Who’s in Your Corner?

Jay HewittBy Jay Hewitt12 Minutes

For a monumental fight, if you want to go the distance, you need something worth fighting for and a good team in your corner. Although at some point each fighter must step to the center of the ring on their own, your support team will determine the outcome of your solitary challenge.

I was caught off guard when life punched me in the face and knocked me flat on my back. But fortunately, I had a solid network of relational connections and people who truly loved me—people I could turn to when I needed help getting up and finding a way forward. Friends, congregation members, and family members all wanted to know what they could do, and they helped me develop a strategy for pulling in kindhearted people and positioning them to become effective members of my fight team:

  • Build a strong support team now by supporting other people in their struggles.
  • Find the strength and courage to let people help, starting with prayer.

Letting people help is harder than it seems. To ask for help is to admit that you’re weak. But if you’re facing your own monumental fight, then asking people to pray is a great first step—and it works. Anyone can pray. Even if they aren’t particularly religious, they can send good vibes.

Some people will pray for you just one time, and that’s fine. Others will have a deep concern for you, and you will naturally show up in their prayers on a consistent basis. The next time they see you, they’ll let you know they’ve been praying. When you thank them for their spiritual support, be sure to share some details about what you’re facing and what you’d like them to specifically pray for—a no-pressure way for them to help. I’ve found that as people pray for specific things, God’s Spirit gets involved and guides them toward the realization that he has uniquely positioned them to assist in a truly helpful way.

At that point, people begin to offer help that goes beyond prayer. Some will, quite imprecisely, say, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.” Others will offer some specific, unique offer that may be genuinely helpful. It’s up to you to either take them up on their offer or just let it rest as a loving gesture. Either way, keep those offers in the back of your mind because in the future, you may need someone to watch your kid for the afternoon, give you a ride to an appointment, or help you find a lawyer—all examples of offers made to me for which I humbly came back to ask if their offer still stood.

Although leaning on someone is simple, it’s hard to take the first step to ask for prayer. Asking for prayer is hard for me because it makes private things public. After my appointment with Dr. Kim, he sent me to get a better MRI scan. Three days later, I was in radiology, waiting to be called for a new and improved MRI scan. I was nervous, and right at that time I received a text from Connie, a member of my congregation. Although I may be one of her pastors, she is a lot wiser and more spiritually mature than me. Natalie and I weren’t especially close to Connie, and we didn’t talk to her too often. So I was somewhat surprised when, out of the blue, I got a text that read, “You’ve been on my heart, and I just wanted to tell you I am praying for you.”

She knew nothing about my medical issues, and I was truly moved to know I was being supported in prayer. My immediate reaction probably should have been to thank her and tell her why her text meant so much to me. Instead, I sat there in the waiting room, staring at the words and wondering if I should mention how nervous I was to get this MRI and to find out the results.

I have a problem with not wanting to appear weak. I don’t like to admit when I’m scared. I’ve built a reputation as a pastor for being authentic and transparent because, while onstage, I talk openly about the struggles and trials in my past. But I purposefully discuss only those issues I’ve already resolved because I never want to project my current unresolved challenges onto my congregation. I have since learned that not wanting to appear weak is itself a weakness.

Sitting in that waiting room, I was definitely in the thick of a trial, with no idea what was going to happen next. I felt too vulnerable to respond to a kind acquaintance’s text with any meaningful information. After all, there are strict laws in place to protect people’s medical privacy. That was my reasoning for deciding not to respond . . . until I felt the Holy Spirit speak wisdom to my heart: You can trust her, and people need to know so they can know how to help. You need help.

I started typing, a long response divulging many private details. Rereading my reply, the feelings of vulnerability made me cringe. But I sensed that I had received divine wisdom I needed to follow. Despite what my gut was telling me, I went with my spirit and sent my message. Her response was simple and immediate: “You’ve got my prayers, friend.” I could hear her nurturing voice as I read her words. That unexpected exchange started a chain reaction, first in my heart and then in a long series of God-ordained happenings. I started asking for prayer and telling folks they didn’t need to keep the information private.

Dr. Kim, who had responded to Kevin’s request and called me on a Sunday afternoon, soon put me in touch with another highly regarded neurosurgeon named Dr. Duma, who then connected me with Dr. Berger, a world-renowned specialist who was way outside of my reach.

As I sent out requests for prayer, friends and friends of friends rallied around my family in monumentally compassionate ways—countless home-cooked meals dropped at our doorstep, babysitters on call, and homes available for us whenever we had to travel for treatments. I found support in many forms—emotional, spiritual, marital, physical, and financial. My colossal fight requires a large team of strategists, cutmen,[1] and people compassionate enough to pick up the towel of service in some areas of life when needed.

Everything may be going according to plan for you right now. But be aware that at any moment, life can deliver an uppercut that will put you flat on your back. Don’t wait to start surrounding yourself with people you’ll want in your corner when you get hit by that punch you didn’t see coming. The time you spend now investing in the lives of other people will have an incremental effect on the support available to you.

Don’t wait for sudden bad news. Realize that other people matter. Their struggles matter. And when you need help, don’t hesitate like I did. Let people know. Ask for prayer. Be specific. Take people up on their offers of support, and be courageous enough to take a risk and ask directly for help. The Bible clearly instructs us to “carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). When you make it a priority to support others, you are building a support team for yourself for your times of need. Those you’re currently praying for, walking alongside, and offering to lend a hand to—they’re the ones you’ll most likely find in your corner later.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it was Kevin who first stepped in for me and turned the tide when I was drowning. After all, he’s the father of a kid I had once supported. There at Kevin’s house the night before his son’s brain surgery, I talked with his son Cody about how he was feeling. I gathered the family for prayer. I came around after the surgery for moral support.

I helped carry their burden because I truly cared. Unknowingly, I was creating a bond that would be critical to my care later on when Kevin gave my MRI to his neurosurgeon friend. When I called to thank Kevin for his kindness, he gently said to me, “We are brothers forever.” He has been in my corner ever since.

What’s your fight right now? Who are the people in your corner? Don’t wait to build your team until life picks a fight. God doesn’t want you to face the difficulties of life alone. It takes strength to choose humility, admit you are weak, and let people know you need help. Take a risk and ask people to pray for strength in your specific struggle. Look around and ask yourself, Do I know of anyone who needs my support? God has uniquely positioned you to help them in ways others cannot. When you are able, stand with those who need you. Don’t be surprised to see them in your corner in the future.

[1] A cutman is the person on a boxer’s corner team who treats cuts, swelling, and other injuries by using abundant amounts of different equipment.