I know what you’re thinking, “Wow, hate is a strong word for something meant to be so helpful.” Yeah, it is. But when you’ve looked for healing somewhere only to find out you were being duped, you’d hate it too.
For most of my adult life, I’ve been drawn with an unexplainable magnetism to the “self-help” section of the book store. Stepping into Barnes and Noble meant the siren song of psychology and self-help called my name. It beckoned to me with the promise of a solution to my greatest problem;
It was empowering and almost euphoric once I learned that I held the solution to all of my problems and possessed the power to succeed. It meant I was in charge and I didn’t need help from anyone.
Having anxiety and depression for so many years meant that I submerged myself in countless theories and solutions on the matter.
I was proficient in the world of self-help while keeled over having a panic attack.
After the intoxicating aroma of self wore thin I realized I had missed something. I felt as though I must be the only person in a world of self-help that was never able to help myself entirely.
And over time, the siren’s song of self-help felt more like a noose around my neck than an answer to my problems because I came to the realization that I was my own worst enemy.
Quite obviously, our enemy is the last one we should turn to for help.
The reason why I hate self-help: It made me believe I didn’t need someone greater than myself.
I’m not saying that I didn’t receive some helpful tidbits within the books and programs I read and listened to, but the problem was, it always boiled down to trusting in myself.
I was a believer in Jesus but struggled incessantly with fear, doubt, and anxiety. Not understanding my identity in Him meant I believed I must fix myself because no one else could.
I still remember quite clearly when I read a sentence that made me whisper, “Wow!” Because of something that hadn’t ever occurred to me—“You are the one causing your anxiety and therefore, you are the only one that can stop it.”
There is absolute truth in that last statement, however, it’s missing the key ingredient. I needed someone far greater than myself to bring me true healing.
I can’t do it alone
The biggest problem with self-help and the lie that is selling is that we must first fall for a pretty thought that we conveniently hold the solution to all of our problems. We just have to go inward and search long enough to uncover it.
As a believer in Jesus, we know this isn’t truth, we know how lost we are without his saving grace. And yet, millions of Christians, including me, are falling hook, line, and sinker for the lies the world is peddling.
Even non-believers of God must admit our utter frailty. We bleed and we die and most often we don’t choose when either happens. We wrestle fiercely with all of our complicated feelings and as Paul says in Romans, “I do not understand what I do…what I hate, I do…” Romans 7:15
We are dependent creatures. We need. Period.
We were made by a God who is completely independent and needs nothing from us but has caused us to need everything from him. And if we’re being honest, as mortal beings, we hate to hear that previous statement. Deep down, we’re sort of like a bunch of stubborn toddlers running around on a giant blue ball floating in an endless cosmos, which we had not a single part in creating or sustaining. But we sure like to believe we’re somehow steering our own ship.
We were not meant to be fixers of ourselves or Jesus would’ve never needed to come. Sure, we’re meant to be an integral part of the whole mix, but we’re not God, nor were we meant to be the god of our own life.
Delusions of grandeur
The first self-help program I began almost 20 years ago, left me $400 in debt and completely dependant on the words of a person.
Yes, I received some wise words but I also picked up a whole lot of nonsense. I was told the solution to every problem I’ve ever had was within me and that I had to trust myself for healing.
When I looked deep within, I only found an anxious beast that was hell-bent on destroying me. And the more I gazed long and hard at self-help, the more I couldn’t shake the thought that it sounded an awful lot like what Satan told Eve so long ago:
“…You will be like God…” Genesis 3:5
I needed the truth
As a believer in Jesus, we have the ability to walk away, rather than towards, the beasts we battle. He’s a comforter and aptly enough, he calls himself our helper. We don’t have to help ourselves when our helper stands ready and willing.
The truth is, the deeper we look within ourselves, the more we find how lacking we are on our own.
For an illustration of this fact, I like remembering Job sitting on his ash pile musing and wrestling with his own thoughts and whys. His friends’ advice was awful and his own words left him hopeless. Only when God showed up were his thoughts put straight—”Where were you when I laid the foundation of the Earth? Tell me if you have understanding…” Job 38:4
Four chapters have God asking Job to explain if he can, the intricacies of this world and he lets him know that if he is capable of this, then he can surely save himself.
God says to Job: “…Then I myself will admit to you that your own right hand can save you.” Job 40:14
Friend, we are incapable of saving our selves. The empty promises of self-help are whispers from the serpent telling us we can be like God.
Self-control instead of self-help
He gives us a helper that in turn grants us the ability to control our selves. It’s the greatest gift he could bestow, the ability to be in control of a beast that is uncontrollable on our own. He brings these sin-stained bodies under the control of the Spirit that really does have the answers.
Self-help promises solutions and peace, but friend, they are empty promises. If you are searching for answers for the problems you face—take it from someone who has walked this long, tiring road—you won’t find them in yourself alone. You must seek out the way, the truth, and the life. His truth is still what makes you free today, John 8:32.
We like to believe that we know so much more than our ancestors before us. That somehow in our age we are enlightened and able to save ourselves. This is a lie. We are just as incapable as Job was.
The only self-help we should employ in our lives is to turn our selves over to the mighty God of everything. He is the one that changes you from the inside out if you allow him to.
He is the truth and the answer to every help we could ever possibly need. Resist the counterfeit, friend, and cling to the truth.
Only He can set you free.
The reasons I hate self-help.
*A necessary side note: There are very practical bits of help and tips for anxiety and depression that can be useful in the fight. This post is not talking about those things. This is specifically speaking about the lie that we can find peace and truth in ourselves alone.
As always, friend, thank you for stopping by,