The Danger of Self-Reliance
- Tuesday, November 05, 2013
I squinted at the ocean in disbelief. Did that lady really just flip out of her kayak? There were absolutely no waves! In fact, the water looked more like a lake than the Pacific Ocean. Why did she suddenly fall in?
I carefully rocked my kayak a bit, testing its stability. Feels pretty sturdy to me. Glancing back to the woman “overboard,” I understood why she was having trouble. Rather than calmly pulling herself up in the center of the craft, the poor lady—obviously not much of an outdoorsy person—was flailing around as she struggled to get back in her kayak. The tour guide—trying hard to hide his smile—paddled over to help steady it, and the lady was soon back in proper position.
She lifted her paddle with an I’m-going-to-show-this-kayak-who’s-boss expression on her face. She looked so determined, I thought she would surely out paddle me! But, as soon as she plunged it into the water, she flipped over again.
I stifled a laugh.
The tour guide again assisted the lady back into her kayak, but she still didn’t wait for his instructions. She fell out yet again!
By now, the other kayakers were staring at her, so the tour guide told his assistant, “Why don’t you take the rest of the group to the next spot while I help Mrs. Smith back into her kayak. We’ll catch up with you in a minute.”
As I paddled away, all I could think of was poor Mrs. Smith. She must have been so embarrassed. If only she had sat back for a minute and listened, maybe she wouldn’t have ended up soaking wet and humiliated.
Don’t we all tend to rush ahead? Overly self-reliant, we think, “I’m gonna get to the other side no matter what! I can do this!” Then we plunge our paddle into the water and promptly tip over.
When we don’t wait for God’s instruction in any area of our lives, we end up in a big mess. This predicament is not something unique to our generation. People have been trying to accomplish things in their own strength since the beginning of time. Abraham and Sarah, for example, took matters into their own hands. They essentially said, “God said we were going to have a child and the baby’s not here yet. Let’s help God out a bit.” They didn’t stop and seek God’s instructions; they just acted. And Abraham ended up in a heap of trouble (that we’re still struggling with today).
Or consider Moses’ story. He wanted to free his people from the Egyptians, but rather than waiting for the Lord’s instructions, he tried to free them in his own strength. And what happened? A disaster. He killed an Egyptian, fled for his life, and ended up wandering in Midian. It was not until he was still that God revealed His plan to him via the burning bush. And God’s plan worked perfectly! Silence before the Lord always trumps rash self-reliance.
We’re not much different than Abraham, Sarah, and Moses. We too like to “take the paddle” and get moving when in reality we should be listening to the Lord. Sometimes we are so frantically trying to achieve that we don’t realize how unbalanced we are. Perhaps our family is falling apart, our devotions are faltering, our health is failing, our prayer times are dwindling, or our church involvement has become uninspired. All of a sudden we find ourselves in the middle of the ocean of life asking “How did I get here?” and "Where is God in my life?”
What will help us get out of that mess? Seeking the Lord. Not positive thinking, reading dozens of self-help books, or relying on our own strength. We simply need to spend time listening before the throne of God.
Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait for the Lord; Be strong and take heart and wait on the Lord.”
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