We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in Him, and He will continue to rescue us.
2 Corinthians 1:8-10 (NLT)
What three words are the hardest to say? It’s not “I Love You”. Contrary to popular belief, with the exceptions of several of my ex-boyfriends and a recent contestant on ‘The Bachelor’, saying “I love you” is easy-peasy. Romance stories are the most popular books on the planet. Movies trumpet the benefit of saying these words to spouses, children, pets and cute people you’ve only known for a day. “I Love You” even has its own holiday!
It’s also not “I Forgive You”. As hard as these words are to say, they imply that we still have something left to give. But what about when we have nothing left? What words come out when we are totally gutted by disaster: when we’ve been fired, or told the unthinkable diagnosis, or learned our darkest shame has been publicly exposed, or when we’ve been betrayed, broken, evicted or abandoned? When we are, as Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it.”
People in general like being in a position to give help rather than get it. This isn’t a bad thing: we’re a giving bunch in this country, so much so that we gave over three hundred billion dollars to charity in 2012. Being self-sufficient and generous are glorious, God-blessed qualities. In fact, Paul quotes Jesus as saying “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). It’s a blessing to give to others, but I think there is also another, darker side to not wanting to be in a position to ask for help.
We’re afraid no one will answer.
Paul continues to tell the Corinthians how his impossible trials helped him to rely on God, who raises the dead”. He goes on to document how God saved him from mortal danger, and to proclaim that He would rescue him again. The apostle placed his confidence in God, and the Lord answered and continued to answer. It wasn’t what he asked, it was who he asked it to that mattered.
For Paul and for us, “Please, help me” isn’t the end. It’s the beginning.