Christians, above all, should want to be helpful people. And we know that women are distinctively created to be helpers. Unfortunately, we have often failed to uphold the value of this responsibility. We wrongly belittle the helper as the subservient role, like mommy’s little helper in the kitchen. They’re good for running errands to the fridge and stirring some ingredients, but we would never hand them the chef’s knife.
But a helper is someone who needs to be very strong indeed. In his book, Genesis: A Commentary, Bruce Waltke explains that this word “helper” in Gen. 2:18 “signifies the woman’s essential contribution, not inadequacy” (88). A quick look at my Susan Hunt workshop notes reminds me that this same Hebrew word, ezer, that we see translated “helper,” describes God himself throughout the Old Testament. Scriptures such as Exod. 18:4, Ps. 10:14, Ps. 20:2, Ps. 33:20, Ps. 70:5, Ps. 72:12-14, and Ps. 86:17 point to God as our helper. In examining these verses you will see how God’s help showcases his great strength to defend, care for the suffering, support, protect, deliver us from distress, rescue, and comfort. This is no namby-pamby attribute.
For both men and women, helping requires great care, discernment, and commitment. It takes a good theology of who God is, who man is, and what God’s Word reveals to us about his work in Christ. Are we properly equipped? When you help, you are providing a need or service that supports another. Helping contributes strength for another’s improvement. But I’m afraid that we often confuse this great responsibility of love with the opposite of help: enabling.
Enabling is actually contributing to another’s destructive behavior. This is not helpful at all, and it is not loving. Maybe we are doing something for another that they really can and should be doing for themselves. Or maybe we think that we are helping by covering another’s shame (which is a godly thing to do), when it is actually time to quit keeping their secrets of a perpetual, sinful indulgence. Sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking we are enabling for the greater good: avoiding a catastrophic storm of confrontation, protecting our children from the harmful ramifications of divorce, or protecting ourselves from the pain of rejection.
Helping is hard. Especially when you love someone who is enslaved in sin.
Those who may be struggling in a destructive relationship, ask yourself these questions:Can I stand before God in good conscience that I faithfully witnessed to him in my relationship? Am I trusting in Christ’s sufficiency so that I can boldly “do good and not fear anything that is frightening” (1 Pet. 3:6)? Or am I allowing myself to be intimidated and controlled by another’s sinful behavior? Am I helping my loved ones to grow in Christ, or are they dependent on me to continue in their spiraling downfall? Is my enabling a detriment to my children’s upbringing?
Like I said, helping is hard. And on the other side of the spectrum there are those who confuse it with nagging (also not helpful!). We all are dependent on God’s Holy Spirit as we try to serve God and others faithfully. And we all lean on the work of Christ for our righteousness in these areas and all others. He is faithful even when we are unfaithful (2 Tim. 2:13). An enabler needs to remember that it is Jesus Christ whom we go to for fulfillment. He is worthy of our glory.
Some situations are more devastating than others. Sometimes it’s just a matter of recognizing your 15-year-old should be cleaning their own room. But on a more serious note, there are many women, and even men, who are married to intimidating spouses. They are not a person of value to be loved and cherished, but a means to an end of their spouse’s sinful pursuit. They become property, not people. And there are many destructive friendships and parenting relationships that are fueled by enabling instead of helping.
If you find yourself to be on the enabling side, you need help. Please seek out godly counsel in your church and amongst your brothers and sisters in Christ for the help that you need to refuse to contribute to destructive behavior.