Self-Reliance or God-Reliance?

Which one is true of you? Are you self-reliant or God-reliant? Or maybe, as with me, it varies depending on what is happening in your life.

When we act in self-reliance we, in reality, are telling the Lord that we don’t need Him. We forget to pray and don’t spend time with Him or even read His Word. Maybe it is because life is going smooth. Or maybe it is because our crammed calendars tell us that there are too many things going on and there isn’t time to fit it in. And then as decisions need to be made we choose to go by our own wisdom rather than seeking His because it feels safer and we feel more in control. We figure we have as good as plan as any. We forget how fragile and needy we are. Sound familiar? We run in independence, relying on self so easily through life.

We forget God, we diminish our need for Him. We aren’t the first to do this. The Israelites did the same thing. In Deuteronomy 8:11-14 Moses warns them “Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by failing to keep His commandments and His judgments (precepts) and His statutes which I am giving you today, otherwise, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply, and your silver and gold multiply and all you have increases, then your heart will become lifted up [by self-conceit and arrogance] and you will forget the LORD your God who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” 

We forget all He has done for us and the greatness of our need for Him. We forget when life is going well and we feel satisfied and nothing is pressing hard on us.

As I thought about the way the Lord worked in the recent circumstances of my life, I realized that He showed me His presence and power when I chose to abandon outcomes to Him. I mean when I admitted I needed Him and His help and His wisdom.

The Lord doesn’t grab the reins of our lives from our hands and tells us to do it this way. But when we stop and let go of our control and ask Him to take over, He is able to do so much more than we can ask or imagine.

When my hands, heart, and mind are busy controlling outcomes I miss looking for, praying to, and trusting in the Lord. It is only when I recognize my need for Him, and let go of self-sufficiency that I then seek Him in the desperate, fragile, needy way of reliance. It is then that my eyes are searching for Him, His power and His presence, and it is then that my hands, heart, and mind are free to focus on Him and His faithfulness. Empty hands can be lifted up in praise and thanksgiving.

What are your hands filled with?

Is it the many material blessings He has given? Is it the overwhelming problems you feel weighing you down that you are trying to carry in your own strength? Is it all of the things on your endless to-do list?

There has to be something that keeps us from Him, that allows us to forget Him. There has to be something that keeps us moving forward at break-neck speed relying on self.

When our hands are filled and our houses are stuffed to overflowing and are calendars are bulging with too much to do and too many people to see, it is then that we forget God. We forget prayer, we forget praise, we forget to seek Him in His Word. It is in those times that it is too hard to lift our hands and our hearts. In fact, it is on those times that I find myself much more likely to grumble and complain.

I am not sure that I had realized that before, but I recognize that as being true now. My grumbling and complaining come because the weight of it all is way too heavy. Self-reliance weighs us down after a while. We weren’t created to rely on ourselves.

Self-reliance say: “I can do it!” “I’ve got this.” “I don’t need help.” “It is best that I… ”

God-reliance says: “Lord, I must depend on you, I don’t know what to do.” “Oh, help me Lord! ” “Lead me Lord, give me direction. Where do I go from here?” “Grant me wisdom, Lord! ”

What do you hear yourself saying most often?

I know it seems like I think that I can control and manipulate things so I work hard to figure it all out. But the truth is, it usually does not work out well when I do this. I need His wisdom and knowledge to lead me.

In Psalm 103, the psalmist tells his soul to bless the Lord. It is thought that this Psalm was written by David at the time he was pardoned of his adultery with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:15). David wrote this after the child, conceived with Bathsheba, became very ill and was near death.

Can you imagine how he felt? It was from that place he pleaded with his soul to bless the Lord and to not forget all the benefits from the Lord.

When things are out of control, which is true often in our lives, we get to choose how we will respond. Will we try to manipulate circumstances? Or will we remember Who God is and remember His faithfulness in our lives and then choose to bless His name? Remembering how He has been at work in our lives builds our level of trust.

It would be difficult to choose to step onto a single-strand ladder and feel even a tiny bit safe. But when the ladder rungs are made of rope with several strands braided together we feel more secure.

So it is with trusting in God and learning to rely on Him to lead and guide us. The more we see Him at work in our lives,  taking care of situations, and resolving problems that frustrate us, answering our prayers in amazing ways, the more strands of faith we have getting braided together building our trust.

David knew that his heart needed lifting, he needed hope. David knew that in gratefully praising God for all that He had done for him and the Israelites, new hope would be found. He would remember God’s faithfulness and find reason to rely on Him again.

David was quite aware of the mess he had made by following his own desires and lusts. We too find ourselves in the middle of messes unsure of what to do. Maybe you are there right now. Maybe you have made a string of decisions based on your own wisdom and knowledge, pure self-reliance, and now you realize you are in too deep. The Lord waits for us to let go of control and turn it over to Him. There may be consequences, but the Lord is faithful to give us the help we need and He will work in the middle of the mess. We, like David, can choose to bless His name in the middle of the mess. We just need to remember Who God is and all He has done, pray for help, and watch Him work!

Psalm 103:2 KJV “Bless the Lord, O my soul and forget not all His benefits.

This is the path to seeking to choose God-reliance over self-reliance because our trust in Him grows through it. This is the path I want to take, how about you?

 

 

Advertisements

Sharing Your Fragility

How do you think of yourself? Strong? Responsible? On top of things? The one who can and does take care of things? The one others come to when they need the job done?

Shauna Niequist, in her book Present Over Perfect, describes herself as having been all of the above. She got things done and more and more people recognized this fact. They expected it of her and went to her. And she said yes, time and time again, until she couldn’t anymore.

Shauna didn’t want to have to admit to being weak or unable to do something. She didn’t want to think of herself as someone who needed self-care. But she suddenly was faced with the fact that she wasn’t Wonder Woman. Shauna didn’t want to admit to being fragile, she was afraid people would think less of her. 

It was that word fragile that caught me off guard as I listened to the book on Audible in my car. Something about the word triggered tears immediately. I can relate to Shauna in being “the responsible one.” I always want to be the one who will come to the rescue and take care of things. I relate to her also in the exhaustion she felt and her feelings of being above self-care.

You see, I have to admit it is hard for me to say I am fragile. It’s difficult to say it to those around me and it has been difficult to talk with the Lord about it. It wasn’t ok to be needy, somehow that is what I learned in life.

It takes coming to a place where you have no choice, where you really can’t do it anymore, whether it’s for physical, mental, or emotional reasons or maybe for all three. And at that point you just have to stop.

This is when you begin to wrestle with the reality of not being super-human. This is when you begin to try to figure out how you really need to take care of yourself with intentionality. You admit you are fragile and needy.

The word self-care begins to be a reality of day-to-day living. I began by making a list of what kind of self-care I thought would be beneficial. The list went something like this: sitting quiet on the patio. spending time petting my bunnies, taking time to journal to work through issues or to just ramble about what I am thinking about, reading a chapter, actually giving myself permission to do it when my to-do list is not completed. Watercoloring and creative journaling also made the list. There were many things on my list. The issue was learning to relax.

The way I went about it is I decided to add a few of these ideas to each day’s to-do list. But that really wasn’t a good idea because it added pressure for me to, seemingly, have even more to do. This made me more anxious and frustrated. I seemed to be accomplishing less and continually feeling more stressed out.

It was only recently that I came to a very important realization. Self-care is not something you add to your list, it is a way of life. It is similar with going on a diet. Going on a diet is futile because it means at some point you will go off of the diet and end up at the same point you were before or maybe worse. So it is with self-care, it needs to be a mindset for life.

  • Self-care is giving yourself ample time to accomplish the tasks you need to do.
  • Self-care is limiting what could be an endless of to-do’s to what is realistic for the number of hours you have.
  • Self-care is asking for help.
  • Self-care is choosing to stop when you need a break, not because it’s on your to-do list but because you recognize you need it.
  • Self-care is about being real, being transparent with others about what you can and can’t do.
  • Self-care is sharing your fragility with the Lord. Telling Him the truth about how broken, needy, and overwhelmed you feel.

This last one is the most important. We need to seek the balm of the Lord’s love and the words of His wisdom in order to go on. He already knows we come from dust. He already knows our weaknesses. It is nothing new to Him. And I am sure that it must make Him sad to see us in our personal pressure cooker’s struggling through life. You know how you feel when you recognize someone you love is in need but they haven’t come to you for help. You just want to show them love by being there for them. God’s love for us is so much greater than that, He wants to be our all-in-all. So, we need to remember to take our fragile selves to Him in prayer.

If you look in my prayer journal you will frequently find prayers of desperation like the one that follows. I pour it all out to Him.

Lord, I am fragile. I can’t do it all. I get frustrated and overwhelmed. Sometimes I don’t know when to stop or how to take care of myself. You see me. You know my struggles. Lord, help me to let go of the need to prove myself, to myself or to anyone. Help me order my day in a way that I find balance and rest. Lord, help me to talk with others about how I feel fragile. I need to ask for help. I need to set some to-do’s aside for a season. Lead me in wisdom in choosing who I share with and what I set aside. I ask this of the One who knows the depth of my neediness and loves me more than anyone. In Jesus name. Amen. 

I am starting to tell people that I am fragile, maybe not using that word, but by saying “I can’t” or “I need.” I am telling the Lord. I need to take care of myself, it is a way to honor the Lord. He gave us our bodies and this life as a gift. Won’t you share your fragility? Be authentic. Be open about where you are at. Be Present over Perfect.