I can remember the instance so very clearly. I was at a discount grocery store, doing my biweekly grocery shopping for our family of seven, so you can imagine what my cart looked like. It was near closing time, and I had made my way to the register without anything falling out of the cart or spilling onto the ground. After I had unloaded about half of my items on the conveyer belt, I noticed the woman behind me—a complete stranger—with only a handful of items in her arms. I thought, “I should have let her go in front of me.” I was already feeling a bit awkward—as I kept piling my load of groceries on the belt—and sweaty as the florescent lights seemed to beam down on my face.
“I like your shoes,” she said. I looked down and was shocked that I actually put on decent shoes for this late night shopping trip, and I thanked her, mumbling something about where I had bought them. When I was finished paying, I began to bag my groceries. The woman was finished in no time, and I was still fumbling through my items, trying to locate the eggs so they wouldn’t mistakenly get placed on the bottom of my cart. At that point, she uttered four words that resonate in my mind to this very day. Those words were, “Can I help you?” Can she help me? I didn’t even think twice and quickly blurted out, “No, no, that’s okay, I’m fine.” The lights dimmed in the store and all the remaining customers left, including the nice woman. And I was still standing there bagging my own groceries. Alone. “Why was it impossible for me to let her help me bag my groceries?” I thought. Why couldn’t I have simply said, “Yes”?
The reality of my life is that I spend most of my time with little people who rely on me for their every need, every day, all day long. There are short breaks when my husband gets home from work, or on week-ends when we are all together, but still– on those occasions– I am basically still taking care of everybody. I’ve kind of been programmed to do everything independent of others. The up side to this is that I feel accomplished. I feel as if I’ve done my job as a mom and a wife, if I take care of every last detail, on my own, sans help. The down side to this is that I am exhausted by the end of the day. AND, if I have my hands in all the details, I’ve not left room for the hand of the Almighty to move. While He’s purposed me to be this helper to my family, He alone is The Helper. He longs to help me. But, just like in the grocery store that night, I have trouble receiving that help. Major trouble. Oh, I can offer other people as much help as they need. I can make ten breakfast casseroles for the homebound, babysit a friend’s crying kid, even do a late night coffee run. I can help others. But when I say, “Yes, please help me,” this means I am on the receiving end of the help. Saying yes means I’m weak. Saying yes means I don’t have it all together. Saying yes means I’m not in control. Saying yes means I need— someone else. And, saying yes means I’m humble enough to receive it. Ouch. The reality is, if I can’t receive help, my heart has become proud. I am challenged to admit that I am not holding the world on my shoulders—because only He can do that. And He is the One who sees my needs—sees my lack—and sends His helpers to bear the burden of life that I too often try to carry myself.
In the scriptures, in the book of First Corinthians, a man named Paul said, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, does not boast, is not proud.” Love is not proud. To make the shift from pride to humility is all about opening up the heart and allowing the love of Almighty Father God to consume and fill all the places– even the places where pride may want sneak in and dwell. Even those places can be filled by His all consuming and great love. In Psalm 46, David reminds us that God Himself is “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” He is the one reaching down His love to us, in very identifiable ways. God sent help to me that night. Help that I was too proud to receive. Who knows? The woman at the store very well could have been an angel, sent to bless me. So next time, by God’s grace, I will humble myself and take the help. With five kids, I certainly could use it.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain undeniable rights. That among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is included in The Declaration of Independence (US 1776.)”
The truth is the world got it wrong. Something that God quickly began to teach me as I attempted to watch the well-known movie The Pursuit of Happiness. As we embark on what is easily the most hostile election year to date, it is evident we need to pursue what Jesus instructed from the first day of his ministry. We need to pursue the Kingdom of God.
As Christians, too often we associate ourselves and our circumstances with the pursuit of things that make us happy or feel good. This takes us away from the purpose of God in our lives. Happiness by definition comes from the root word, hap – which means luck, chance, or fortune. This sets the way to create an idol in our lives, one that causes us to focus on the pleasures of life and the circumstances that surround them. Take note this is something God clearly speaks about in Isaiah 65:8-12. This is even true when it comes to the election and voting for a person who makes you feel good, or even secure and happy, not necessarily what lines up with the will of God.
Does that mean that God’s will is for us to never be happy? By no means. Quite the opposite in fact. God wants us to be happy. Jesus preaches it very much so in Matt 5:3-12 commonly known as the beatitudes. Take note, however, this sermon is preached as characteristics for those who have entered into the Kingdom of God (Matthew 4:17). ‘Blessed’ in Greek means happy and in Aramaic means prosperous. What does that mean for us? It means that in order to be really happy (blessed), we need to pursue God and His Kingdom. Deeper than that, seeking God, staying in His will, produces joy, and that is something that is not dependent on circumstances, it is indwelling and solely dependent upon God.