“We’re doing everything humanly possible.” We sometimes hear this statement during medical crises or natural disasters and sometimes it’s true. Other times it might mean we don’t know what else to do or our resources are stretched to the limit. Granted, we can get a lot done when we put our heads together and work hard, but human strength, ingenuity and ability can get us only so far.
The other problem with trying to do everything humanly possible is we often don’t reach that goal. We don’t always try as hard as we can; we become discouraged and give up, escaping into self-pity or mindless pursuits (Netflix, anyone?). I’m sure you know where this is going.
We don’t have to solely rely on our human power, although as Dallas Willard says, God has given us our bodies as our own personal power packs, through which we interact with our world and bring about our wills. I’m thankful for my power pack, as it enables me to do things like bake bread, ride my bike and fulfill my responsibilities. But my power pack only works at its peak when plugged into the “power pack” of God. Out of his life inherent he gave us life and our bodies.
For those of us who entrust our lives to him, he augments our human efforts with his unlimited power, accomplishing things we could never do on our own or even imagine. We aren’t stuck doing only as much as humanly possible, however strong or feeble our efforts may be, if we let our weakness become his strength and work in the power and might of Christ.
I’ve noticed some Christian authors use the phrase “allow God to do” this or that in your life. “Allow his goodness to cause thankfulness to well up within you.” “Allow the soil of your hearts to make you receptive.” “Allow Scripture to fill your heart.” “Allow God’s word and his Spirit to teach you.” At first this might seem like a good thing, as God does give us choices in life and encourages us to come to him. But is there a better way to say this? The words we use to describe God and how he interacts with us are important.
To me, allowing someone to do something means I’m giving them permission. It also implies I’m in control and I’ve decided to let them do something for me or to me. That’s how it works between people because we often don’t trust each other. It takes a great deal of good experience and trust to allow people in, to allow them interest or liberties in our lives.
With God, it’s a bit different. He is completely trustworthy. Jesus is my friend and we have a relationship of trust, and yes it has built up over the years. We talk to each other and I share my concerns, questions, doubts, fears and feelings. As I do this, I grow closer to him and trust him more. As my trust grows, he works on my heart, transforming and strengthening me, helping me in my weakness – becoming my strength.
Too much of the time, Christianity is portrayed as transactional – if I do this, God will do that. If I allow him access to my mind and heart, he’ll do things for me. In a relationship of love (he loved us first) what we do together is not a matter of giving him permission or allowing him to do things in me and for me. It’s a matter of love. He loves me, I love him back and in the course and flow of that love, because he always wants the best for me, he works in me to make me more like Jesus.
I was happy to learn that some of you signed up for the Trusting God retreat with Jan Johnson and Matt Rhodes. I hope you were able either to listen live or to have accessed the recorded event. I also hope you enjoyed it and benefited from the teaching and interaction.
One lesson really helped me and has stuck in my mind since I heard it from Jan. She told the story of how she mentioned to Dallas Willard that she had been struggling with a pipe and felt the problem was insurmountable. He told her it was never just her and the pipe – Jesus was with her and she was never alone. Then Jan asked attendees to share their problem, phrasing it as “It’s not just me and _______.”
It’s not just me and this computer. It’s not just me and this flat tire. It’s not just me and this tree root. It’s not just me and this person I’m arguing with. What a great way to look at trials and frustrating situations. It’s never just me alone with whatever is going on in my life. God is always with me, always on my side and when I ask, he helps me figure it out – or gives me peace about it.
Learning to trust God is a daily, ongoing process. If you’d like to share something you learned from the retreat or needed to be reminded of, we can help each other along the path to greater trust.
Trust is something we all learn about as we grow up. Playing cards provides a lesson that for many, is hard learned. I remember hearing the advice to trust everyone but cut the cards, meaning you can’t really trust anyone. When my dad worked as a carpenter for several years, he taught me the adage “measure twice, cut once.” I’ve never built anything, but I learned to sew and that’s when I learned I can’t even trust myself. Measuring twice didn’t ensure I could get it right.
Many people have trust issues with God too. We pray and he doesn’t deliver, so we decide he can’t be trusted. Bad things happen so we decide we can’t trust him to always be on our side. Not knowing God very well leads to mistrust; the more we know God, the more we trust him.
If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know I talk about Dallas Willard from time to time, citing his books and quoting his material. I’d like to share a resource with you that is based on his book, Life Without Lack. It’s a five day, online retreat called Trusting God, presented by Jan Johnson and Matt Rhodes – and it’s free. You don’t have to attend the live sessions; you can access them anytime. It starts next week and you can register here: https://trustinggodretreat.com/signup
Learning to trust God – and learning that we can trust God – is much more important than measuring twice and cutting once. It will make all the difference in how we live as Christians.