By Jonathan Decker, Clinical Director, LMFT
Believers and nonbelievers tend to agree that the story of Jesus Christ inspires people to lighten the burdens of others. One of his most influential teachings is that the “greatest among you shall be your servant” (Matthew 23:11). Practicing what he preached, Jesus reached out to the poor, the needy, and the sick. With tenderness and compassion he performed acts of healing and comfort. Many people try to follow this example, but sometimes overlook that Jesus also accepted, and even asked for, help from others.
Jesus gratefully allowed others to help him
Although Jesus lived his life, and gave it, for the benefit of others, we mustn’t get the idea that trying to be more like him demands that we always be the giver, and not the receiver, of service. There are many instances of Jesus asking for help and/or gratefully receiving it when it was offered. While in Gethsemane he asked the Father to deliver him from his suffering if possible. Although he willingly suffered the punishment for humanity’s sins, he did not turn away the angel that was sent to comfort him.
An exhausted Jesus accepted Simon’s help with carrying the cross. The donkey he rode into Jerusalem was borrowed. When he fed the crowd of five thousand it was with loaves and fishes offered by a small boy. Christ lovingly allowed the penitent woman to anoint his head and wash his feet in her tears.
“Who Will Love Him More” by James Seward
There are many more examples. Accepting help from others was not in any way a display of weakness on Jesus’ part. He understood that allowing others to serve him provided an opportunity for them both to express love and build a relationship, just as it did when he served them.
How receiving help allows us to grow
Dieter Uchtdorf, a religious leader admired by persons inside and outside of his faith, explained that “we all know that ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive,’ but I wonder if sometimes we disregard or even disparage the importance of being a good receiver…Sometimes people even get to the point where they can’t receive a gift or, for that matter, even a compliment without embarrassment or feelings of indebtedness…
“Every gift that is offered to us—especially a gift that comes from the heart—is an opportunity to build or strengthen a bond of love. When we are good and grateful receivers, we open a door to deepen our relationship with the giver of the gift…Have we received these gifts with humble gratitude, with joy? Or do we reject them out of pride or a false sense of independence?” (Christmas Devotional 2012, “The Good and Grateful Receiver”).
Far too often our own relationships are damaged by our “pride [and] false sense of independence.” In my therapy practice I’ve seen marriages rocked to the core because couples waited too long to ask for help. I’ve seen unnecessary rifts caused when family members won’t allow each other to show love through service or to express praise and gratitude.
Some say that they don’t ask for help because they “don’t want to be a burden.” In doing so they prevent an opportunity for others to do what Jesus would do, namely, share and lighten the burdens of others, providing comfort and strength. They also end up without support and aide that can remove, or at least alleviate, their suffering.
Simon helps Jesus carry the cross; The Passion of the Christ.
As we consider the story and life of Jesus Christ, let’s remember his example, not just in helping others, but in asking for and accepting help from others. Let’s remember that he displayed humble gratitude, not prideful rejection. His story has resonated through the ages because he knew how to love through giving, and just as importantly receiving, service and kindness.
Jonathan Decker is the clinical director of Your Family Expert. He is a licensed marriage and family therapist, husband, and father of five. Jonathan earned a masters degree in family therapy from Auburn University as well as a bachelor’s degree in clinical psychology from Brigham Young University. He is an actor, author, and television personality.