“There is hope, because God is at work.” – pg. 27
As we begin our journey with When Helping Hurts, I hope this central theme will permeate everything we read and write about: God is at work.
God is at work in poor communities in the back of beyond. God is at work in ghettos. God is at work in suburban churches. We don’t have to save the world, because that is God’s job. We don’t have to transform anyone. Also God’s job. We don’t have to solve every problem and know every answer. God’s got it covered.
And He invites us to join Him where he’s working. If we’ll say, “yes,” we will know him better, experience lasting joy, and live in the hope of someday hearing the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
To be honest, When Helping Hurts dredges up all the times that I’ve muffed it. I’ve done things for people who could have done things for themselves. I’ve stolen dignity. I’ve acted like a bull in a china shop (or, as Brian put it later, “danced like an elephant”). It’s hard to admit how much damage I’ve done in my attempts to be generous and compassionate. But the authors are really humble and gracious. They create a safe place to reflect and confess where we’ve messed up. Brian acknowledges his own struggle in the opening story, and on page 26:
“How could I have hurt the poor in the process of trying to help them? We cannot answer these questions in a sound bite, which is the reason we are writing this book.”
It can also be uncomfortable to read statements like this:
“North American Christians are simply not doing enough. We are the richest people ever to walk the face of the earth. Period. Yet most of us live as though there is nothing terribly wrong in world” (page 27).
Since I’ve been working in the world of international development and missions for 12 years now, this is not the first time I’ve been confronted with my North American distorted view of wealth and poverty. Even so, I find myself pondering this statement again in light of so many people that I know who are struggling to keep their homes, get out of debt, and afford health care. It’s empirically true that we are rich, but that doesn’t mean we feel rich. I don’t know a single person who “feels” like they have money to spare. Okay I know ONE. But most of us are just muddling along.
If that is you, don’t be scared to read this book with us. It is a book full of hope, not guilt. Feeling a bit uncomfortable is a good indication that God is working in our hearts. And even when we are feeling distinctly un-rich, God calls us to love one another using whatever resources He has given us. In fact, our struggles can help us be more accessible to God and to those He calls us to serve.
If you haven’t picked up the book yet, please do read along with us. You’ll be glad you did!