I want to earn a master’s degree in Christian Ministry and Leadership with an emphasis in pastoral care in counseling –– I can’t ask others for help if I want to counsel them, right? Wrong.
Actually, some of the best counselors know how to help others because someone helped them first. Some of the most servant-hearted people know how to serve because someone else set a great example –– Jesus.
Remember the foot washing passage (John 13)? Simon Peter told Jesus, “No, you shall never wash my feet.” A lot of Christians remember what Peter said, but what Jesus says is more significant. “Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.” As the Son of God, Jesus could’ve asked everyone to serve him, but he humbled himself and helped others in the community.
Part of serving the church includes helping others in need, whether they need physical things like food or spiritual support (Matthew 25:44-45, Philippians 2:4, 1 Cor. 12:25-27). The Bible calls everyone to bear each other’s burdens and encourage those who struggle in their faith (Gal. 6:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:12-15).
Even the most independent Christians cannot walk alone in this world. The Bible frequently discusses the importance of community support and the negative effects of isolation (Proverbs 18:1,27:7; Eccl. 4:12; 1 Cor. 12:14). God created each person with specific gifts to carry out his purpose, and isolating ourselves can hinder others from accomplishing this task if God calls the church to support each other (Romans 12:6).
Despite these Scriptures, I wanted to accomplish everything on my own because I didn’t want to burden anyone with my personal struggles. However, I later realized that contradicts the purpose of church community. Pride also prevented me from reaching out toward others. Many friends, family, and peers have told me that I am strong, so I have felt pressured to maintain this image.
God gave me yet another insight after I realized I struggled with pride. The strongest people received help from others. I watched Mulan frequently as a little girl. When others asked my why she was my favorite Disney princess, I told them it was because of her courage and independence. She may have developed her master plan alone, but Li Shang, Mushu, Ling, Yao, Chien-Po, Cricket, and Khan (her noble steed) all aided her in some way. Mulan couldn’t even fully help herself.
I first realized I developed health problems in May last year (2016), but I didn’t reach out for help until early July last year because I didn’t want to become overly concerned about my health or worry others around me. However, I eventually ended up in urgent care because my stomach problems worsened as the summer continued. I eventually told my roommate, suitemates, and a couple friends from camp about the health problems I developed. Things really spiraled out of control in November due to stressful class projects and fall midterms, so I almost dropped out of school mid-semester. That’s when I let another close friend, as well as Biola, know about my condition.
I almost didn’t come back for the spring semester, but I thought winter break provided enough downtime for my body to catch up. Everything started out fine –– that is, until I realized I overcommitted this semester given my current state of health. I started drowning in assignments and work hours, so my weak body could not keep up and I started having panic attacks. Once again, I nearly took a medical leave –– twice, actually. Two weeks ago, I let three other close friends know all the details about my medical struggles. These friends only knew the barebone problems (I basically told them I had an autoimmune condition and had to follow a severely restrictive diet so I didn’t get stomachaches), but now they know the entire situation.
Although I trust these three amazing friends, who clearly share God’s love with others, opening myself up to them (after I already dealt with these problems for 10 months) was excruciating. Exposing myself like that opened raw wounds from my high school days that only healed last year. I formed friendships in high school with people whom I thought I could trust, but these people shared secrets I trusted them with and turned my other friends against me. Trusting others still doesn’t come easy for me, so I choose the people I confide in very carefully. God assured me that these women will not harm me and that he placed them in my life to support me in every way they can.
Don’t make the same mistake I did and wait too long to ask for help. Bottling up everything inside caused me to develop anxiety and then depression because nothing in my life worked out the way I wanted, yet I kept these thoughts to myself. These thoughts eventually led to feelings of hopelessness (which, thankfully, I could never act on).
On another note, it is imperative to let someone know if you struggle with suicidal thoughts. Those are not normal and arise when you try to handle everything yourself. It’s easy to become stuck in our own little world because we cannot see the bigger picture. However, others can see the whole masterpiece God’s creating in our lives and can help us through life’s darkest valleys. It’s not easy and we have to remain patient with God’s plan for our lives, but I’ve learned that he never fails and always has my back.
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness or cowardice. It’s demonstrates maturity and desire to place your physical and mental health before your personal reputation. You are not a burden –– you are a child created in God’s image and belong to a family that cares for you. Ask for help now and don’t wait until it’s too late.