Learning to Ask For Help


Helen Burns -Ask for Help3

“Just because I am quiet, it doesn’t mean I’m OK.”

These were the words that I spoke to my husband during one of the most challenging seasons of our lives. It was the winter of 2008. Several months earlier John’s younger brother had died quite suddenly leaving behind his grieving wife, three teenage sons and our big Burns family. At the very same time, his mother’s health was rapidly deteriorating due to the ravages of cancer. We had just learned that my father’s cancer had also returned and the doctors told us that he would only have a few months to live. Our parents died within days of each other and Christmas came in the middle. It was the winter of endless snow in Vancouver and as the earth felt silenced by it, I became quiet too. But my silence wasn’t silent—it was screaming loudly from the very center of my being.

It took courage that day to look into the eyes of my husband and to tell him the truth—to ask him to stay close to me and to ask me hard questions when I fell silent. We were both suffering from such great losses. There was ‘an elephant in the room’ and it needed to be acknowledged so that we could both help each other move forward in the depths of such loss and grief.

Those who know me well know that I love a great conversation. I’m energized when I hear someone’s story and I am always happy to share mine too…except for when I am experiencing pain. My Mom tells me that even as a little girl she discovered that when I wasn’t feeling well, I would always go to my room and want to be left alone to deal with my pain or sickness, while my sister did the opposite. I think my Mom’s observations have helped me a lot in understanding how I process the tough stuff of life. I haven’t changed that much, however I have become more deliberate at asking for help when I need it.

A friend of ours a paramedic prior to becoming a pastor. I’ll always remember a message he taught from his experiences in dealing with casualties following an accident. He said that the ones who need immediate attention were the ones who were silent, not the ones screaming the loudest. Makes sense doesn’t it?

How you process the hard places in your life? Do you take time to notice how you deal with hurts, disappointments and the heartache that come with being human? I am learning that this is a critical part of growth for me personally, doing the work of checking in on my own heart and inviting others that I trust to do the same.

A scripture that teaches me this principle is one that David prayed in a devastatingly hard place in his own life after he was confronted about the sins that he had committed. In this passage he is calling out to God for help with a longing to be free. Whether we are in a broken and hurting place because of our own choices, or because of what others have done to us, or just because life is full of stuff that isn’t fair or easy, God will always come through and show us what is really going on if we truly want to know.

“You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part of my heart You will make me know wisdom.” Ps 51:6 (Amplified Bible)

“But still, You long to enthrone truth throughout my being; in unseen places deep within me, You show me wisdom.” (The Voice)

I find such hope and comfort in this promise knowing that in the deepest places of ache in my heart, God is a very present help in my time of trouble. I have also discovered that there are trusted people in my world that I need to be willing to show my vulnerability and pain to, which is a challenge for me as a leader and pastor.

So often we know people are dealing with big stuff, but we don’t know how to bring it up, or we feel awkward addressing the issue so we tend to skirt around it, or avoid it all together. Or we may be the one dealing with something and we don’t want to burden anyone with our situation. We usually ‘know’ it’s there and someone just needs to be courageous enough to bring it up with truth, love and grace so that healing can begin.

Love is a heart that moves. It moves toward God and it moves toward others. Loving enough to push through the awkward and hard places feels like real and costly love to me. I still have a long way to go, but I am determined not to allow uncomfortable or difficult conversations to trump the wonder of authentic heart talk that will allow freedom and healing to begin to flow.

I pray you take time to notice if there are any ‘elephants-in-the-room’ that need to be acknowledged and that you would have the courage to address them with loving concern toward yourself and others.

Editor’s Note:

Helen has written for SheLoves right from the very beginning. As her influence grew and her schedule got busier, she kept writing. Over the past years I have lost count of the number of times she has written from airport lounges or sent in her submissions from the other side of the world. Helen’s schedule has cranked up another notch and she is stepping away from writing here for this season. I know that I will miss seeing her words here, but I am so grateful for all the times she has sat down to share with us and for all of the things she has taught and continues to teach me. Helen has always been involved with SheLoves and has always prayed for us, and none of that changes today.

Helen is an incredible leader, and I know that God is and will continue to use her in powerful ways. Thank you Helen, for everything. (Claire Colvin, Editor,  SheLoves Magazine)