Saturday, October 8, 2016

when self-reliance becomes something else

I'm big on self-reliance. My whole life, from the time I was little bitty, my mantra has been, "I can do it myself!" One of my dreams is to one day have a self-sustaining farm, one on which we can totally support ourselves and our loved ones without counting on anyone else.

Worldly self-reliance isn't necessarily a bad thing. In fact, God tells us to work and to support ourselves so that others won't have a reason to speak against us--"make it your goal to lead a peaceful life, mind your own business, and keep your hands busy in your work, as we have instructed you. That way you will live peacefully with those on the outside, and all your needs will be met without depending on others." (I Thessalonians 4:11 & 12, VOICE).

The problem comes, though, when my self-reliance comes ahead of my reliance on God. It usually sneaks in a little at a time, starting with something tiny, something I can handle on my own without "bothering" God about it. I want to handle things myself, but in doing so I start trusting in my own power and stop trusting in God.

"My goodness, how you've turned things around! You seem to think that the potter is equal to the clay; should the pot say about the potter, 'He didn't make me'? Or does the thing formed say about the one who formed it, 'He doesn't understand anything'?"
~Isaiah 29:16

When I start trusting myself instead of God, I'm like the pot saying that I know better than the Potter.
God doesn't expect me to take care of everything on my own. In fact, it's quite the opposite. He doesn't need or want my help taking care of things.

"Listen! The Lord, the Eternal, the Holy One of Israel says,
'In returning and rest, you will be saved.
In quietness and trust you will find strength.'"
~Isaiah 30:15

God doesn't need my strength--He doesn't even want it. To Him, my strength is nothing. Instead, He wants me to let go. He says, "This is the way; here is rest for the weary. I am showing you rest." ~Isaiah 28:12
That's hard for me, that "rest" thing. All I do is look around and see all the things that are being left undone, all the things I should be doing, all the things that I need to "fix." I have a tendency to do the same thing with God. He calls me to rest, but I start looking around and seeing all the things I think I should be doing.

In James, we're told, "Those who depend only on their own judgment are like those lost on the seas, carried away by any wave or picked up by any wind. Those adrift on their own wisdom shouldn't assume the LORD will rescue them or bring them anything. The splinter of divided loyalty shatters your compass and leaves you dizzy and confused." ~James 1:6-8
When I rely on my own strength and wisdom, I usually get myself lost at sea. And when I'm lost, being tossed around by the waves and getting more and more disoriented, I start paddling frantically trying to get myself back to shore. It's only when I'm undeniably lost that I start asking God to show me where I'm supposed to be. He can't always show me right away, because sometimes I've gotten myself so far off track that He has to lead me back through the waves and across the open sea before we're even in sight of where I'm supposed to be.
And it's only when a storm comes along that rips the paddles out of my hands and leaves me totally incapable of doing things myself that I finally give in and let God. I don't want to do that. I want my first thought to be like the Psalmist's:

"When struck by fear, I let go, depending securely upon You alone."
~Psalm 56:3

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