Every time I go to the bookstore, I am astonished at how large the self-help section is, and how there inevitably always seems to be someone glancing through it. We are all looking for help with the various temptations, sins, and shortcomings that make up our lives. We all want the “7 steps to becoming a better person,” or the “5 secrets for your best life now.” Why was the book “The Secret” a best seller? Just because of its name! People are dieing to know how to improve their lives or find some secret to happiness. But, as people sadly realize, these books and the processes or steps they describe only provide a surface solution. It may make the reader feel better for a time, but in the end they are back in the self-help section looking for another fix. (The real secret in “The Secret” is that it doesn’t work!).
In the secular world, people look to all kinds of various manuals to help them figure out what to do, (Can we all agree there are waaaaaay too many books with the word “Dummy” in the title?). But are Christians any different? As I have said in a previous post, (shameless plug to read my other posts), Christians are also far from perfect. While we have been forgiven we are still going through the process of sanctification in order to be more like Christ. That means we also struggle with temptations, sins and shortcomings and thus need help. So where do we turn? To the Bible of course!
Here’s the catch. People often open the Bible looking for some quick fix to whatever issue they have. They treat the Bible like some self-help book. For example, maybe I have been struggling with the sin of arrogance. So I pray about it and then read every verse in the Bible about why arrogance isn’t good and why humility is best. Is this going to fix my problem? I can tell you from personal experience it most likely won’t. I used to think that in order to overcome sin I only needed to read what the Bible said about it, memorize a couple verses to recite when I was feeling tempted and then use my will power to overcome.
The problem with this approach is that we make the Bible about ourselves and self-help instead of what the Bible was really made to be about. This was the same issue for the woman in the story in John 4: 1-45. We see that she, like many of us today, was looking for happiness in all the wrong places. She thought sleeping around or having a husband might give her happiness, (John 4: 16-18). Or maybe her ancestry or nationality (Verses 11-12). Whatever the case, we know this woman was in need of help. It says in verse 6 that it was the sixth hour, which means about noon. This is important because in that day and culture, women would go out to draw water in the evening due to the heat. For a woman to be drawing water at noon typically meant she was trying to avoid the ridicule and disgrace from the other women. I feel like this woman would love the self-help section at a bookstore today!
But Jesus doesn’t offer self-help, he offers transformation. Just as the Bible is not about self-help, it is all about the glorification of the Father, Son and Spirit. And that is what Jesus offered that woman. He doesn’t offer some guide to happiness or some steps she can take to be successful. Jesus offers Himself. John 4: 13-14 tells us just that. Jesus answer for self-help? JESUS! While the woman was looking for surface changes, Jesus was offering her true life transformation. Just as we often are only looking for some quick fix or guide to whatever sin we are struggling with instead of desiring to be closer to Jesus. The Gospel of John does a great job of showing us over and over again that Jesus is all we truly need.
So whatever temptation, sin or shortcoming you are dealing with this week, I hope that instead of looking for some model or process for self improvement that you would look to Jesus. “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scriptures has said, Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7: 37-38). May we all stop seeking self-help and instead seek Jesus. May we all realize that Jesus is to be desired above all this world has to offer. And may we realize that Jesus alone offers true life, happiness and transformation. So if you are needy, lacking or thirsty in anything turn to Jesus and be completely satisfied.