I love to read books that are written from both a real and revealing perspective.
Real, in that there is absolutely no one who stands unblemished, undamaged, and unmarred from life’s experiences. No pretending is allowed. We have all been wounded by another’s actions, as well as our own. It’s a fact, Jack.
Revealing, because as believers in Christ—those who acknowledge their sin and Savior—have been given access to the wisdom and love of God. A true Christian will exhibit the fruit of Spirit in many areas of their life. Not perfectly, but markedly different than the world (see Galatians 5:22-23; “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control”).
This leaves each of us with a responsibility to help others. It is not reserved for the pastor alone, but a community of everyday friends known as the local church. Dr. Edward Welch writes in his book Side By Side: Walking with Others in Wisdom and Love:1
God is pleased to use ordinary people, ordinary conversations, and extraordinary and wise love to do most of the heavy lifting in His kingdom. The basic idea is that those who help best are the ones who both need and give help.
However, people will often shy away from asking for help, or offering to help. In part, because they do not want to be vulnerable to others. To ask (and to offer) requires the person to be candid (not concealed) with another. Gulp.
So I am writing for people like me, who are willing to move toward other struggling people but are not confident that [we] can say or do anything very helpful. If you feel quite weak and ordinary—if you feel like a mess but have the Spirit—you have the right credentials. You are one of the ordinary people God uses to help others.
2 REASONS WHY YOU ARE QUALIFIED TO HELP OTHERS
Welch then goes on to explain why everyday, regular people are the perfect “help” system. Imagine if God only used experts. Then who’s wisdom would they boast in? Instead, He works through friends like you and me. This is the main theme of the book.
Friends are the best helpers. They come prepackaged with compassion and love. All they need is wisdom [God’s Word applied in the life of a believer], and that is available to everyone.
Personally, I’m a strong proponent of leveling the playing field in counseling. After all, it is level at the foot of the cross. Relationships are essential to communicating that you genuinely care. And as you read these two basic qualifications below, you’ll see there’s simply no excuse for not helping another in the body of Christ.
YOU ARE NEEDY
First we need to recognize that we all have issues. (Yes, every single one of us!)
We spend too much time concealing our neediness. We need to stop hiding. Being needy is our basic condition. There is no shame in it—it’s just the way it is. Understanding this, accepting it, and practicing it will make you a better helper.
He then goes on to explain that life is hard, our hearts are busy, and what it means to say “help” to the Lord and other people.
The best helpers are humble helpers who know their own weaknesses and their own sins… the goal is to become transparent and humble friends who are at ease with our neediness. We see our hardships and sin, speaking openly about them to the Lord, and are willing to ask others to pray for us.
YOU ARE NEEDED
Second, we must remember that the goal is for each of us to walk together.
This is the way the church moves forward—through mutual love and care. Such expression of love was less obvious in the Old Testament, when people relied on kings, leaders, and prophets, but when the Spirit was given at Pentecost—everything changed. Suddenly, ordinary people had extraordinary impact.
The author then explains that the result of this power, this impact, this spiritual process of growth, is known as “progressive sanctification.”
Spiritual growth follows the pattern we see all around us. Growth is barely perceptible from day to day. The baby has gained only an ounce or two, which is too little to be seen with the naked eye. The flower planted yesterday looks very much the same today.
And what if the baby gets sick or the flower is under-watered? For a moment, they might seem to be moving in the wrong direction. But week to week we can usually see something—an emerging double chin, a bulge on a stem that will become another flower.
A SUPERB STORY
I loved this book, and you will too. Welch’s words are girded by the Word of God. My heart was convicted and encouraged along the way. At the end of this reading journey the author told a story that superbly summed it up for me:
A man was sitting across the table from his friend, talking about important matters—a recent confession of daily pornography, a hard marriage, financial problems. As they were slogging through the debris, the man sensed that something was askew. He didn’t like the way that he and his friend were sitting. So he got up and moved his chair so that he was next to rather than across from his friend, and—everything changed.
Information became much more personal, tears flowed, prayer was natural. Side by side is most suitable for helping. We nudge the person beside us with affection; we hold hands; we put our hand on a shoulder; we put our arm around the one next to us.
We notice the same positioning in Jesus’ life on earth. He was the teacher—of that there is no doubt—but He is Immanuel, God with us, so He was always eating a meal with people, sitting side by side. This was His way of saying to the invitees, “You are My people. I identify with you; you can identify with Me.”
1 Welch, Edward T. Side By Side: Walking with Others in Wisdom and Love (Wheaton: Crossway, 2015). 11, 13, 15, 65, 161.