Adam Bischoff, 15, was riding his bicycle with a friend when he was swept into a flood channel that had been swollen to overflowing by rains. When the alarm was sounded, rescuers frantically tried to save the lad, who was holding onto a log, screaming, “Help me! Help me!”
As Adam was swept along by the current of the floodwaters, over an eight-mile stretch of river, rescuers repeatedly tried to save the boy, some dangling from bridges, risking their own lives, as they tried to snatch the boy from danger. A television camera crew captured rescuers throwing a flotation device that was within inches of his outstretched hands only to be swept by the current beyond his reach. In spite of the heroic attempts to save the lad, the rescuers failed. “The water was just racing, flying, with lots of debris and logs and stuff,” said Robert Yeager, who had photographed the boy’s attempted rescue.
As I viewed the video of the teenager with his hands outstretched only inches away from help and safety, I couldn’t help but think, “Surely, with the next throw of the flotation ring, he’ll be saved and the grim, frightened expression on his face will turn to rejoicing.” But the efforts failed. So close to being saved, only to be lost.
What made this drama especially painful to watch was the fact that Adam was within inches of being rescued. Both the lad in the waters and those trying to save him were doing their utmost, but their best wasn’t quite enough.
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom. Ecclesiastes 9:10
There is a great difference between failing because you tried and your best efforts were not enough and failing because you didn’t try hard enough. Far too often we give up too soon, and the result is failure.
I’m thinking of a certain farmer who became discouraged trying to eke out a living on a rather desolate parcel of land which he had farmed for years. Thinking that the land which had been in the family for many years would always be worthless, he sold his farm for a mere pittance, barely enough to pay his debts, and drove away from the old homestead. Within a year, however, from the time that the old farmer grew discouraged and quit, oil was discovered which made the new owner a very wealthy man.
There are times when just a bit more effort would make the difference between succeeding and failing. In the 1991 Middle East conflict known as Desert Storm, General Norman Schwarzkopf wanted 24 more hours to bottle up Iraq’s elite Republican Guard, but the war ended, and the elite force of Saddam Hussein survived to fight again.
Within a year, however, from the time that the old farmer grew discouraged and quit, oil was discovered which made the new owner a very wealthy man.
Schwarzkopf wasn’t the first to stop fighting too soon. Take your Bible and read the first chapter of the Old Testament book of Judges and you will read a sad litany of failure as the army of ancient Israel stopped fighting too soon or gave up too quickly, and for that failure, they paid dearly.
I realize there is a limit to what any human being can do, but I often wonder how much might be accomplished, how many of our kids might be saved, what things which fail might succeed if we but put in just a bit more effort? When you are tempted to give up or turn back or cast away something as worthless, ponder the outstretched hand of a lad only inches away from help. Think of the farmer who gave up only months before oil was discovered, and ask yourself, “Am I quitting too soon?”
Making this rather personal, may I ask, “Could you have done better today?” “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might,” says Ecclesiastes 9:10, “for in the grave where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.” Think about it.
Resource reading: Judges 1:17-36.