When Helping Someone Is to Your Detriment

A few weeks ago, our family had just wrapped up a wonderful dinner at Mig’s when our night changed dramatically.  As we were traveling back home, we witnessed a bad wreck at the intersection of Hwy 72 and Cokesbury Rd.  One car had pulled out in front of another and the initial impact was pretty bad.

As in most crises, my wife yells, “Travis!  Do something!”  While I am honored by her belief in my apparent endless capabilities in crisis situations, I was unsure of what to do in this moment.  I pulled into the Urgent Care spot a few hundred yards away, and ran back to the site dodging cars in the dark.

As I approached the scene, there was smoke and glass everywhere.  There were people who were yelling and crying, but I couldn’t make sense of who was with who and what all was going on.  I went to the car which looked the worst and saw no one in there, and then went to the nearest person I could find.  There was one lady that was holding another lady up as she was screaming in pain.  I ran up to them and asked, “Are you OK?”  The lady basically handed this other woman off to me and then walked away.  I figured that she was from the other car, but once someone else was there, she gave me the responsibility to watch over this other lady.

She was screaming and hobbling around saying that her knee was hurt.  As I tried to get her to calm down and get her seated on the ground, she was a bit hysterical.  If you would have driven by, it would almost have looked as if we were wrestling each other.  Honestly, we were, and she was a strong lady hyped up on adrenaline at the moment.  She was in shock and didn’t know what to do, and I basically had to manhandle her to sit her down on the ground.

Once I got her down on the ground, she was screaming about her knee which was turned unnaturally.  As I started lifting her sweatpants above her knee, I saw a massive surgical scar on the hurt knee.

Overwhelmed with pain, she was screaming at me as I tried to reassure her the ambulance was on its way.  I then looked at her and said, “I am a minister.  I’m not gonna leave you.  I’m praying for you, and we are going to get through this.  Now I want you to squeeze my hand as much as it hurts.  I promise you are not gonna…”

I never got the last words of that sentence out of my mouth before she made me regret ever giving her that option.  While I had one hand bracing her back, she was gripping onto my other hand.  In that moment, she took her free hand and grabbed and ripped my shirt pulling me closer to her.  I can only imagine the many passerbys’ view of our situation.  In pain, she kept working against me and was truly wearing me out.

As she began to cry and scream into my chest as I knelt in glass and asphalt, the ambulance arrived.  One of the paramedics began working on her.  One paramedic never even realized that one of her pastor’s was one of the ones helping until minutes later.  She looked at me and said, “What are you doing here?!”

We got her situated and she began the process of getting the help she needed.

I went back to my family watching a DVD in the minivan (this time I wasn’t running).  I got back in the van, and Obie looked up and said, “Dad, did you go somewhere?”

“Umm…yep.  Son, I’ve been gone for a while now.”

“What were you doing?”

Ah, boys.

Your Help & My Detriment

That night as I tried to unwind from the situation, I was completely sore.  The next morning, I was hurting in places I didn’t know existed.  That woman wore me out.

As I prayed for her that morning, I had the thought that, oftentimes, to help someone else can be to your detriment.  Sometimes helping someone actually hurts you.

We often glamorize helping someone in need and talk about how you will get more out of it.  That does happen sometimes.  But more often that not, the more I help people, the more it takes away from me if I’m being completely honest.

If I give someone money, I now have less.  If I give someone time to vent, I now have less time to be refreshed.  If I help someone in need, it often means that something will be taken away.  If I help someone through a serious problem, my stress goes up tremendously.

Do I gain something in return?  Sure, but that doesn’t mean you are the same.  I am forever different every time I give something away.

When the sick woman came to Jesus to be healed, he knew that power had gone out of him (Luke 8:46).  For the people to be ministered to by Jesus meant that he couldn’t properly mourn his cousin’s death (Matt. 14:13-14).  When Barnabas sold his personal field and gave all the money to the church, he no longer had that nest egg for a rainy day (Acts 4:36-37).  When I bear another’s burdens, that means that I now have more burdens than before (Gal. 6:2).  When you give someone fold, drink, hospitality, clothing, medicine, and care (Matt. 25:35-40), you lose something that you previously had.

And that’s not a bad thing!

We weaken Christianity when we make it all about what we can get out of it.

Christianity was born when a righteous man died a vicious death in the place of unrighteous people like myself.  So why would we think that helping others should always leave a warm fuzzy in our hearts?  There are days when I am physically and emotionally exhausted from the needs I have encountered, and is that something to be unexpected?  We follow Jesus!  Yes, the benefit outweighs the consequence, but it always costs something when you give yourself away.

As I walked around for days completely “stove up,” it reminded me to pray for my new friend.  It caused me to be thankful that I was there for her in those moments, but I didn’t feel necessarily good because of it.  There was joy but not happiness.  I walked around with pain in my body and yet gratitude in my heart.

If you truly decide to help another, don’t do it for what you get out of it.  You may be surely disappointed.

Live like Jesus – help until it hurts, and then help some more.