“Today is as good a day as any to begin our quest to develop intimacy with God…We need to understand our emotional selves – our true selves – and then seek the very real God to whom our emotions point.. He is a God who is as real as – and yet more powerful than – the emotions we feel and He can satisfy them completely.”
–Russ Ewell, When God Isn’t Attractive
Growing up, my poor dad worked so hard to teach me how to ride a bike. I always had this extreme (but in my mind, very rational) fear of falling and breaking something. We would go to the park and practice, but I would freak out every time he let go of my handlebars. I wanted him to hold onto my bike the entire time, leading me to where we needed to go. One time, he decided to let go to push me to guide the bike myself. I didn’t. Pretty far ahead of me was a street lamp. I opened wide my arms, already accepting my fate even though I was still about 10 feet away. The crash still hurt.
Though my bike riding experiences still traumatize me to this day, I’ve become less willing to express my need and desire for help and guidance and more prone to try to venture on my own and take everything on myself. Unlike my younger bike-phobic self, I refuse help and guidance, sure that I know what I’m doing. Unsurprisingly, I still crash. God is constantly trying to lead me and show me where to go next, but I need to decide to trust him enough to follow him.
I hear the Lord saying, “I will stay close to you, instructing and guiding you along the pathway for your life. I will advise you along the way and lead you forth with my eyes as your guide. So don’t make it difficult; don’t be stubborn when I take you where you’ve not been before. Don’t make me tug you and pull you along. Just come with me!”
Psalm 32:8-9 TPT
God wants to take us where we’ve never been before. He wants us to grow in our families, relationships, career, and purpose in ways we’ve never grown. If we’re gonna go places we’ve never been, we’re not gonna know what we’re doing. But too often, I try to act like I do know. Like this Scripture says, I fight against the plan God has for me and make it difficult for him by trying to do everything on my own. I don’t want to spend time with him or anyone who will challenge me, I stay superficial and would rather have fun and feel good than see the truth of where I’m at so that I can know where to go. But it’s this very self-reliance and refusal to learn from God and people that stop me from growing and moving forward.
Symptoms of Toxic Self-Reliance
This is what the Lord says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord. That person will be like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see prosperity when it comes. They will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.
Jeremiah 17:5-6 NIV
This Scripture describes exactly who I am when I don’t want to rely on God and just try to take everything on myself:
- Cursed – everything I do feels difficult, I feel like I’m stuck and never get anything done
- Bush in a wasteland/land where no one lives – feel alone, no one knows where I’m at, I’m isolated, not excited or lively but exhausted from trying to do everything myself
- Will not see prosperity when it comes – prosperity/good things do come, but I don’t even see them because I’m so focused on myself. I miss out on opportunities to reach out to people, or even opportunities to see God and be encouraged by my friend.
Do any of these symptoms describe you? This is a result of relying on ourselves rather than God.
On the other hand, if you hear My teachings but don’t put them into practice, you’ll be like the careless builder who didn’t bother to build a foundation under his house. The floodwaters barely touched that pathetic house, and it crashed in ruins in the mud.
Luke 6:49 VOICE
When I don’t turn to God to help me grow and only rely on myself, I become super weak and everything is difficult to handle. “The floodwaters barely touched that pathetic house” – One hard conversation, one negative circumstance could just completely wipe me out. I think I’m strong when I try to be independent and figure everything out myself, but it really just weakens me.
What have been your circumstances/“floods”? Are they really all that big and overwhelming or are you just weak from relying on yourself?
The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word.
Mark 4:16-17 NLT
The reason why I get taken out so easily and quickly by guilt, emotions, circumstances, and interactions is that I’m not deeply rooted in God. It is easy for me to go through cycles of change, where I recognize and acknowledge where I’ve been at and how I’ve hurt God and others, get excited and ready to see what God is doing, but one thing happens and I’m taken out, doing bad again, unmotivated to spend time with God or change. This is because I never kept going, only dealt with the surface and moved on without digging through the rocks to give enough room for me to be rooted in God.
What are our rocks?
- Sin – how we go against our conscience, what we feel guilty about, how we’ve let bitterness or proud arrogance take over, what thoughts consume our life
- Emotions – the reason why we turned to that sin in the first place – family, insecurities, hurt in relationships, fears about the future
- Our view of God – doubts about who he is and what he’s capable of, undealt with disappointment that turned into unbelief, having a skewed view of God influenced by past experiences with people or religion
Let God Lead Me
When I saw all of this, what turmoil filled my heart, piercing my opinions with your truth. I was so stupid. I was senseless and ignorant, acting like a brute beast before you, Lord. Yet, in spite of all this, you comfort me by your counsel; you draw me closer to you. You lead me with your secret wisdom. And following you brings me into your brightness and glory! Whom have I in heaven but you? You’re all I want! No one on earth means as much to me as you.
Psalm 73:21-25 TPT
If you read the rest of Psalm 73 in the TPT translation, it is a really helpful passage explaining what happens when we get caught up in the world and wanting to do things our own way. We get frustrated and discouraged, feeling like everything we’re doing is a waste and that a relationship with God doesn’t actually do anything. As the above Scripture describes, we have to go to God regardless of what we feel in the moment, and let the truth of what he tells us pierce through all our emotions and opinions that feel so real and true. The way we see God is when we realize that God is always actively working to bring us closer to him, in spite of us actively running away. Regardless of how we treat him, he is constantly working to show us the great plan he has for us!
Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.
Romans 4:18-21 NIV
When we believe that God will stick with us despite everything, we become strong enough to face the facts of who we are – how weak, messed up, and broken we truly are. It actually strengthens our faith, because it shows us just how strong God really is. What facts do you need to face? Sins, emotions, motives, weaknesses, insecurities? You can face them without them taking you out because you have God!
What good is it to mouth the words, “Lord! Lord!” if you don’t live by My teachings? What matters is that you come to Me, hear My words, and actually live by them. If you do that, you’ll be like the man who wanted to build a sturdy house. He dug down deep and anchored his foundation to solid rock. During a violent storm, the floodwaters slammed against the house, but they couldn’t shake it because of solid craftsmanship. [It was built upon rock.] Luke 6:46-48 VOICE
Once we’ve faced the facts and truth of who we are without God, we can finally dig down deep in Him. The floodwaters are going to come regardless of who we’re relying on. But we’re either going to be destroyed by the mere touch of rain, or we won’t even be able to be shaken by the most violent storm. Which would you rather have? What rocks do you need to dig out so that you can be rooted in God?
Lord, so many times I fail; I fall into disgrace. But when I trust in you, I have a strong and glorious presence protecting and anointing me. Forever you’re all I need!..But I’ll keep coming closer and closer to you, Lord Yahweh, for your name is good to me. I’ll keep telling the world of your awesome works, my faithful and glorious God!
Psalm 73:26, 28 TPT
It doesn’t matter the sin or the amount of sin. The point is turning to God. When we acknowledge how weak we really are, we are able to experience how strong God really is. Not only that, but we are able to help and show others who God really is too! When we rely on God, we are able to have an impact on others that so much bigger and greater than anything we could ever do on our own.
No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.
Hebrews 12:11-13 NLT
When we allow God to train us the way he wants and knows to train us, we actually see results. Not only will God lead us to where we’ve never been before like the first Scripture says, but our willingness to let God be strong in our weakness is what will help us be capable of making others strong!
What are the rocks in your heart that you need to dig out? Who needs you to acknowledge your weaknesses so that you can help make them strong?
To find out more about how God is strong in our weakness, read Chapter 4 in Russ Ewell’s book When God Isn’t Attractive: “When Emotions Become God: Increasing Our Emotional Awareness.”