written by
Jonah Jeremiah

Chapter 2: Self Help is No Help

Breakthrough 2 min read
Photo by nikko macaspac on Unsplash

One common pattern for people feeling stuck in their life: they try to apply traditional “self-help” approaches. Most of those principles aren’t necessarily bad: Perseverance. Taking action. Being clear on goals.

None of those are bad.

The problem comes when people unwittingly seek self-help as a substitute for standing right with God. It’s a very subtle distinction.

Yet, it is one that, if people don’t embrace and recognize, can lead to a heavy life filled with self-condemnation and frustration. It can lead to a life that just feel “stuck”.

Here’s what Jesus says:

Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. (Mark 8:35)

When it comes to being accepted fully by God, Jesus frees us from any notion that we can or should do anything. We can’t. However, he does not say we do nothing. We can’t do anything to gain favor with God, for Christ at the cross, alone, does this. But we are to do much more than do nothing, either.

Behind this small statement is a huge promise, one that the self-help industry cannot make. Self-help depends entirely on yourself. Every weight you must should, and every burden you must bear.

For those who succeed according to this mantra of total self-help can make themselves out to be their own god. The alternative path could still be a life filled with diligence, goal-setting, perseverance, as it should.

But those draw from a different well. This type of living draws on the well of self-sacrifice out of grace. It’s a subtle, but powerful, distinction.

While we cannot “self-help” our way into God’s favor, we can take actions which allow God to breakthrough in other areas of your life. This is what the book is about.

The pathway to escape the “self-help” trap is as simple, but hard. It’s simple in that Jesus describes it succinctly as “self-sacrifice.” That’s the way. That’s the path.

What is hard, however, is taking the steps that we can control to let God in for him to take control. The trap many people fall into is a false belief that doing nothing, living passively, dreaming and praying, is all that is involved to get out of difficult places.

Grace, the ability to come before God without guilt, takes no effort other than faith in Christ. Our life on earth, filled with challenges and heart-aches, on the other hand, involve decisions, actions, choices — all on our side, with no promise we will get what we want.

David, when he encountered the “God of the breakthrough,” took some specific actions, and this is what will direct much of the suggested steps in this book.

The foundation, however, is always Christ and the biggest breakthrough he already made in your life: to die so you may live.

Here’s the most common pitfall when it comes to facing the self-help instinct: to wrest control and do things our own way.

To read the full series, click on the "Breakthrough" tag or go to the Breakthrough Page.