Avoiding a Helper Smack Down

A small hand grasped the edge of my sleeping bag and pulled it away from my ear. Cold lips brushed my cheek as my three-year-old son whispered, “Mom, can we snuggle?”

I opened the top of my mummy bag, inviting him in. Wrapping him in my arms, I inhaled the scent of burnt marshmallows, followed by a hint of campfire smoke. My eyes began to close, cherishing the peaceful moment.

 “Mom,” Justin squirmed. “My finger hurts.”

I squinted, trying to find his finger in the dark. “Just give it to me, and we’ll make it all better. Remember what we do?”

As his shadow became focused, I gently took his hand, blew on his outstretched finger, rubbed it for three seconds, and kissed it. “All better, right?”

Our gimmick always worked to care for a busy three-year-old’s minor trips and spills. It was the perfect solution: quiet, immediate, no band-aid required. I sighed contentedly, secretly impressed that my mothering skills improved every day—even at midnight, at 8,000 feet, in a tent, with my husband snoring contentedly as my toddler threatened to wake the woods.

“Mom, it hurts worse.”

“Not possible. That’s how we always fix something painful.” I fluffed my pillow. “Fine, I’ll do it again.” I attempted to repeat the sequence, but Justin pulled back his chubby hand before I could kiss him. He began to whimper.

Finally convinced he might need something more practical, I pulled out a flashlight, only to discover an angry blister covering the top of his finger. I directed the light toward his tear-stained face. “What did you touch?”

“The marshmallow from the fire.”

I felt a jolt in my heart as I realized: His hurt is real.

From my removed standpoint, my fix-it method was an easy remedy. But it was better suited for imaginary aches and pains. In my hurry for a quick resolution, I hadn’t taken the time to address Justin’s problem—much less acknowledge his pain to find a compassionate way forward.

Right about now, you’re probably sympathizing with my son. Because you’ve gone to someone needing help, only to have them make it all about their needs, not yours.

Perhaps you’ve been through a hard season. You try to keep going as if everything is fine, but it’s not. As you continue holding yourself together, you hesitate to seek help and encouragement. You want to say things aloud to hear yourself speak about your part of the story. But you’ve learned the hard way—you can’t trust just anyone with your heart.

As helpers, we learn that our people depend on us. We believe our sense of duty keeps the world on its axis. But there are times when we can’t carry it all. An unexpected problem takes time and energy, creating stress between our needs and others’ expectations.

We want to change lanes and take the off-ramp to a rest stop, even momentarily. But it feels impossible. We listen to the voices urging us to stay on the necessary routes to fulfill their agendas. As soon as we signal things may change, conversations take a surprising turn.

These phrases may seem so familiar we just accept them. Our heart declares them as untrue, and yet…we’re tempted to believe them.

            “You knew what you were getting into.”

            “You don’t need to be so dramatic.”

            “It’s God’s plan.”

But phrases like these are what I call a “Helper Smackdown”. You’ve reached out for help but had your hand slapped away with a cliche.The pain is real. The rejection stings, and the disappointment runs deep. So you cut yourself off from the connection you crave. Doing hard things alone seems more manageable than having your feelings dismissed.

But God sees it differently.

He created us to infuse strength into each other, to repair what’s broken, and hold each other up. A time of fear turns into a spirit-filled moment when we recognize His presence … His guidance.

I’ve felt anxiety so deep that I didn’t know how to lift my head off my pillow. Maybe you have too. It may have been the ending of a relationship, a significant life change, or the loss of a dream. And friend, I understand how desperately you long for someone to hold you close, making you feel secure. That’s the right place to start seeking encouragement—surrounded by a miraculous love with no agenda.

In scripture we find what this kind of relationship can look like. In the first chapter of Luke, the angel Gabriel informs Mary of her miraculous pregnancy—she was carrying the Son of God. As part of his visit, he also shares with her another miracle—her elderly cousin, Elizabeth, is also pregnant. Mary immediately leaves home and travels 90 –miles to be with Elizabeth. Upon her arrival, the two women bonded because of their shared experiences and deep faith. The Holy Spirit filled the souls of both women.

Elizabeth exclaims the truth about Mary and her son the moment she sees her. Their dialogue would not have been possible without a miraculous love with no agenda. Elizabeth celebrates Mary’s faith and recognizes God’s presence in her situation. This confirmation encourages Mary and enables her to praise God.

You can find this same encouragement—conversations rich in empathy and devoid of judgment—with women sharing a common faith. The Holy Spirit leads these relationships. You may find this comfort with your cherished sister or even with a stranger. You will recognize when both of you let God rule in your hearts and your situations.

These faith-filled relationships allow us to feel safe enough to share our stories. We help and support each other by identifying God’s work in each other’s lives. Confirmation of God’s work allows us to let go of our fear and replace it with trust. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her! Luke 1:45 (NIV)

Friend, you don’t need to feel like a toasted marshmallow when the world melts down your tender heart. You may want to turn your sweetness into a protective shell, but cling to this truth instead. The Holy Spirit is ready to guide you to your person—the one He knew about from the beginning—the one He promised by telling you the story of two women finding encouragement in their faith and each other. He sees your desperate need for the warmth and security of trusted relationships.  And He reassures you, Blessed are you because you believe I will fulfill my promises to you.

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  1. Dear Danielle, your beautiful life experiences always fills my heart and brings me so much joy. Thank you, Maria (antique sister)

    • I’m having my first cup of coffee this morning in Scotland, and your comment started my day with a smile. You are truly my one and only Antique Sister! Thank you.


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