Ever claim to believe one thing only to discover that you are in fact practicing a completely contrary conviction? Imagine a person who tells everyone how important it is to eat natural, whole foods while secretly binging on overly processed, chemically altered garbage. Yep, that was me.
Not the food so much, although I admit to an unholy addiction to vanilla ice cream, but the dualism of believing one thing and practicing another. While claiming that my life wholly depends upon the goodness, grace and supremacy of God, I have, simultaneously been acting as if it all depends on me.
I discovered this after asking a dear group of ladies to pray for me and my writing. For ten years I have been working to publish a book about Ruth, our daughter, whom we adopted from Uganda. For most of this time, I have woken up early and stayed up late to write while praying that God would use my work to bless other Ugandan orphans and children with disabilities.
Every setback or failure, I took personally, believing that if I were a better writer, or worked harder or could charm the right editor, I would succeed. If I, if I, if I… It all depended on me.
“I feel like a dog chasing its tail,” I shared with one of these women last week, while waiting to hear from a publisher. “I don’t know how much longer I can keep getting up early and staying up late to work on this.”
“Unless the Lord builds a house, they labor in vain who build it,” she quoted Psalm 127:1-2 (KJV). “It is vain for you to rise up early and to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows.” Or as the New Living Translation says, “anxiously working.”
Vain. Useless. Without worth. Yet, that’s exactly what I had been doing. Somewhere along the path of writing Ruth’s story, I had switched from believing that my success depended on God to believing that it all depended on me. What a heavy burden!
We do this in many ways, whether as Christians who believe that by being good enough we can make God to do good things for us. Keep me healthy! Make me rich! Or by humanists and followers of other faiths who believe, whatever their concept of the afterlife, that they can earn the right to enjoy it by being good enough here. In both cases, the outcome rests on the goodness of the individual rather than the goodwill of a loving, merciful and all-powerful God.
And here’s what I wondered, as I struggled in this basin of belief, “What if it didn’t depend on you?”
What if instead of “praying as if it all depends on God and working as if it all depends on you,” as a preacher once said, you prayed and worked as if he is working alongside you, within you, and through you? Not because you are good enough, but because he is.