In a well-known parable, a storm hits a small town, which is quickly flooded. As the waters rise, the local preacher kneels in prayer on the church porch, surrounded by water. Soon, one of his parishioners paddles up in a canoe.

“Get in, pastor. The waters are rising fast.”

“No worries,” says the pastor. “God will save me.”

The waters continue to rise, and the pastor has taken refuge on the balcony by the time a motorboat approaches.

“Climb aboard, pastor. There’s been an evacuation order.”

Once again, the pastor is unmoved. “God will see me through.”

The town’s levee breaks, and the flood rushes over the church until only the steeple remains above water. That’s where the pastor is, hanging onto the belfry, when a helicopter descends out of the clouds.

“Grab the ladder, pastor!” the pilot calls.

Once again, the preacher refuses, insisting that he’s putting his faith in God. The helicopter leaves, and he drowns.

At the gates of heaven, the pastor meets God. “I don’t understand. Why didn’t You deliver me from that flood?”

“What do you mean?” God asks. “I sent you two boats and a helicopter!”

Sometimes we can be like this pastor. When we are going through difficult times, and problems and questions are mounting around us, it can seem that God has turned a deaf ear to our prayers for help, whereas perhaps we’re just focused on how we think God should help us.

Let’s remember that the help, answers, and solutions that we want and ask for may not always come in the way we expect them to. As Martin Luther said, “All who call on God in true faith, earnestly from the heart, will certainly be heard, and will receive what they have asked and desired, although not in the hour or in the measure, or the very thing which they ask; yet they will obtain something greater and more glorious than they had dared to ask.”