“Man–despite his artistic pretensions, his sophistication, and his many accomplishments–owes his existence to a six- inch layer of topsoil and the fact that it rains.” —Paul Harvey
Do you ever find yourself caught in a tug of war between dependence on God and self-sufficiency? Maybe you’re there now. You know it is God who has saved you, not your possessions, morality, modesty, achievements, or influence. And you know you need Him in your life.
But how easily we can turn from that reality to going it alone. At first, we don’t realize our priorities have shifted. We don’t notice our prayers getting shorter and our faith growing weaker. And why would we? Life never flies off the rails immediately.
I don’t know if you can relate, but travel exposes the deepest veins of self-sufficiency in my heart. I do everything I can to avoid flying. Not because of a traumatic experience. Not because I can’t stand the thought of hurtling a few miles above sea level. It’s because something always goes wrong.
I once missed a connection because of a “bird strike” in Cleveland. I sat on the tarmac for an hour because of an impacted bolt on the landing gear. (I’m scratching the surface here.) But the most recent incident sums up the tension of dependence and self-sufficiency perfectly.
“The most recent incident sums up the tension of dependence and self-sufficiency perfectly.”
I’d booked a direct flight to eliminate extra headaches. Boarding was slightly delayed because the airline was running one flight attendant short. No big deal, I thought. The flight went perfectly, and we taxied up to the terminal. I could feel the blocks being hammered into place. Then, just as everyone stood up and clogged the aisle, the captain informed us we were stuck. The jetway for that gate was having mechanical problems.
So, there we were—feet from freedom, helpless to do a thing about it. Over the next twenty minutes, every infant on the plane woke up, and everyone else grew increasingly restless. Those are the moments people get to see the real you—when your patience is tested, when you’re tired and defeated. When you just want to go home, but you can’t.
Why were tempers flaring? Because many of us have bought into some lies, myself included. If you worry and plan enough, nothing will ever go wrong. When you get a little money or significance, you’ll never need to ask for help again. If you have “enough” (whatever that means), you’ll never want more. Nothing will be out of reach. Nothing will surprise you.
Deep down, we all know those are lies.
“Why were tempers flaring? Because many of us have bought into some lies, myself included.”
When I bought those plane tickets, I didn’t acknowledge it, but I placed my life in the hands of a small village of people—air traffic controllers, airport security, mechanics, and pilots. All of them, strangers. Then, I sat in a pressurized tube, surrounded by more strangers, as several engines propelled by tiny explosions defied gravity. All so I could get to the beach a couple hours faster.
I bought the tickets, but I wasn’t in control—not for a second. While I was on that plane, my life depended on an intricate system of checks and balances, routine maintenance, and physics.
But isn’t all life like that?
Everything we have was God’s to give and ours to steward. Spiritually, we never outgrow the need for sanctification and transformation. We’re still broken and hurting and prone to wander from the Vine.
Jesus put it this way to the church in Laodicea: “… you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (Rev. 3:17).
In those quiet, lonely moments, we’re reminded we still need a Savior—when that struggle returns, when someone spots the scars we’ve tried so hard to hide. Praise God that, even when we’re lost in the shadows, and we can’t see how He’s working, we can still follow the whispers of conviction back to Jesus.
“Praise God that, even when we’re lost in the shadows, and we can’t see how He’s working, we can still follow the whispers of conviction back to Jesus.”
Our attitudes and feelings may change, but God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. We can hide behind the illusion of self-sufficiency, but a tomorrow’s never coming when we won’t need Him to live a fruitful life.
If you find yourself caught in that tug of war today, let Him know what He means to you. Take a posture of gratitude—for what He’s done before and will do again, for the hope of a new thing altogether. And, finally, ask God to show you your next step—and follow through. That rhythm of faith and action will sow seeds of holy restlessness as you set aside your will and develop a taste for eternity.
Like when you just want to go home, but you can’t. Not yet.