When a Helper Feels Helpless

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By Anna Daub

I am an Enneagram 2, the Helper. The Enneagram Institute describes an Enneagram 2 this way:

Being generous and going out of their way for others makes Twos feel that theirs is the richest, most meaningful way to live. The love and concern they feel—and the genuine good they do—warms their hearts and makes them feel worthwhile. Twos are most interested in what they feel to be the ‘really, really good’ things in life—love, closeness, sharing, family, and friendship.[1]

Yes. That’s me.

Enter the COVID-19 crisis. The CDC said staying home was the best way to help people, so I found myself hunkered down in my house with very little human interaction. Working from home meant that the people who just stopped by to ask a random question could no longer do so. I wasn’t a health care worker who bravely took care of others amidst the crisis. I wasn’t a courageous grocery worker or mail collector or sanitation worker who stepped out my door every day for the good of others. I was a non-essential employee who was told to stay home. And I felt helpless.

I felt helpless when I watched the news, when students wrote to me about losing their jobs, and when a neighbor lost a family member to COVID. I felt helpless when my pastor PhD buddies all scrambled to figure out how best to love their churches in a time of crisis. I felt helpless every time my high-risk mom went to work at a doctor’s office.

Amid my times of struggle, God was slowly working in me in ways I did not expect. In my feelings of helplessness, God was pointing me to the real helper, himself.

When I feel helpless, God draws my gaze to the one real helper.

1. Recognize the true helper.

I can’t fix the problems of the world. I can’t stop a virus or take care of sick people in a hospital. I can’t find people jobs or make sure they all have enough food to eat. I can’t keep the economy from struggling. I can’t stop hundreds of people from dying. And I can’t even be in the same room with those who are suffering from the virus, let alone hold their hand while they are struggling to breathe.

But when I feel helpless, God draws my gaze to the one real helper. He holds the world in his hand. He is in the room with the ones suffering. This virus did not catch him by surprise. And he gives us the strength to rest even when we feel helpless.

A favorite hymn of mine in this season is Abide With Me by Henry Francis Lyte. One of the stanzas says, “When other helpers fail, and comforts flee, Help of the helpless, oh abide with me.” When I, as a helper, can do nothing and the comforts of helping others flee, God is the Help of the helpless. In times of sorrow, sadness, and frustration, he forever abides with me.

2. Reclaim the power of prayer.

As a helper, extended times for prayer can be hard for me, especially in the current situation. There are always a million things I feel like I should be doing, and quieting my heart before the Lord is a challenge. In this season of helplessness, I found myself saying, “I can’t do anything. All I can do is pray.” But that comment shows a tiny kernel of unbelief inside me. No matter what I can or I cannot do, no one can take away my ability to pray.

I can pray for:

  • A vaccine
  • The people who are affected by the virus
  • The frontline healthcare workers
  • Our friends and family members
  • God’s provision for those who have lost jobs
  • People all around the world
  • Our government leaders
  • The salvation of many

3. Remember the joy of creativity.

In the craziness, I had to find creative ways to help. Expressing my helper personality looks very different than it did a couple of months ago. I can call my great aunt and sing to her. I can offer to pick up groceries for others when I’m already going out. I can drop homemade food at my neighbors’ doors. I can write letters or call a friend.

4. Realize the value of one.

Part of this creativity requires a fundamental shift in the scope of who I am helping. Instead of trying to help the masses, I am helping my neighbor, my aunt, a person from my small group, someone I just met. I can’t help the masses right now. But I can look at my brother or sister and prayerfully ask how I can love that person at this moment.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted how we help others. However, in this time, God calls us to look to the one true helper, pray for the current situation, be creative, and joyfully serve each individual. When this helper feels helpless, she turns to the one who is never helpless. An old hymn says,

Many things about tomorrow,
I don’t seem to understand.
But I know who holds tomorrow
and I know who holds my hand.

We serve a God who is big enough to hold every detail about tomorrow but also close enough to hold our hands when we weep when we feel helpless.

[1] “The Helper: Enneagram Type 2,” Enneagram Institute, accessed April 30, 2020,

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Anna Daub

Anna is a PhD student in Applied Theology at Southeastern Seminary. She is interested in cross cultural studies, the arts and creative methods for theological education. She currently works for SEBTS' Global Theological Initiatives Department. When not studying, she loves being outside or in a coffee shop with a friend.

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