At a 12-step recovery meeting I attended a while back, one of the attendees shared the following quote that resonated with me: “Being vulnerable is being strong.” Often in life we are afraid to ask for help or guidance thinking that it makes us weak or incompetent, but the opposite is true.

I recently finished an incredible book on addiction and recovery, The Only Life I Could Save, by Katherine Ketcham.

During family week at the wilderness recovery center her son was attending in Montana, they did numerous group activities to build connections and help them understand one another. One of the activities involved blindfolding everyone, and having them walk through a rope maze, which they were to navigate using only their hands and the ropes.

Occasionally, the staff would step in and offer guidance and ensure that participants didn’t bump into each other.. At some point, as Katherine was working the maze and getting more and more frustrated, she heard another participant in the distance announce that they had made it out.

This only heightened her need to figure out the maze and she worked harder and faster to try to find the way out. As she kept working harder, she heard more and more participants announce that they were out. Feeling her anger and annoyance peak, she finally turned to one of the counselors and asked for help.

As soon as she asked for help, he came over to her and lifted off her blindfold and she suddenly saw that the maze actually didn’t have a way out. Only when your resistance is broken down enough that you are humbled to the point where you finally ask for help can you get out of the maze.

Instantly, it all became clear. The purpose of the exercise was to help the families understand their addict and the need to ask for help. Sometimes that is the only way out of the maze.

We read in the Torah portion of Shelach how our ancestors were told by G‑d that they would wander the desert for 40 years before entering the Promised Land.

The reason was the sin of the Spies, who didn’t have faith in G‑d’s ability to bring them into the Land. They were consequently forced to wander for 40 years, and all those above a certain age would not actually make it into the Land of Israel.

Why did G‑d want them to wander? What is the value in that? Let those who will be allowed to enter, enter now, and those who cannot enter can hang out in one location or find some other solution?

The answer may have been given by the Baal Shem Tov in relation to Rosh Hashanah. ”G‑d hides,” he said, ”so that we should seek Him.” G‑d wants us to spend time finding Him and to do so he has to make Himself appear as if He is absent. The purpose of the exercise is to teach us to seek. Phrased differently, He wants us to need Him, to reach out for Him, to ask Him for help. To accomplish this, He appears absent and then we feel lost, wandering and broken.

One might suggest that G‑d had our ancestors wander for the nation to realize that they would not be able to leave the desert on their own and to appreciate that at some point we all feel broken or helpless without His assistance.

Those who would enter the Land grew up with the knowledge that they were dependent upon Him.

There is no shame in that. That is how He masterfully designed this world. The problem is when we try to put up an endless facade of how smart or strong we are, and don’t have the courage to be vulnerable and ask for help.

Sometimes all G‑d wants from us is three simple words: “Please help me.” Sometimes the only way out of the actual desert or our personal desert is by realizing that being vulnerable IS being strong.

Katherine learned this with regards to her son and his disease. The addict learns this the hard way when they have become crushed and have nothing left but to ask for help.

Our job is to learn from the experiences of others and not wait for total self-annihilation before asking for help.

Remember, when you ask for help, you are being strong.