Few of us like to admit that we sometimes need to be rescued.
We like to believe we’re self-sufficient. We like to believe that nothing can stop us. We like to believe that we don’t need outside help. But when we’re honest with ourselves, we all know better.
Have you ever been in trouble and pleaded with God to help you? Those of us who are Christians know what it’s like to pray about our troubles and to ask God for help. But even non-religious people are prone to begging God for help when things get bad enough in their lives.
Have you ever been in the depths of despair — begging to God or the Universe or fate for help — and wondered why the solution you desperately wanted never showed up?
Maybe the answer to your prayer was already right in front of you. Maybe you were ignoring it because it wasn’t what you wanted or expected. Maybe it wasn’t convenient.
As I thought this morning about this common human pattern — something I’ve been guilty of — I thought of an old story that I heard in a sermon one time.
There was once a man whose neighborhood flooded and he fled to his roof to escape the rising waters. He prayed for God to rescue him.
Then another man came floating by in a rowboat, and he shouted out to the man to jump in.
“I can save you,” the man said. “I have room for you.”
But the stranded man declined his help.
“No, that’s OK,” he shouted back. “I’m praying to God for help and he’s going to save me. I’m waiting for a miracle.”
So the man in the rowboat moved on.
A few minutes later, another man came by, this time in a motorboat. He shouted for the man on the roof to get into his boat, but the stranded man turned him down.
“No thanks,” he called back. “I’m praying to God and he’s going to save me. I have faith in the Lord.”
So the motorboat went on.
Then a helicopter flew near the man’s house and the pilot spotted the stranded man. The waters had risen far enough that the man was perched on the last exposed part of his roof.
“Grab this rope,” the pilot shouted, “and I can pull you up.”
“No thanks,” the man shouted back. “I’m praying to God and he is going to save me. I have faith.”
So the pilot reluctantly left the man on the roof. The waters finally rose high enough to cover the entire roof. The man had nowhere to go, so he drowned.
After the man got to heaven and had a chance to talk with God, he expressed frustration and anger.
“I had faith in you but you didn’t save me,” he said bitterly. “You let me drown. I don’t understand why.”
But God saw things differently.
“I sent you a rowboat and then a motorboat and finally a helicopter,” God said. “I heard your prayers and answered. What more did you expect?”
When we’re unhappy, we look for answers. But we have strong opinions about what the solutions have to look like. We’re picky. We’re unwilling to make trade-offs.
And then we find ourselves stuck with a lifelong problem, one which had a solution that was offered to us. After it’s too late, we discover that we had the solution we were looking for — but we were too blind to accept it.
Everybody needs help at times, but it’s up to us to accept the help which can change things for us. Nobody else can do that.