Self-Help vs. God-Help: A Remedial Approach

The last post discussed putting faith and hope in God’s heavy lifting, but what if you don’t have that kind of relationship with God?  What if you desire life change but don’t believe in a higher power that is loving and intent on helping you, or if you’re unsure what you believe? 

My personal experience goes against Twelve Step wisdom on this point.  The Twelve Steps encourage turning one’s care and will over to God at the start of the journey to recovery and renewal.  If you are aware of something in your life that needs healing or change, but you’re not in a place to turn it all over to a higher power, I encourage you to embark on the journey on a self-help basis.  Here’s why. 

My first real experience of life change was shortly after college.  I was motivated to change because the evidence amply demonstrated my old way of being wasn’t working.  I analyzed and thought my way into new behavior patterns that yielded better results.  My perspective then was that I did it under my own intellectual power.  Looking back on the experience calls to mind a once-popular greeting card poem that inspired many to look on their life struggles differently. 

 One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.
             Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
                  In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.
                       Sometimes there were two sets of footprints,
                           other times there were one set of footprints.
 
                                  This bothered me because I noticed
                                that during the low periods of my life,
                             when I was suffering from
                         anguish, sorrow or defeat,
                     I could see only one set of footprints.
 
          So I said to the Lord,
      “You promised me Lord,
         that if I followed you,
             you would walk with me always.
                   But I have noticed that during
                          the most trying periods of my life
                                 there have only been one
                                       set of footprints in the sand.
                                           Why, when I needed you most,
                                          you have not been there for me?”
 
                                 The Lord replied,
                          “The times when you have
                  seen only one set of footprints,
          is when I carried you.”
                                                   Mary Stevenson (1922 – 1999)

When I look back, I see one set of footprints in the sand.  That much is clear.  I was sure they were mine at the time, but from a vantage point 20 years later, I now believe God was doing the heavy lifting that I attributed to my youthful intellect. 

I was a physics major so I’m drawn to scientific analogies.  Here’s one.  Black holes emit radiation unfazed by whether you believe in black hole radiation or whether you have even bothered to examine the evidence about them.  The fact that you don’t believe in God doesn’t alter the fact that he loves you and acts in your life for your good.  So go through the motions under your own power.  You might meet God along the way! 

Join the conversation.  Have you ever discovered God in the midst of your self-help?

Copyright 2011 Stephanie Walker All rights reserved.  Visit www.AcrossTraditions.com.

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4 thoughts on “Self-Help vs. God-Help: A Remedial Approach

  1. Google will become an evil entity! An ad in the midst of serious spiritual conversation is out of context…….especially one that extols a “new way”.
    I am enjoying your essays.
    sandra p

    • Thanks for your comment, Sandra! Your comment about the ads is duly noted and respected. Alas, it is among the perils of posting on an open (free) platform. I do have plans to move the blog to my website which will remedy that experience, but I have my training wheels on, so to speak. Thank you again for commenting. Come back anytime!

  2. My experience of the 12 step program so far is that for a (former) atheist like me, steps 2 and 3 were hard to swallow. How was I supposed turn my recovery and in essence, my entire life to something I didn’t believe in.
    It was around step 6 that I actually started to understand and relate to the initial steps. So for me, the simple act of being open to believing (even if I wasn’t all that convinced) was enough to wait out the meantime between believing and not.
    I am really enjoying your blog 🙂 Kate

    • Thanks so much for stopping by, Kate. And thanks for your comment. I think you hit the nail on the head regarding openness even when we’re not convinced. When we’re open to new ideas and new experience, anything is possible. When we are closed to it, well, we’re kind of stuck in our own little fish bowl. As someone with experience engaging in the steps, you have valuable insight! You also have a charming manner of expression. I’m enjoying your blog, too! I do hope you do come back and share your thoughts often. You never know when your unique twist on an idea will break through to someone struggling with that very thing.

      Take care,
      S

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