Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Ashamed to Ask for Help

Ashamed to Ask for Help

The Story:
This past week, as you may well know, Indiana and the neighboring states endured -- Snowpocalypse. Coming into the perfect storm, I asserted that God was sovereign over the snow by quoting Job 37:5-6.
What I didn't know then was that God was indeed as I had said and intended to teach me at least one lesson through the storm. The snow came in torrents from heaven as God told it to fall, and after our single church service in which our Pastor told of God's Creative Hand in the weather, my wife I hunkered down for what seemed to be a record snowfall. With the exception of an going out to attempt to minister to kids & parents who didn't have school on Monday, we did not leave our apartment or use our vehicle (which sits outside) for the better part of two days.

Tuesday morning arrives, and it is time to go to my Systematic Theology course taught by guest teacher Andy Naselli. I help with setting up the technology for our class and needed to arrive early for that reason. I awoke early and geared up for the cold journey ahead. After girding my loins to face the cold, I went outside into what was approaching -20°F (with windchill). I scraped what seemed like a giant plaster cast of snow off of our vehicle, my fingers freezing, and I jumped inside the vehicle. Slamming the key into the ignition, I wrenched then key forward.... Lights, sounds of car beginning to start....nothing.

At this point, I started to switch a different gear. I waited for a minute or so, pumped the pedal a few times, and tried again. Nothing. It occurs to me that it could possibly be cold enough out that I could have gelled or frozen fuel.. I quickly returned indoors to thaw. Attempting to do some research I learned that my fears could be correct, the fuel line could be frozen. Fast forward to the end of the day (after getting a ride to class, learning a ton, and getting a ride home). I scheme some more about how I can get my vehicle started. It is around this point in the evening that it dawns on me, "Why have I not asked God to help in this matter?" I am worried about getting the vehicle running so I can get to class, but also, my wife will need to go back to work soon. Convicted of my lack of spirituality and prayerfulness, I asked Kelly to pray with me about our vehicle because after all since God is sovereign like I told everyone on Twitter, I should act like I believe that instead of seeking to, in my own autonomy, solve my problems.

Kelly & I prayed. I prayed again before turning in, seeking to cast my cares on Him(1 Peter 5:6-7). In the morning I arose as before, girding my loins to face the cold, but this time I walked to the vehicle differently. This time I knew that if the Lord willed[1], it would start, but if He chose otherwise[2] then I would be content with that. I slid the key into the ignition, pumped the gas pedal a few times, and turned it with expectancy.... Lights, sounds, sputters, IT STARTS!!! I'm ecstatic! God delivered!

Analyze what's happening:
Now up to this point I've been sharing about a specific time when I've seen this manner of thinking in my life, but let's break this down so that we can see what happened:

  1. I shared with others about the greatness of God, His sovereignty over snowpocalypse in my case.
  2. I encountered the situation or circumstances which I previously explained that God was in control of and/or can ordain because He is God.
  3. I seek to solve the situation or circumstances with the tools & knowledge I have available.
  4. I seek to solve the situation or circumstances with other peoples' tools or knowledge.
  5. I recall that God is sovereign over this circumstance, and that I told others that very thing...
  6. I become ashamed that I have sought human-temporal aid in lieu of prayerfully asking God to provide.
  7. I humble myself and pray that God would come through in His character as sovereign and deliver me.
    1. God answered.
Providential Passage:
That very evening, on the day which the vehicle started in the morning, I was reading in my M'Cheyne Reading plan on Olive Tree and came across Ezra 8:21-23.

"21 Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods. 22 For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, “The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.” 23 So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty. (emphasis added)"
Note a few things about this passage. Ezra is explaining why he called for a fast that would humble them before God to seek a safe journey. He calls for such an entreaty to be made because he is ashamed to ask for help, specifically from the king. Why? Surely the king had help to spare... The text tells us, it is because they had already told the king essentially "God is sovereign. He will do good to His own and will punish the wicked." In other words, Ezra et al. told the king God will take care of us and deal with those who would attack us. This is why Ezra is ashamed, because he was contemplating asking the king for a vanguard to be safe. Thus, instead of imploring the earthly king for temporal aid Ezra entreated the eternal king whose alone is salvation[3]

Questions for application:
  • What things in life do I attempt to solve in my autonomy without praying to God about?
    • How have I even told others about truths which I neglect when the circumstances allow for their application?
  • How can you take a step of growth after reading this blog?
    • How can you seek to depend on God even in the mundane?
  • What would have happened had Ezra not prayed?
    • Can we conclude God didn't help if Ezra could succeed without prayer?
As you analyze your life through the grid of Ezra 8:21-23 & the systematic outline I laid out above, note something with me. If I chose not to pray to the Lord and my vehicle started the next morning, would I be able to conclude that God had nothing to do with it? May it never be! I would have to neglect the laws of the universe that He upholds [4], the fact that randomness & chance are not random to God[5], and God the sun to shine & the rain to fall whether or not we ask[6]. We cannot deduce then that we succeed in autonomous determination, bending the circumstances to our bidding; rather, we will be guilty of not rendering thanks, glory, and praise to God for His glorious grace. Join me in the coming weeks in looking for ways to be thankful and praise God for His provision.

With joy,

1. [ James 4:15 ]
2. [ Daniel 3:17 ]
3. [ Jonah 2:9 ]
4. [ Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:3 ]
5. [ Proverbs 16:31 ]
6. [ Matthew 5:45 ]