So, in essence, I’ve realized that I am just like the rest of the human race. Shocker.
These realizations have been uncomfortable, to say the least. But why? I mean, if I’m just like every single other person out there, then shouldn’t I actually feel more comfortable?
Well, see, we humans are a strange breed. Instead of embracing our helpless state and casting ourselves upon the grace and mercy of Jesus, we resist our fallenness like it’s the plague. We hate having to ask someone else to clean up our mess. We’d rather say, “Just tell me what to do to fix this,” instead of, “Just tell me what someone else had to do to fix this.” Deep down, we feel our desperate need for help, for salvation, yet we are allergic to dependence. We only want help if it’s a help we can give to ourselves. We only want salvation if it’s the kind we can accomplish through our valiant efforts and strivings. Even when someone offers us a helping hand, our natural instinct is to wave it off; thank you but no thank you, I’m just fine on my own.
We do it all the time.
By nature, we are prone to self-reliance and the desire to control. And this is why fear seems so natural, and trust so unnatural. We want to be able to fix it, figure it out, and control it. Fear is what happens when our desire to be in control is confronted with our complete inability to control anything. When I am overwhelmed by fear, I am being confronted with my helplessness, my frailty, my powerlessness, and my smallness. Instead of running to my mighty, strong, powerful, and big Savior, I usually freak out and think, “It will all be fine if I just figure this all out so that I can neatly control and manage everything!” My natural instinct is to come up with a solution that involves me as the primary actor instead of agreeing with God that there’s actually nothing I can do to fix anything. I will never be able to control anything; and this causes me great fear.
I will never be able to control anything; and this causes me great fear.
And then there’s trust. The very essence of trust is having confidence in something else or someone else; and trusting something or someone other than yourself is so dang hard. We so desperately want to have confidence in ourselves and our ability to get things done and to figure things out. The Israelites in the desert hated having to rely on the Lord to provide what they needed for each day. They said, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death” (Exodus 16:3). Even though being in Egypt meant enslavement, the situation was, at least, guaranteed and reliable; it was food of slavery, but it was food nonetheless. Now that they were free, they had to operate on a system of trust, and that scared them to death.
We’re just like them.
Trust happens when our awareness of our complete inability is confronted with the complete ability of an Other. And this is why, when our hearts are filled with fear, we need more and more of the gospel. Because it is precisely the gospel that declares to us the complete ability of Someone else to do for us what we could never and can never do for ourselves. The finished work of Christ ushered in a reign of grace, a totally new operating system. Grace and trust go hand in hand. To receive grace means that all notions of our capabilities and capacity to get things done have been replaced with the knowledge that we can’t get things done. To trust means relinquishing our control to care for ourselves and control our own lives and handing the reigns over to Jesus’ because He is in control.
Just as grace and trust are a packaged deal, so are law and fear. When it’s all riding on what we do or don’t do, fear will naturally result. Because sooner or later we’ll realize that we can’t pull it off.
Just as grace and trust are a packaged deal, so are law and fear.
So hear this and be comforted: Jesus came to free those who are enslaved by their fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15). Know that the only way that fear can ever be cast out is through Perfect Love (1 John 4:18). Fear cannot be undone by micro-managing your life, by planning more in advance, or by analyzing things for the 50th time. Fear can never be undone by our doing. The only thing that can undo fear is the completed work of Christ on the cross—the proof of that Perfect Love.