“If our identity is in our work, rather than Christ, success will go to our heads, and failure will go to our hearts.” ~Timothy Keller
In case you haven’t already figured this out, I write for myself as much as I write for my readers. Whatever “lesson” I’m learning, I’m still in the process of hearing, receiving, and applying the truths of God’s Word. So, I preach to myself.
This struggle continually presents itself as a question: will you trust the Lord or will you endeavor to control and place your hope in yourself? I often think that reliance and responsibility are at war with one another, but truthfully, God calls us to both. We are to take care of our families (I Tim. 5:8), give to the poor (Matt. 5:42), save (I Cor. 16:2), plan (Luke 14;28-33), and work hard (Prov. 6:6-). And yet, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Prov. 16:9).
As those who mentor me attest, life is about balance. We are tempted to end up in one ditch of the road or the other, compensating for what we fear most. In this case, I fear irresponsibility, apathy, and laziness. I think that in order to avoid drifting in life, I have to take responsibility for far more than God intended me to. In pride, I square up my shoulders and declare, “Oh, I’ll take care of that. Don’t worry. I got it.”
But what about the times when I don’t “got it”? What about the times I drop a spinning plate or can’t compensate for some personal need of my own? What about the times when I need help?
I squirm under the dread: will I be enough when I can’t do everything I think I should do? Am I sufficient just by being me? Does my value and security rest in God, truly?
Yesterday was a hard day. I had to keep telling myself Phil. 4:19. My God will meet all my needs (and it won’t be a strain); it comes out of the glorious abundance of Christ. But last night, the anxiety kicked into full gear and I knew I had some choices to make. I could believe lies about my identity or I could turn to God’s Word.
Then I came across these inspired verses:
Blessed is the man who makes
the LORD his trust,
who does not turn to the proud,
to those who go astray after a lie!
You have multiplied, O LORD my God,
your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;
none can compare with you!
I will proclaim and tell of them,
yet they are more than can be told.
In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted,
but you have given me an open ear.
Burnt offering and sin offering
you have not required.
Then I said, “Behold, I have come;
in the scroll of the book it is written of me:
I delight to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart.” (Psalm 40:4-8, ESV emphasis mine)
It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. (Psalm 118:8, ESV)
I’d been turning aside to the proud (hello, Self!) and thinking that I could manage my life without truly depending on Him. The saying ‘God helps those that help themselves’ is not in the Bible. I knew I needed to trust God, but ultimately, I wanted to take full responsibility over my emotions, finances, health, children, and more.
I have been turning “astray after a lie”–far too many.
Lie #1: You are responsible for how things go in your life. Choices do lead to consequences for sure (good and bad), but we have so little control over the circumstances surrounding us. We can do “everything right”–which we won’t–and life can still throw us curve balls. When we think we can control our lives and those around us, the stress and anxiety ensues. Herein lies the major gap between expectations and execution. The reality of life will settle in at one point or another when we realize we can’t maintain everything all the time.
Lie #2: If you don’t do everything humanly possible, you won’t be a valuable asset anymore. What will people think of me if I can’t do everything I have been doing? God appraises my worth, not other people, not my accomplishments, not my to-do list, not my financial contributions. I can honestly say that the transfer from head to heart has not been complete yet, but I’m trying to rest in this truth. “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent” (Ex. 14:14). “For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength” (Is. 30:15, emphasis mine). Strength doesn’t lie within, it lies within Him.
Lie #3: When you can’t bridge the gap (emotionally, financially, physically, etc.), God won’t compensate for your weakness. This lie might be the most deadly, because there’s absolutely no faith in it. I’m living like a practical atheist.
“Who do we believe in more? Ourselves or God? Our actions and decisions will reflect that. When we live by faith, we believe that God has everything under control. But if we start to worry, how we live says the opposite.” Craig Groeschel, The Christian Atheist: Believing in God but Living as if He Doesn’t Exist
“Through faith in the cross we get a new foundation for an identity that both humbles us out of our egoism yet is so infallibly secure in love…” Timothy Keller
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Heb. 4:16
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Ps. 46:1
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Is. 41:10