This story has been told and retold so many times I’m not sure where to give credit.
A young man went hiking alone on a narrow mountain trail when he slipped on a loose rock and began to fall down the steep mountainside. As the rocks and dirt rushed by him, he plummeted over a cliff. Frantically grabbing for anything that would offer purchase, his hand grasped a small tree jutting out from a rock. Amazingly, his grip held and the tree remained in place. Temporarily saved from a disastrous situation, he caught his breath and gathered his wits before yelling for help.
“Help, is anyone up there? Help, I’m stuck down here!” he yelled over and over.
After yelling until he was almost hoarse, a voice came to him. “I can help you, son.”
He couldn’t believe his ears. “God? Is that you? Will you help me?” the young man queried.
“Yes. I’m here,” came the reply. “I would be glad to help you. Let go.”
Having no hands to clear his ears, the young man responded, “What???? I thought I heard you say let go. That can’t be right.”
“That’s right, let go,” was the clear answer.
The young man hung in silence for only a moment. “Help, help, is anyone else up there?”
Stories are wonderful, aren’t they? They capture us. We remember stories. They have a way of pointing to lessons we need to learn. Like the young man in this story, we have a way of only wanting help on our terms.
It may be that we’re asking for God’s help but missing His response because it doesn’t conform to our desires or expectations. We might need help from a friend, but the truth is we’re not willing to submit to his or her counsel. These are just a couple possibilities.
But in the end, isn’t it just possible that in wanting help only on our terms we are really refusing help altogether? And if this is the case, who are we really hurting?