of caring for my invalid husband and two busy kiddos.
And guess what? Beauty was found amidst the hardship! I may not have thought to seek it out if not for those sweet words penned on a scrap piece of paper.
“…Encourage the fainthearted, help the weak … Always seek to do good to one another…”
1 Thessalonians 5:14–15 ESV
Planning and Preparation
We were approaching our son Charlie’s first birthday, and I was struggling with postpartum depression. Basic decision-making had become a real struggle. I was anxious, deeply sad, and exhausted. I wanted to host a birthday bash to celebrate Charlie, but I was constantly in tears trying to process all of the decisions that needed to be made. I was on the verge of completely abandoning the idea when a sweet sister in Christ asked me at church how I was doing. I burst into tears, blubbering about birthday party woes and something about being a giant failure. She hugged me and told me she was praying for me, and we both went home. The next day she texted me to offer to organize Charlie’s birthday party on my behalf. I protested (of course) because I felt like I should be able to do it, even though I clearly couldn’t. I finally caved to her amazing offer.
She asked me some questions to better understand what kind of party I wanted, and then she told me that she would take care of everything — I would just need to send the invitations and decide how much money I wanted to spend. So I sent the invitations, gave her a budget, and accepted her kindness. On the day of the party, she showed up with a car full of food, decorating supplies, and her teenage daughter. They set up a beautiful food table, decorated the outdoor picnic shelter I had rented, and gave me enough mental freedom to actually enjoy a day that I had been dreading and fretting over for weeks. It meant more to me than I could say. Throwing beautiful parties was what she loved to do, and she truly excelled at it! (She also took one of my favorite family photos on the same day — something I will cherish forever!)
I stared at my tiny, terribly organized pantry, which was for some reason causing me no end of grief. I used it many times a day and could never easily find what I needed. And much to my chagrin, my ever-present pantry disarray seemed to signify how disorganized my life felt at the time. I remembered that a new friend had started a business helping people organize their homes. Our sons were in the same kindergarten class, and she and her family had just started to attend the same church as us, but beyond her organizing skills I didn’t know very much about her. Even though I didn’t have a lot of spare funds for such a project, and I hardly knew her, I texted her a picture of my pantry to see if she had any advice for me. To my surprise she said, “I’ll be right over!” and showed up at my door less than an hour later with armfuls of plastic bins of different types and sizes. She zipped over to the pantry and began to disassemble it onto the floor. I watched in amazement as she took the pantry apart and put it all back together in neatly organized storage bins, making perfect sense of my pantry problem in short order. I asked her what I could pay her, and she waved the suggestion away. She didn’t want any money; she had just come to help me. I was blown away.
That pantry project was the start of a friendship that now, just a year later, is one of the dearest in my life. She has come to my rescue with practical solutions to head-scratching problems many times since; problem-solving is her gift and she loves to share it!
“[She] is well known for … showing hospitality, washing the feet of the lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.”
1 Timothy 5:10 NIV
I have been blessed to have a precious “bosom friend” who is very gracious with her time, opening her home for visits with anyone who might need to pour out their heart to a loving, listening ear. I have done so many times — sometimes on very short notice. She lives on an acreage with a smattering of animals, six children whom she homeschools, and plenty of responsibilities to tend to. And yet, she always leaves an open door for anyone who might need to sit on “the crying couch” in her living room, which often lives up to its namesake.
This gift of time and attentiveness cannot be underestimated for bringing restoration to an overwhelmed heart. Her home is a busy place, full of the evidences of children living, crafting, eating, learning, and playing. And while her home might not be spotless, the love in it is spot-on! A delicious coffee is provided, focused attention is given, hugs are doled out generously, and good conversation always results amid the interruptions of curious, lively children coming and going. In this home, one never feels hurried to leave. The sense of welcome is poignant and has left a lasting impression on me as I have sat, cried, laughed, eaten, and visited with this unique and lovely friend over many years. The gift of her time and of her shared life has brought joy to my own life too many times to count. When I leave this place, I am often returning to the same challenging circumstances that were troubling me when I came, but my heart is lighter, and there is a bounce in my step. The gift of her time has buoyed my heart to return home with renewed hope, and what an amazing blessing that is.
“Generously give … Freely open your hand.”
Deuteronomy 15:10–11 NASB
I have a long-time friend whose love is frequently displayed in deliveries of yummy food — offered graciously in any crisis — and sometimes gift bags left unceremoniously on the front step full of treats for me or my boys, often both. Flowers, books, coloring pages, bath bombs, candles … her gifts to our family are always full of care in every detail. Her meal packages take into account special dietary needs and preferences and are prepared with special thought for the receiver. And it’s not just our family who receives this careful attention. Many families in our community — too numerous to count — have received meals and gifts from her. This speaks volumes about her heart for those in need. And while she may be a woman of fewer words, introverted, gentle, and not “showy” in the slightest — her actions say all that needs to be said.
. . .
Each of us has a way in which we might be more naturally inclined to serve, and you’ll notice from the examples I’ve shared that every woman in my life had different God-given strengths to minister to those around her. Personally, I would be far more inclined to sit and encourage a friend over coffee or send a note by text or in the mail — but if I’m honest, making somebody a meal or organizing their pantry doesn’t usually pop into my mind!
Are you listening to God’s leading in this area of your life?
How might He use the unique gifts He’s given you to support and strengthen other women around you? Can you give the gift of your words, practical service, quality time, or a lovingly packaged gift of food or other treats?
Or, how might He be wanting to humble you — and at the same time bless a sister in Christ — by allowing her to serve you in a time of need? Yes, you can be a blessing by accepting help, as much as giving it!
A biblical community of women committed to loving and serving each other is a gift of unknown value — that is, if we can humble ourselves to accept it, as well as noticing others in need of our help. God generously provided women with unique strengths to minister to my family at such significant times in my life and in such astounding ways that I will never be the same! I wholeheartedly encourage you to embrace the opportunity to impact the life of a sister in Christ the same way.
This article was originally published in Issue 39.
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