“I need real-world advice, Mom, not Bible advice.” Ouch. My son’s words stung my ears. He wanted to maneuver a difficult situation in his own wisdom, strength, and power. He didn’t believe that God might have answers for him. There’s no judgment here because we’re a lot alike, my son and me. We’re both prone to self-sufficiency.
Here’s the thing about self-reliance; it makes us only trust what we can see or understand for our future. Anxiety and despondency can creep in when we listen to ourselves instead of God. We can’t experience His power or discover in Him the source of our strength. Self-sufficiency leaves no room to fully know who God is, who we are in Him, or what He’s calling us to do.
So why do Christians like us struggle with self-sufficiency? What keeps us from trusting in the Lord’s promises in our everyday lives? We know that God hung the stars, formed the earth, and put breath in our lungs. Yet to look to Him for answers seems too simple when hostile worldly ideologies surround us. Instead, we embrace tedious battles fought on our own – exhausted, with no end in sight. Old Testament prophets captured this feeling when they wrote:
“I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing at all.” – Isaiah 49:4
“All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless.” – Ecclesiastes 2:23
The Bible is clear that striving in our own power produces a life without purpose. Yet the challenging part of self-sufficiency is that it’s hard-wired into our humanness. Like breathing, we don’t even realize we’re doing it unless we intentionally check our thinking:
In Jeremiah’s day, the people of Judah did not want to depend on God, so they made a conscious choice to walk in the way of self-sufficiency. “It’s no use,” they said. “We will continue with our own plans; we will all follow the stubbornness of our evil hearts” (Jeremiah 18:12).
That sounds awful, but the truth is that I’ve made choices like that, too. How about you? When I didn’t want to risk hearing God’s “no,” I didn’t seek Him out. Other times I never even thought to seek Him out. God allows us to experience the full brunt of self-sufficient choices like these.
I want to live another way, with a resting faith, and I want to model this for my son, too. Jesus modeled resting faith for us through his total dependence on God. When we bring God into every situation, what seems dark and hopeless gets set in a new and higher context. The darkness could still be there. Yet we realize through His Word that whatever we face may be the very thing God has prepared for us. Will we trust Him?
You and I have a choice in every situation: Will we model our lives after Jesus or walk in the way of self-sufficiency? The self-sufficient path tackles life’s darkness through a “do-it-yourself” approach. The Bible tells us this path is doomed. The other choice is to pursue a God-dependent life through a resting faith. Here, even though the path may be murky, and the outcome uncertain, we choose to rest in God’s promise that His divine strength is and always will be ours. One choice leans on God, the other lies down in defeat.
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” – Ephesians 3:20
“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:2
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33