When I was in college I had an Ethics professor who taught that help isn’t always what it seems to be. This was her example:
You’re driving down the road. You see your friend running along the side of the road toward his house, clearly tired, sweating, breathing heavily, obviously struggling. You pull over and yell, “Hop in, I’ll give you a lift!”
But your friend waves you off. You insist. But he insists more.
You drive off, a little hurt and more than a little perplexed that your friend wouldn’t accept your offer of help that he clearly could have used.
It may turn out that this is your friend’s new exercise program. He hasn’t mentioned it to you yet, but he is determined to develop the speed, strength, endurance and cardiac capacity that he’ll need to pass the fitness test to become a trained wilderness rescue volunteer. His exercise regimen is grueling. But the help he could most use is for you to encourage him to keep going, not to offer him a ride. “Keep it up! I know you can do this! Just another 2 miles today and then you can rest. Don’t slow down. Go! Go! Go!”
If you keep giving him a ride every day he’ll never grow stronger. You need to encourage him to struggle, not ease his way.
I’m reminded of this because, on a friend’s recommendation, I recently watched the movie, “The Passion of the Christ.” I hadn’t ever seen it before. (Warning: this movie depicts graphic violence and the crucifixion of Jesus — it is extremely difficult to watch – be forewarned.)
My friend was absolutely correct – I did need to see it. Why? Because – true confession – I have not wanted to really come to terms with the magnitude of Jesus’s sacrifice for my salvation. I didn’t want to think about it. And in order to grow as a Christian I do need to come to terms with that truth, not just know it as a distant fact that I try not to think about.
A fly on the wall would have seen me sobbing and wretching and pained by the suffering of Jesus to the very depth of my soul, and wondered why I didn’t just turn the movie off.
But I didn’t because I knew I needed it in order to grow as a Christian… as much as the would-be wilderness rescue volunteer needs to push his body to its limits in order to increase his endurance.
Sometimes the best way to help someone may be to trust the Holy Spirit to develop them, rather than helping them avoid truths they find difficult to face.
God bless my friend who already understands this.