When Christian was little, he liked helping around the house by vacuuming, helping with laundry, and even washing dishes. On one particularly helpful day Jeanni and I relaxed in his help a bit more than wisdom dictated. We left him washing the dishes in order to take care of something else—Jeanni changed out the laundry and I answered the phone.
When we came back, well, lets just say our work load had increased by a factor of 10. Water was everywhere, he was soaked to the bone, suds seemed to be growing out of the linoleum counter top, and both sinks were filled to the top with water about to pour over onto the already wet floor.
He thought he was being helpful. Instead, he created more work.
I’m guessing something like this has happened to you too. Someone tried to help, thinking they understood the need in the moment. Instead, what they thought helpful actually caused more problems. And, of course, making matters worse, there are the situations where the would-be-helper didn’t even see the problems they caused and were a bit confused by your frustration in the matter.
In situations like that, I’m never sure which is worse, the fact that the circumstances got harder as a result of the help, or that somehow the helper didn’t understand that they were making life more difficult.
King David had a similar problem. You can read about it in 2 Sam. 2-4 in particular.
Soon after the death of Saul, as you can imagine, David’s ascension to the throne was not an easy one. The key ‘helpers’ in this story are Abner and Joab. “Joab and Abner aren’t by common definition enemies: both, if challenged, would claim to be on David’s side. Abner carefully works out diplomatic means to turn Saul’s kingdom over to David. Joab simply gets rid of what he perceives as the opposition in the quickest and most efficient way he knows.” (Leap Over a Wall, p. 129) Neither are all that interested in what God is up to. In fact, they only seem interested in the opportunity to further their own careers. In the end, they take things into their own hands, and things got out of hand.
Whether faced with well meaning helpers, obtuse opportunists (Abner), or efficiency minded bullies (Joab) we, like David, may cry out in prayer, “this is too hard for me.” (2 Sam. 3:39) Though trying to help, they threaten to pull the whole thing (what ever it is) down around our ears as they collide in their helpfulness. Too often, we may find ourselves flinching, protecting, posturing, or negotiating just to survive. However, any attempt to wrestle control back from our would-be helpers is rarely productive and in the end merely stoops to their rules of engagement.
These are the very conditions within which God chooses to work out his salvation. We may watch in horror as politicians dismantle our illusions or become indignant by religiously minded nonsense, yet in the wake of shabby ethics, bigotry, discrimination, and intolerance (both sides of every argument are guilty of the very things they accuse the other side of perpetrating), God continues to work.
Though weary of our version of bad news and our perception of faulty thinking, it’s time for believers to step beyond the din and clatter of the mess and look more intently for God working out His salvation in us, around us, and in others.