On Being a Rescuer

[This is a continuation of something I started on our newsletter that went out on Monday. If you'd like to read On Hurricane Harvey and Rescue, click here. Also, if you'd like to sign up for our newsletter, click over here. Normally, we send these out once a month, but ya know...life happens.]

Today, my Facebook feed has been filled with images of ordinary people using ordinary boats to save ordinary people in an extraordinary situation. The catastrophe named Harvey has wrecked Houston and surrounding areas in the most unbelievable way. My father-in-law has been stuck in the hospital where he works as a chaplain (hopefully he's being rescued as I type), some of my friends have been evacuated, and I frequently check on my other friends to see if they've survived another night in a flood-threatening situation.

It's all terrible. 

But the rescuers. Praise God both for the people in uniform and the plain-clothes who are continually risking their lives to save people in danger of drowning and dying and despairing.

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.
— Fred Rogers

Where would we be without the rescuers?

I'm sure there have been times in your life where you feared you wouldn't make it—physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally. You desperately needed someone to come along and help. It's only natural in this life to find oneself in this position from time to time. First, Jesus told us that in this life we would have trouble. Second, He created community, the very purpose which is to provide support. If we weren't supposed to need it, why would He have created it?

Knowing these two things, why is it that we are often afraid to admit we need help? And why is it that, sometimes, we're afraid of offering to rescue someone else? 

Rescue, by definition is to save (someone) from a dangerous or distressing situation and/or to keep from being lost or abandoned.

There are so many reasons why we don't ask for help and why we even go so far as to reject it when it is offered. For many people, it takes a crisis of epic proportions for them to ask and receive help. It is not until they are in real danger of drowning that they climb onto the roof, wave their arms in desperation, and hope that someone will see them.

I am talking about the proverbial roof, now, and crises like infidelity, addiction, loss of a child, loss of a parent, unemployment, illness, abuse, eating disorders. I could go on. There are so many problems that afflict and affect us. 

Have you experienced one of these things? Have you made it to the other side? Chances are because you've been through it, you have some semblance of the struggle. You know the warning signs. You know the pitfalls.

You also know the hope that awaits, that light that can pierce through the darkness.

Don't you want to share that light? Don't you, on some level, want to wrap your arms around that person in distress and let them know that it absolutely sucks right now, but that this season won't last forever? Don't you want to let them know that they aren't alone, that they have a friend, and that when it seems like the darkness is so pervasive, there is still a way out, still a way forward, still a plan and a purpose?

I do.


But sometimes, we hesitate. We think we don't have the resources. We think it's not our business. We think we don't have the spiritual gifts or the words or the time. We're afraid of messing up, saying or doing the wrong thing.

But rescuing isn't about solving all the person's problems. 

It's about seeing them.

It's about validating that they have a need and showing empathy.

It's about listening without judgement and criticism. (It was so painful to see the shaming happening on Facebook about how people should have evacuated without any context about what was happening in their specific situations. Shaming is always a no-no.)

It's about gently pointing them in a direction that will lead them to more safety and security.

It's about reminding them of God's love, either with your words or just with your actions.

It's about letting them know they are not alone.

Do you know how much good comfort and encouragement alone can do to help lessen anxiety and distress?

You will never be able to save the world. You will never be able to do all things for all people. The rescuers that drove the boats got the people off the roofs and into a shelter. Then someone else with another gifting stepped in to dry them off, fill their bellies, and give them needed supplies. Someone else will help rebuild their house and fix their cars and raise money for all that to happen. We all have different giftings, but we all have a gift to share. 

Let's start paying attention to the roof lines and see the people whom God has put in our line of vision that we can help.

We don't have to be afraid. God knows we aren't going to do it perfectly. But He promises to be with us as we work through Him—through His strength, His power, His words.

Let's not leave our friends high and dry. And if you're on the roof (or need to get yourself up there), pray that God would send someone to see you. Reach out as you can. And accept the help God brings you.