Recently, I was out and about with two of my grandsons when we stopped for lunch at a fast food restaurant. As I was placing our order, they were each busy procuring the necessary accompaniments to our meal, which I soon discovered consisted mainly of a handful of ketchup packets.
After we were seated, I had to send one of them back to retrieve the less important items as far as young boys are concerned, such as napkins and plastic eating utensils.
When the younger of my two grandsons started to try to tear open his ketchup packet, I cringed, recognizing the potential risk involved. However, I let him make several futile attempts at the task before finally asking if he wanted my help.
In response to my offer to assist him, my grandson got a determined look on his face. He answered dogmatically, "No, I'll bite it open" -- no doubt mimicking the actions of some adults in the family who had used that method to deal with such stubborn containers in the past.
I can report that he was successful in opening the packet. However as he did, ketchup squirted out onto his shirt, onto the table, and primarily in a large swath across his face. At that point I was glad we had gone back to get the napkins.
A spirit of independence and of wanting "to do it myself" can be a good thing at times. I wouldn't want to hamper the development of that attitude in my grandchildren, especially when so many people today are more than willing to depend on others to take care of their needs rather than taking that responsibility themselves.
But sometimes we do need to recognize our dependence, especially when it comes to God. The Bible condemns those who possess a self-sufficient spirit that proclaims, "I have need of nothing" (Revelation 3:17). It commends individuals who realize their own faults and limitations, but who lean upon God to overcome those shortcomings.
It's wise, not weak, to look to God for help. We have a Heavenly Father who wants us to come to Him with our needs and concerns. He's provided us with an effective tool to seek His assistance -- prayer.
He says, "Ask, and it will be given to you" (Luke 11:9). He even tells us that there are some things we don't have simply because we haven't asked for them (James 4:2).
Yet how often do we stubbornly act like my grandson did at the restaurant? We know God is available to help. We are well aware of the vehicle of prayer which is at our disposal. We may even hear His invitation to assist us.
But we become even more determined to try to do it ourselves, often with a similar result of making a mess of the whole matter.
What tough situation are you dealing with these days? There's a time and place for dogged determination that keeps on trying. But there's also a place for handing matters over to Someone who is much more capable of taking care of the situation than we are.
As a matter of fact, even as we're doing everything we can do, we need to be prayerfully depending on God to help us and to do what we can't do. Sometimes it's not a question of either doing or praying -- it's both at the same time.
So let's recognize our dependence on God and seek His help before we bite the ketchup packet. It's much easier to let God do it the right way than to have to clean up the mess we make from trying to do it solely on our own.
The Rev. Tony W. Elder is pastor of Wesley Community Fellowship Church. He can be reached at 770-483-3405 or by email at RevTElder@aol.com.