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Do Christians Do Self-Help?

Not really. Many Christians oppose self-help, fearing it means less reliance on God. But God often works through people and gives you the tools you need for an abundant life.


man on roof in flood
Man refuses human help; wants a miracle

It reminds me of the story of the man caught on the roof as the floods rose. He died and went to heaven and asked God why he didn't save him during the flood. God replied that he sent a warning to evacuate, a neighbour with a car, emergency workers with a motor boat, and even a helicopter. Yet the man He did not see these other offers of help as God-given miracles.  He refused this help because he believed God would save him with a miracle.


Do More than Leaving it in God's Hands

Yes, we pray and ask for God's help, protection, and guidance. But the Bible does not encourage us to sit idly by and wait for a miracle.

  • An idle person will suffer hunger (Proverbs 19:15)

  • A godly woman does not eat the bread of idleness (Proverbs 31:27)

  • Hard work brings profit (Proverbs 14:23)

  • Work with all your heart, as working for the Lord (Colossians 3:23)

  • Without counsel, plans fail; with advisors plans succeed (Proverbs 15:22)

  • Listen to advice and accept instruction to gain wisdom (Proverbs 19:20)


What is Christian self-help?

book cover
New Christian Self-Help

Christian self-help includes God, collaboration with others and doing the work we need to do toward healing. It's not all about you being a hero by yourself.


Christian self-help aims for spiritual health, wellness, and abundant life. It's not for the goal of wealth and self-gratification, or self-fulfillment.


Christian self-help improves your ability to accomplish God's call on your life and live so that you are able to fulfil God's purposes.


Christians are encouraged to share their faith to "help" people who are in desperate need of God, need of salvation, freedom, healing and hope. Telling a person they'll benefit if they become a Christian sounds a lot like Christianity offering self-help.


Even Christians who say that self-help is "not a thing" or that "self-healing is impossible" provide resources which are, in fact, self-help: community support, workbooks, journaling prompts, songs or scripture to focus on positive thoughts, practical tools to escape abuse, advice on setting boundaries.


Why do Christians Need Self-Help?

When you are in the church, you may hear teachings that sound a lot like self-sabotage:

  • Don't trust your instincts because you are a depraved human

  • Don't listen to your body because it will lead you to sin

  • Don't speak if you are a woman; your opinion is irrelevant to a man's decision

  • Your body is not your own; you have no authority over it, it's God's

  • Be perfect

  • Be selfless

  • Forget about your own needs; they are not valid

  • Think less of yourself and more of others

  • Be patient and forebearing when others abuse you; it is your cross to bear

  • Do nothing about injustice; leave it in God's hands


To be clear, I think these teachings are wrong. I do not believe they reflect God's will as presented in the Bible. The God of the Bible loves us desperately and will do anything to redeem us--over and over again. God cares about our well-being. And God wants us to care about our well-being.


These types of teachings are used to keep some people down and to prop others up in positions of power. Many of them are particularly used to silence and sideline women. A self-help book might actually empower a woman to stand up for herself.


We Need Nuanced Teachings on Humility, not Self-Loathing

Some Christians do not like themselves because they have learned through John Calvin's teachings that we are born depraved. C. S. Lewis seems to think a good form of humility is thinking of yourself less: not thinking about your wants, not paying attention to your needs, not voicing your needs, working for address them or advocating for justice. Perhaps we should wait and rely on others to imagine what we need. Perhaps what we should think less of ourself because our needs do not matter. We are worthless and therefore need nothing - not safety, protection, food, or water.

C S Lewis
C. S. Lewis quote: Think of yourself less










My response: If you think of yourself less, you will in fact think less of yourself.


So what does it mean when the Bible says to humble yourself before other people?

"For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 14:11.

"Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." Matthew 23:12


Humility means giving adequate thought to yourself so that you know your strengths and your weaknesses. It does not mean thinking less of yourself, having a low self-image or poor self-esteem. It means being fully self-aware. When you are self-aware, you will happily give the microphone to one who has more expertise in a given area. And you will happily take the microphone when you have expertise that you can share to help others.

quote
"Humility is self-awareness" - Erwin McManus

What about when the Bible says to humble yourself before God?

"Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up." James 4:10

“By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches and honor and life.” Proverbs 22:4.


We don't humble ourselves before God to show we are debased and unworthy. We humble ourselves before God because God is great and God is love and God will lift us up. God wants to lift us up, renew and restore us, provide healing and hope.


God Wants Our Well-Being

God is a loving parent. Even we, as human parents, know not to give a child a stone in place of bread (Matthew 7:9-11). We know that if we insult or beat a child, it will hurt them. God also wants to take care of us, love and nurture us. Sometimes God provides these helps through others. In fact, I believe it is God's preference. Rather than intervening supernaturally, it brings joy to God to see brothers and sisters living in harmony and unity (Psalm 133:1). Unity and harmony do not result from silencing the downtrodden. Unity and harmony requires a foundation of justice, lifting up the downtrodden. That's why Jesus tells us all to love one another and to serve one another.


The Bible talks about our need for the Sabbath rest. Jesus models going away to pray, to rejuvenate his spirit - even when there are crowds of people begging him to heal them. Psalm 23 praises God for being a good shepherd, for providing for our needs, giving comfort and protection, and restoring our soul.


Mental Health Needs Attention

Some Christians think prayer is all you need for emotional healing and mental health. They may use medical professionals for physical health but decry the expertise or advice of psychologists or psychotherapists.


Yet Christians are hurting. And God often works through people to provide help.

And sometimes the church hurts people, sidelining and silencing them until they feel unworthy.


Some Christians criticize self-help tools and books, claiming they rely on solutions from the self, instead of God. However, Christians pray for good health and at the same time thank God for medical treatment and guidance to take our own actions for better diet and exercise. Similarly, when emotional or spiritual hurts inhibit us from living life in abundance, we might thank God for actions we can do to better cope with everyday hurts. That is self-care and self-help. It is not selfish or self-indulgent.

quote
Self-care is stewardship" Esther Littlefield

God created all creatures and told both the man and the woman to be good stewards of God's creation:


God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” Genesis 1:28 NRSVUE

God gave us a body and a mind. There is a grain of truth in my grandmother's saying that "God helps those who help themselves."


We Work; God Works

It is good to rely on God and pray and ask for guidance. It is not good to sit passively and expect God to solve all your problems without you lifting a hand to help yourself. When we pray for healing, the Spirit guides us and others through proactive steps. Things work out for good only if God's people work towards God's purpose.


In fiction, there's a plot device called "deus ex machina", Latin for "God from the machine. It means a writer creates an unsolvable problem that is suddenly and unexpectedly resolved by an unlikely or contrived solution. It is too convenient, overly simplistic, unrealistic, and generally unsatisfying for a reader. In my novel, I wanted to avoid that. Forgotten Followers from Broken to Bold portrays Mara (Mary of Clopas) traumatized from an overly authoritarian father and a high-control religion. She takes specific steps toward her healing, relying on advice and support of other women. Without that healing, she does not have the confidence to have faith. She does the work, on a long healing journey from broken to bold. Those who are overcoming trauma similar to Mara's will know that it takes time to heal; it's not immediate or without effort.


New Release!

I have collected 21 steps for emotional resilience to help you heal from everyday hurts. Unlike other self-help books, these steps are each illustrated by examples from my own life and from Mara, a character in my historical fiction, Forgotten Followers from Broken to Bold.


If you struggle with doubts or self-esteem issues, you will relate to Mara - and to me. Now you can walk with Mara with this stand-alone book to build your own emotional resilience.


book cover
Cover of new Christian Self-Help book

Walk with Mara on her healing journey: 21 Steps to Emotional Resilience.


It offers Christian self-help.


Do you sometimes feel unsure, doubting yourself, others, or even God? Have you felt disheartened, alone, or hopeless? Have anxiety or fear hurt your mental health and ability to make friends? Does your church sideline or limit your participation? Has being made silent and submissive broken your self-confidence? Do you need to reconstruct your faith?

 

I have felt these things, and I am sharing tools that can help others heal from the emotional hurts of everyday living. Unlike other self-help books, these 21 steps are each illustrated by examples from my own life and from Mara, a character in my historical fiction, Forgotten Followers from Broken to Bold. Now you can walk with Mara with this stand-alone book to build your own emotional resilience.


Coming August 7th!

Pre-Order Now:


Contact Me Today to get on the Launch Team and receive a FREE Advance Reader Copy!


 

Elaine Ricker Kelly Author is empowering women with historical fiction about women in the Bible and early church and Christian blogs about women in leadership, church history and doctrine. Her books include:

  • Forgotten Followers from Broken to Bold, Book 1

  • The Sword A Fun Way to Engage in Healthy Debate on What the Bible Says About a Woman's Role

  • Because She Was Called: from Broken to Bold, Book 2, A Novel of the Early Church, imagines Mary Magdalene's trip to testify before the emperor





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