Spend Yourself: How Helping Others Can Help You

…if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.

 Isaiah 58:10 NIV

This scripture hit me over the head like a two-by-four about ten years ago. I was grieving the recent loss of a dear family member and adjusting to a 6,000 mile move back to the U.S. after three years living abroad…then September 11, 2001 happened.

It was too much grief to bear and the darkness of it closed in upon me. To make matters worse, there was no “rewind” button to jump back into the friendships and church community I had left three years before. Things were different, I was different, and my old friends had moved on.

Except for the immediate family of my husband and daughter, I was desperately alone, and in emotional pain the likes of which I never imagined possible to live through.

I clung to my Bible for comfort to help me rest through the darkest hours of night and ransacked the pages during the day, desperately looking for crumbs of hope to live on.

It was on one of those desperate searches one day I found more than a crumb to live on—I found an endless feast of truth in Isaiah 58.

IF you spend yourself, THEN the light will enter your darkness.

Boy, did I ever need some light in my darkness!

I read and studied the entire passage of Isaiah 58 over and over to see if there was a catch. Surely there must be more to it. I must have to be more “put together” or feel like I have some amount of strength first…or at the very least have more than a tattered and frayed smile to share. After all, how could I “spend myself” when my bank account was completely empty?

But that if-then just wouldn’t leave me alone. It was clear God was telling me directly through His Word that the only way out of my darkness was to go do a good deed for someone else. Which happened to be the last thing I felt like doing. What I felt like doing was crying all the time. Just taking a shower in the morning was an accomplishment, so how was this wreck of a woman supposed to help someone else?

Skeptical as I was, I decided my best option (the one that scared me the least at the time) was to offer to volunteer in my daughter’s fifth grade classroom. The teacher was thrilled and soon I was helping with reading groups and doing some individual tutoring.

When I started, my secret hope was that a switch would flip and my darkness would suddenly be filled with light, like the scripture said. But that’s not the way it happened. Instead, I would experience glimmers of light that would last a few minutes here and there—times when my pain retreated and was forgotten in the midst of a child’s laughter or a heartfelt thank you.

After a few months, I had strung together enough light filled moments to realize it was starting to work, so I joined the choir (another less scary option). A few months after that I started a prayer ministry. Day by day, step by little step, I was healing.

All because I decided to give God’s Word a try.

I spent myself, and the light gradually dawned in my darkness.

If you’re in a dark place, or just experiencing a blue moment today, I highly recommend you try it. It works. Even science is finally recognizing it! Recent research has discovered that:

“Positive activity interventions–like helping someone with groceries, writing a thank you note or even counting your blessings—can serve as an effective, low-cost treatment for depression.” **

When I was in my darkest time, I mistakenly thought I needed someone, some thing, or some miracle to help me get out of it. Instead, I found the opposite was true.

When I gave of myself, even though they were only small bits of a broken really messed-up self, God was able to gradually put those broken pieces back together.

I pray this Word from God brings you hope and leads you to the healing you need today, as it did for me ten years ago.

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. 

Isaiah 58:6-11 NIV



Linda chats about red shoes, the chicken dance, scrambled eggs, and her daily life trying to display God’s glory at her blog: Sunny Side Up

© Linda Crawford,  2012.

**Click here to read more on research about how helping others can help you.


Linda Crawford

Linda loves to color life beautiful as God teaches her how: a courageous faith = a colorful life. It took a devastating work injury, 4 years of chronic pain and disability, and almost dying for Linda to discover that sometimes life becomes the most beautiful when it seems the darkest and most colorless, because …Only God can color life beautiful then. Join Linda in coloring life beautiful on her blog: http://coloringlifebeautiful.com/

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  1. Awesome post, bless you.

    • Blessings to you Denise. May God’s light shine brightly into your life today.

  2. Linda, this is soooo good. It is so easy to become me-focused, yet that is not where our light comes from. What a great reminder this post is to focus on others.

    • Hugs to you Leah! You are a shining example to us of “spending yourself!” May God’s light shine brightly upon you!

  3. This reached out and grabbed me today. Thanks for you honesty and they way you just illuminated that passage from Isaiah. Wonderful.

    • Thank you for sharing Courtney. God’s Word is amazing and I love it when it reaches out and grabs us! Praying for more and more of his light to shine in your life!

  4. Great reminder! Thanks for sharing. I LOVE the book of Isaiah don’t you? 🙂

    • Yes Erika, I do love Isaiah! Always new treasures to discover in God’s Word. May you continue to experience the light from the lamp of God’s Word in your life!

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