Dr. Thomas Lane Butts: An Encouraging Word - Signs That You Need Help

Sometimes life gives us signals that we need outside help. When we get such signals, it is not safe to go on alone.

Some people are hounded by one crisis or another all the time. They never finish one emergency before another one is in their face. Every refuge to which they might ordinarily turn becomes another barrier or pitfall instead of a safe place to be. Two cowboys were working cattle one day. One of them realized he was in trouble when a wild bull, with his head down and nostrils snorting, came charging toward him. The cowboy saw a deep hole in the ground and quickly jumped in it. As soon as the bull passed over him, he jumped out of the hole. Madder than ever, the bull came charging back toward him and he jumped back in the hole. When the bull passed, the cowboy jumped out of the hole again. This happened several times. The other cowboy who was watching it all from a safe distance yelled, "Why don't you just stay in the hole?" The cowboy yelled back, "I would, but there is a bear in the hole".

Life is difficult. Trouble is not evenly distributed. Sometimes troubles come in bunches like bananas. Only those who have stored up reserves of strength survive. Get ready. It can happen. Perhaps it has already happened to you.

When life brings too many frustrations and nothing comes to break the cycle, something terrible can happen to the human spirit. There are people whose threshold of tolerance is lower than that of others. Too many frustrations and too much rejection, and the spirit grows timid, and you lose the power of discernment. You lose that unique ability to determine whether patience is appropriate in a given situation, just another symptom of the loss of nerve.

In his novel, "The Trial", Franz Kafka has the hero, Mr. K, walk into a church where he hears a priest tell a parable. It is a frightening parable for shy and wounded people who have a difficult time knowing when to be patient and when to be pushy.

This is the story. A man was told to enter a kingdom through a certain gate. When he arrived he found the gate, but there was a sentinel guarding the entrance. He did not know whether to enter or wait, so he sat down and waited for the sentinel to give him instructions or grant him permission to enter. But the sentinel did nothing and said nothing. The man continued to sit there waiting for something to happen, or someone to come. For a whole lifetime he sat there. Then one day the guard closed the door. He turned and said to the man, "This door was made for you and you alone, but because you chose not to enter, it is being closed forever". Sometimes there are no clear and distinct directions and those who are timid and shy do not know for sure what to do. Have you ever been there?

There are people whose experiences have been so negative, and so many, that they pass the point of being shy, and shut down altogether. They do not care any more. They become like the man in the country-western song who said, "I've been down so long that getting up never crosses my mind".

Professor Loren Eiseley once told a story about a man he saw on a train traveling between Pittsburgh and New York. As Eiseley entered the lounge car he saw a man who looked down and out. He was dressed in old clothing, and his hair was long and unkempt. He sat with his eyes closed with a paper bag clutched tightly in both arms, as if it contained everything he owned in this world.

When the conductor came in to take tickets and saw the apparent vagrant, his eyes instantly assumed a look of dislike and contempt. He carefully avoided the man until there was no other tickets to take. Only then did he walked up beside him and shout, "I said ticket!". Never opening his eyes, the bearded man reached into his pocket, took out a great roll of paper money and said, "Give me a ticket to wherever it is". The conductor called out all the stations down the line, but the man did not say another word. He sat silently with his eyes closed, with an upraised hand holding the roll of bills. Finally, in disgust, the conductor took a few bills from the roll of money, stuck a ticket in the man's shirt pocket and walked angrily to the next car.

Eiseley said he wondered if somewhere down the line this man would finally find a place or a time "wherever it might be" that would put his life back together.

When life sends you signals that you are not doing very well by yourself, find a friend, or a group, or someone who can help you gain perspective.