It is always surprising to me each time I discover another way in which my Christianity is lived out in self-reliance rather than genuine faith. My most recent discovery is where I go for help in stressful situations. If there is a relationship that feels more disconnected than harmonious or a circumstance that is just not making sense or going how I imagined it might, my Christian response is to race through the catalogue of verses about loving as I have been loved or seeking to serve rather than be served. Or, I will search as if left on a scavenger hunt for the right theological framework with which to better approach the situation: this is an opportunity to experience broken things and be part of their restoration. There, all better now? Of course not because a better perspective, a different angle from which to view the situation or person, nor a new resolve to be at peace, to block out the negative or to just be free in the midst of trial may be the best I can come up from within myself, but effective help can only come from outside of myself.
I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2
The help God offers is not a pithy quote to put up on a white board, nor is it merely a philosophy to buy into nor is it a new set of laws to apply wisely at the right times. He offers us the real person of Jesus, at work now through His Spirit, also one of the three persons of the Trinity. My help is a person not a new perspective.
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Is. 41:10
I have loved this verse for years, but even the "I am with you" wasn't taken literally by my heart. Instead, it is more like I take it to mean, "My good wishes are with you" or "My love is with you" or "The force be with you". And, these would all be nice encouragements for sure. But they fall short of the far better reality promised over and over through all of Scripture...that God Himself, not just in idea or theory, is with me.
The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord. News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. Acts. 11:21-23
God's hand was at work for real. The grace of God was at work, doing real, tangible work from the outside in to bring about change from the inside out. My help is the person of God in Jesus coming physically to His creation, by faith present where my sight is weak, to do what my best resolves and internal Biblical resources cannot accomplish independently. (Just reciting a Bible verse over and over can be more like superstition than faith when divorced from the living and active person present with me always.)
So why do I look first inside myself in frustrating relationships, discouraging circumstances or puzzling challenges? My best guess is that I am not yet convinced of the bankruptcy of my own ability to redeem the world around me and my own self. I think I can fix him or her or me with a simple reboot and tenacity. The second part is my unbelief. It feels silly to call on a person I cannot see to do something I cannot prescribe. (Don't I even trust more in the kinds of prayers that tell God exactly what I think is needed than the simple "Help Me!" variety?)
Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” Gen. 32:36
I've always read that with some discomfort because it sounds a lot like health and wealth to me, demanding something of God as if I were his master and He existed to serve me. But what if instead I saw that Jacob understood what I rarely do? I am doomed if left to encounter my brother and you are not with me? I actually need You to give me fish, not just teach me to fish so You don't have to exist anymore. Please oh please don't leave me to handle it myself or I will certainly be defeated.
The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. Ex. 33:14-15
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