When Moses' hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under
him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up--one on one side, one on
the other--so that his hands remained steady till sunset. ~Exodus 17:12
In the summer of 2008, I experienced what you might call burnout, depression, anxiety, or even a full on nervous breakdown. There were a few things that contributed to this. My oldest daughter was starting public high school, and I was anxious about that and how she would do. We had our house on the market. We had big plans to sell and do something radical with our lives. Years and years of babies and untreated postpartum depression had had its wear on me. Years and years of not properly caring for myself put me in a bad place to deal with all the unexpected stress that was coming my way. And I wasn’t trusting God.
That summer the economy crashed. No one was coming to look at our house. I was on edge all the time, exhausted all the time, and then…I found out I was pregnant! At the time I thought I could not handle another child. In my fragile mental state, I struggled and prayed to accept the pregnancy. There went our big dreams; there went my trust in the Lord. I was devastated that my life wasn’t turning out the way I thought it “should”.
At the time, I thought I had a support system that would help me. I do not have family nearby so I rely heavily on friends and my church to get me through the tough times—whatever my needs are— from prayer to babysitting to a kind and encouraging word—whatever it is in any situation.
There were some of my friends that noticed I wasn’t doing well. They called me, wanted to make sure I was ok, and offered to make me meals. And there were some that noticed and did not do anything—for whatever reason. I was terribly, terribly hurt by the ones that did not reach out to me in a time that I needed it the most. When you are in a state like I was, you need others to help you and reach out. You aren’t in a position to ask.
That experience taught me that I needed to take control and cultivate my own support system. I took it for granted that just because I had been friends with people for almost 10 years and had been going to a church for that long that I would be supported. Without going into a lot of detail, sadly I realized that wasn’t true.
Aaron and Hur were an amazing support system for Moses. When the Israelites were fighting the Amalekites, the Lord promised Moses that as long as his hands were held up, the Israelites would prevail against the Amalekites. Because it was impossible for Moses to hold his hands up for that long of time during the fighting, Aaron and Hur stood on either side of him and held his hands up for him, making it become possible. Without their help, it would have been and would have seemed impossible for Moses to endure the fighting and help the Israelites win. But because of his two loyal and helpful friends, he was able to do what God would have him do.
I think this story is a beautiful picture of the community we have been given in Christ. We need our sisters in the Lord to upheld us, encourage us, pray for us, support us, be there for us. I realized that more than ever in my own time of need.
Since then I have really made an effort to cultivate a support system. I assumed that others would take on that responsibility and automatically know I needed support, and I do long for those kinds of people in my life, but for the most part I must cultivate that.
Some ways I have learned to do this:
1. Realize I am needy.
I am a needy person. I can't do everything on my own, nor was I made to. Its okay to ask for help, the Lord wants us to! He created us to need Him, first and foremost. He created a community of believers, a body, to work together to support and help one another. What a wonderful gift. It is a shame if we don't use what He has given us.
2. Be open.
I realized that when I am stressed and overwhelmed, I retreat into my home and mind and just focus on what needs to be done and do it until I can breathe again. Through my experience, I have learned that I must be open with my thoughts and feelings to others about what I need help with, what I am struggling with, and to also ask for prayer.
A wonderful thing that came out of my experience is that I have a prayer partner who I can go to when I need to know someone is praying. She also does the same for me. I can text her and ask her to pray for a specific situation, but we also have certain requests that we share with each other that we try to pray for each other every day. Since this month is one where I am feeling very overwhelmed, we decided that we would "pray our way" through August for each other.
Is there someone you could ask to be your lifelong prayer partner? Someone who you could count on to be committed to you in prayer and can you do that for them as well? Share with others your need to have a support system. Let them know you need them.
3. Do for others.
If you are in a good place in your life, how can you be a support system to others? I realized that some people need to be taught how to love and encourage and support others. It comes very naturally for me, and I believe it is one of my spiritual gifts, but not everyone is like that. I look for ways to encourage, pray and support people whenever I can. It is what the Lord has called me to do and I must obey Him. I don't always succeed, but I am always open to who He would have me minister to.
4. Cultivate friendships.
This goes alone with number three. I must really cultivate the relationships in my life. They don't just "happen." They take work and care! I am thankful to the women in my life who cultivate friendships with me.
I have found that these four ways have helped me cultivate a meaningful support system in my life. I find myself struggling with a lot of the same things I struggled with a few years ago this August, and now I feel I am better equipped and able to handle them with the support system that has grown and been cultivated over the last four years.
Because the voice of a fellow traveler always stimulates his brother-pilgrim, what one finds and speaks of and rejoices over, sets the other upon determining to find too. God has been very good to you, as well as to me, but we ought to whisper to each other now and then, 'Go on, step faster, step surer, lay hold on the Rock of Ages with both hands.' You never need be afraid to speak such words to me. I want to be pushed on, and pulled on and coaxed on."~Elizabeth Prentiss