My husband and I were enjoying a day on the lake when we saw a large owl struggling in the water. We drove the boat up next to it to see what we could do. I couldn’t help but wonder what had led to Mr. Owl’s predicament. I imagined his story went something like this:

Mr. Owl was soaring over the still waters, looking for his family’s morning feast, when he saw the reflection of a big, juicy bass. He swooped down and plunged his talons into the unsuspecting fish. He smiled as he lifted it from the water, thinking of how pleased his wife would be. This fish far surpassed any catch he’d ever brought home; he’d be the envy of all his neighbors.

About ten feet into his flight, Mr. Owl realized he’d taken on more than he could handle. He flapped his wings as hard as he could, but the weight of the fish pulled him down into the lake. As water saturated his spotted feathers, Mr. Owl let go of his prize.

He tried desperately to break free of the water’s talons that had taken him captive, to no avail. He struggled for hours, but finally, he gave up the fight.

Frightened and growing weaker by the moment, Mr. Owl grew angry. “How could I have been so careless?” he sputtered. “How could I have let my pride get me into this situation?” Such thoughts bombarded him as he realized the predicament he had brought upon himself and his family.

The day grew warm. The fish he’d planned to eat for breakfast nibbled on his talons, while so-called friends hooted from the treetops, a safe distance away.

No one came to his rescue. No one seemed to care that he was in real danger. The sun continued to make its way across the sky. All Mr. Owl could do was wait and hope that a rescuer would come—but who would dare to jump into these deep waters with him?

Have you, like Mr. Owl, ever found yourself isolated in deep water? I have. I’ve often chased after what pleased the eye, delighted the ears, gratified the flesh, or satisfied my appetite…without considering the consequences. And inevitably, I’ve found myself struggling to stay afloat, unsure of how to get myself free.

It is then that I come to my senses and cry out, “God, help me. I’ve made a mess of things again. Please come to my rescue and lead me safely to shore.”

You know, sometimes the things that weigh me down aren’t bad. But I’ve learned that even good things, if they aren’t God things, can keep me from soaring as God intends.

In Psalm 18, King David tells us about a situation he found himself in. “The ropes of death entangled me,” he says. “But in my distress I cried out to the Lord…my cry to him reached his ears.… He reached down from heaven and rescued me; he drew me out of deep waters…. He led me to a place of safety; he rescued me because he delights in me” (Psalm 18:4, 6, 16, 19).

Did you know that God delights in you, too? He loves you and has great plans for your life. And He wants to help you fulfill those plans, no matter who you are or what you’ve done.

He’s just waiting for you to cry out to Him in surrender, and when you do, He will come to your rescue—just like He did for David, for Mr. Owl, and for me. Let me finish telling you what happened that day.

As Tim and I surveyed Mr. Owl’s situation from the boat, we realized unless we intervened, this beautiful creature was going to drown. I got ready to jump into the water, but Tim warned me, “Kristi, that thing’ll light you up!”

I looked around the boat for something that would keep a safe distance between me and Mr. Owl’s sharp beak and talons. I found the perfect tool—a life vest. A plan unfolded in my mind’s eye. I would float the vest horizontally on the water and gently push the owl from behind his neck to shore. Life vests are, after all, created to save lives.

I jumped in and swam toward Mr. Owl. He twisted his head around slowly and stared at me, but he didn’t attempt to get away. He was too tired. I placed the vest against his neck and began to swim toward shore. Mr. Owl watched me with his big yellow eyes the entire time. They were absolutely beautiful.

When we touched land, he quickly hopped out of the water. His newfound energy startled me. Would he attack me? He jumped a few more feet, then stopped. Slowly, he turned his whole body around to face me, looked me in the eyes, and blinked real slow as if to say, “Thank you.” I kid you not!

He stayed on the shore for quite some time. Finally, he had enough strength to hop to the base of a tree, then he flew to a low-hanging limb. An hour later, Mr. Owl flew off, fishless but alive, and with quite a story to tell. I love how God provides a way out, even for His creatures.

I don’t know what deep waters surround you, and I don’t know how long you’ve been struggling to get free, but if you’re ready to set your feet on solid ground, I have hope for you. God is prepared to rescue you. He’s just waiting for you to realize that you need Him. The minute you give up the fight, surrender your will to His, and call on the name of Jesus, He will swoop down from heaven and, in His perfect timing and His perfect way, bring you safely to shore.

Now, I don’t want to suggest that your rescue will necessarily be instant or even pleasant. God may not snatch you immediately out of your situation; it would be too much for you. Like Mr. Owl, you might have a long swim ahead of you. But that’s okay, because you aren’t alone in the water. God, your Life Preserver, is in the water with you. He’s protecting you, providing for you, teaching you, and making a way where, before, there was no way.

He’s also bringing other people into the water to help you. Please don’t “light them up” or push them away. And don’t rush the journey; embrace it. Enjoy your swim with God and His rescuers. He, and they, have much to teach you, so you’ll be ready to soar when you reach the safety of the shoreline.

But maybe you’re not the one in trouble. Maybe you’re safe and dry on the boat. Tim and I were very much a part of Mr. Owl’s story. He wouldn’t have made it without our help. Life is like that too. People all around us are stuck in the waters of this world for reasons we may not understand or appreciate.

But they need our help, and they need it now. Men, women, and children everywhere are crying out to God to be rescued, and you and I, as believers in Jesus Christ, have the life preserver they require. We have the Good News of His salvation, His Word, His love, and His hope. It’s time we get in the water! They may be drowning in unfamiliar waters like addiction, prison, sex trafficking, mental disease—but don’t be afraid. God is with you as you jump in. Whatever you need, He will provide.

Perhaps you’ve refused to get into the water, even though you see people in need. You might think, they got themselves into that mess; they can figure a way out. That’s not how God thinks.

God doesn’t focus on why someone is in the water; instead, He focuses on saving the one who’s drowning. John 3:17 says, “God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.”

God is calling us—me and you—to lay aside our judgments, our fears, and our prejudices and get in the water. For their sake and ours.