Years ago, I heard a man tell an intriguing story. He, his wife, and five others crash-landed in a small plane in the Bearing Strait. He pointed out that, because of the frigid water conditions, their chances of survival were slim to none.
Though the waters were rough, the pilot successfully guided the plane to a landing on the water. When the plane came to a stop, each passenger emptied a gas can to help them float. They stepped out on the wing, and, when the plane sank forty-five seconds later, they were in the icy water. At most, he said that had fifteen to twenty minutes of survival time before hypothermia would begin would overcome them.
However, unknown to them at the time, there was another plane in the area who saw them go down and who saw their desperate situation. They radioed immediately for help. This particular plane had itself been one hour off schedule.
Twenty-two miles away a port worker heard the call. Rarely was there any aircraft sitting at this port. But, fortunately, two helicopters were available. Both of these quickly fired up for a rescue attempt.
It was fortunate that the stranded floaters were spotted. Then, what made the rescue attempts so difficult were the swells of the waves. As the helicopters hovered over the victims, timing had to be perfect.
Five were initially saved. The sixth person pulled on board was the pilot of the plane. Right as he was rescued, he became unconscious, and was sinking under the water. They were able to grab him just in time.
The last person was the wife of the man telling the story. She posed a particular problem. She was not willing to let go of her can, because it was the only thing holding her up. Though in a such a perilous situation, it had become a measure of security for her.
Nonetheless, time was running out for her. Hypothermia was gripping her. She was on the verge of simply succumbing to death. But, finally, in a dramatic moment of decision, she released her can, and she reached up her hands! A hand grabbed her hand, and pulled her upward toward safety.
The man paused ever so briefly, and said softy, “When you reach up as high as you can, God reaches down the rest of the way.”
Undoubtedly, everywhere there are people in crisis for one reason or another. Most have ignored God. Some at least recognize the reality of God. But, one common factor seems to dictate outcomes of failure and disappointment in their crisis situation. They tend to want to hang on to whatever gives them a sense of security. They all too often opt to just try to stay afloat for as long as possible.
However, God is in the business to help rescue people from crises. But, it is imperative that one give Him a hand – a hand that in fact has released hold onto other dependencies – a hand that has become outstretched upward in faith toward Him. It is in that moment that the Lord graciously reaches down the rest of the way.
Apparently, one of the Psalmists experienced a great crisis, for, he cried out to God, “From the end of the earth will I reach to thee. When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”
Apostle Peter found himself in a similar situation. After leaving the boat and walking on the water for a few feet, the rugged seas became his crisis. As he began to sink, he called out, “Lord, save me!” I believe the Lord reached down with His hand to take Peter’s outstretched hand.
You can be certain that God indeed reaches down to our human conditions. He has proven it in Jesus Christ. As a matter of fact, Jesus Christ is that rock about which the Psalmist wrote. Jesus Christ left Heaven to reach down to us to pull us on board.
Surely, this is a word for someone in crisis today. Grab God’s hand.
Pastor Ron Branch lives in Mason County and is pastor of Hope Baptist Church, Middleport, Ohio.