Have you ever got stuck in the mud? Now, I know, asking that question in this part of the country, where people are all the time out in the fields on their tractors and four-wheel ATVs, may seem a bit inane. But for someone like me, who does not get out in the fields that much, such a question may seem the rarity.
But just the other day I got stuck in the mud. I was in the process of picking up a fellow to help me move a bunch of boxes from our home to a study center in Columbus. I rented a small truck for the occasion and as I drove into this fellow’s driveway I began to turn around, not even thinking that the truck might get stuck in the soft ground of his yard. But that is exactly what happened.
I tried to quickly accelerate out of the mud, but that did not work. Then I applied my knowledge of getting out of snow drifts and the like – you know, backwards, then forwards, then backwards – but that did not do the trick either. The wheels of this truck just continued to spin. Josh, the fellow I was picking up, even came out to help me get out of the situation by pushing on either end of the truck as I changed gears, but all to no avail.
Finally, I stopped trying, and instead began to think of all the resources that I could call to help me with this dilemma. Josh went into the house to make a phone call to see about getting help, and I found myself uttering a simple prayer, very quietly, almost under my breath: “Lord, help us!” I then went into the house and discovered that the call Josh made was not answered. That’s when I prayed again, “OK, Lord…”and began to think of others to call.
Does any of this ring familiar with you? It may not have been a “stuck-in-the-mud” rut like mine, but have you ever found yourself in a seemingly impossible situation that had no solution? For some, it may be a physical hardship, bad health situations, or the like. For others it may be relational hardships, broken marriages, rebellious kids, or maybe even rebellious parents. It may be financial or emotional difficulties that you encounter. But whatever the case may be, whenever you encounter those impossible situations in life, what do you do?
If you are like most people I know, when those difficulties happen – notice I said when, not if – you simply bear down, grit your teeth, and dig in deeper and work harder to get yourself out of the grind. You get tough with the situation and figure out how to get out.
You figure out what to do and then you do it. But the one problem with that line of reasoning is that more often than not, it does not work. When we rely on our own ingenuity, our own creativity, our own resources, we find ourselves dug in deeper and the problem only seems to get worse. The more I pressed on the accelerator, no matter whether I was rocking backward and forward or simply attempting to accelerate out of the rut, I got nowhere fast. The more we try to fix our situation on our own, the deeper in we get. Oh, and did I mention that all throughout the process we succumb to worrying about the outcome as well.
The Apostle Paul found himself in those same kinds of situations all throughout his life and ministry. He tells us that he has been in low situations and high situations, that he has faced times when he was filled to the gills (my words, not his), but there had also been times when he was desperately hungry. He has been in great abundance and also in great need. Do you know what he said about those times in his life? He declared that “I can do all things through him who strengthens me… And my God will supply every need of your’s according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:13,19). In other words, in every situation he faced in his life, he learned to trust the Lord, to depend upon Him, to count on Him to resolve the situation. He counted on the Lord to provide for him in every situation he faced in life.
When Josh and I were faced with what to do about the truck being stuck in the mud, the Lord brought several names to my mind of people who had trucks that were big enough to help. I dialed the first number, and just as they picked up the phone, something wonderfully unique happened. A face showed up in the doorway. The neighbor was standing there with a cable in his hand and simply asked, “Need some help?” He had seen Josh and I stumbling around in futility trying to get my rented truck out of the mud. Knowing how futile an effort we were making, he drove his pickup over, backed it into the driveway, and effectively prepared to tow me out of the mud. On the very first try, the truck came out with little to no effort. I told the neighbor he was a quick answer to prayer and thanked him profusely.
When we face impossible situations, oftentimes prayer is a last resort. But it should not be. It needs to be our first line of defense, the very first thing we do to activate all the resources of heaven. There is an old expression that says, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” I would like to modify that expression to say, “No matter what you’re doing, pray first.” Prayer should be the very heartbeat of our lives. As we face life this Easter season, our total dependence should be upon the risen Savior.
Chuck Tabor is a religion columnist for The Times-Gazette. He also serves as pastor of Port William UMC.