Dr. Thomas Lane Butts: When to Ask for Help

How far do you go, or how long do you wait before you ask for help?

My sense of direction when driving leaves something to be desired. I even have difficulty finding places where I have been before if I have not been there in the last six months. I hate to stop and ask for directions. I have spent much time ‘wandering' rather than getting where I wanted to go because of my pride.

Last year my children gave me a GPS for my birthday. Thank God for that unseen satellite in the sky which beams directions to my GPS, which talks to me, telling me in advance on which street I should turn. I punch in the specific address of my destination and proceed with great confidence without having to stop and ask.

One of my esteemed colleagues in the ministry is retired Baptist minister, Dr. Gerry Gunnells, erstwhile pastor of Spring Hill Baptist Church in Mobile, Alabama. Several years ago he wrote a column about a notice posted in a textile mill. The notice read: ‘If your thread gets tangled, call the foreman'. "If you have ever seen the complicated operation of one of these giant carpet mills," said Dr. Gunnells, "you can understand the wisdom of the notice". To wait too long to call for help is to court catastrophe.

Since we usually feel that most of our lost conditions and tangled situations are of our own making, we tend to keep struggling unproductively on our own so that no one will see our failure. If we felt that the problem had been caused by someone else, or even by forces over which we had no control, we would be less apprehensive about calling for help. The wish to protect our ‘image', the illusion of ‘independence', as well as other unspoken reasons, keep us from making a legitimate request for help. It makes little difference who or what caused the tangled threads; it is imperative to call for help before the situation spreads beyond your own life and begins to entangle the lives of other people in your tapestry of relationships. The truth of the matter is most of the people who can help us care little who or what caused the tangle. It is the loss of our image of adequacy that makes us reticent to ask for help.

Where do you go for help? Go to those who have reason (by training and experience) to know how to help you. It is always good for us to be willing to ‘call upon the Lord' for help, as long as we remember that more often than not God sends help to people through people. It is okay to pray when you are lost on the way somewhere, if you will remember to stop at the nearest gasoline station and ask for the information for which you have prayed. Many people think God operates like the Lone Ranger, sans Tonto. Not so. Angels come in the form of strange people, strange ways and at strange times in answer to our prayers.

I love the story of a man who was in a flood zone during a hurricane. The sheriff's department sent a car to take him to higher ground. He refused to offer saying that he was a religious man and that God had promised to take care of him. The rising water was ankle deep in his living room when a boat came by and offered to take him to safety. He declined the help on the grounds that God had promised to take care of him. The rising water finally forced him to climb on the roof of his house. The rescue squad sent a helicopter and offered to take him to safety. Once again he refused help because God had promised to take care of him. The man was swept away in the flood and drowned.

The scene changes. The man arrives in heaven and demands to speak with God. He tells God how disappointed he is that after such a life of faith and trust that God did not take care of him. God said: "I sent a car, a boat and a helicopter to rescue you and you refused my help".

More often that not angels come in human form.

If your thread gets tangled, or the water is rising, or if you get lost on the way, ask for help. You would be surprised how many people there are in the world who not only can help, but who want to help.