“Why is it so easy to look for help everywhere but the feet of Jesus?”
I read that in my Lent devotional Thursday night and felt like I’d been punched in the gut.
I hate asking for help. I suck at it, if I’m being truthful. As I’ve written before, I’d rather be the helper than admit I’m the one needing help.
Asking for help means relinquishing control. Admitting that I need people or need something. It means having to surrender my power and plans and say that I can’t do it on my own.
I hate that. I want to have it all together and do it all by myself, for myself.
But I can’t. I just can’t.
My first line of defense definitely isn’t to ask Jesus for help. Hell, that’s usually my last desperate plea, begging for help when I finally get off my high horse and admit that I don’t have it all together. Clutching at my last shred of dignity in myself before I finally give up the ghost and surrender it all to the One that knows me and my life better than I do.
Truthfully, my first line of defense is to bury my head in the sand and pretend everything’s okay.
That’s usually coupled with my knee-jerk reaction to run like the wind from all life’s problems. (I talk about this more later in this post. The realization of this particular defense mechanism came about in therapy over the past few months, and is worth its own blog post in the near future).
But seeking out help? Not my strong suit.
During Lent, I’ve been studying the book of Isaiah, a book with a lot of my favorite pieces of scripture in it– but not a book I’ve studied in order or in its entirety. (It’s long! And there’s a lot of scary stuff in there I don’t want to read! All the more reason why I’m reading it!)
One thing I’ve realized about the book of Isaiah so far: it’s a tug of war between God and his people.
He wants so desperately to help his people. To be a God of mercy and justice that protects His people. He wants to be a God of love and not of wrath.
But they don’t get that. They keep living lives of destruction and lives away from their maker. They do everything in their power to run and survive on their own terms, by their own means.
And it’s destroying them. Literally.
I’m about 1/3 of the way through, the past few days getting into Isaiah 29-31. There were a few verses in these books that pricked me. Scripture isn’t all warm and fuzzy and comforting, I’ve learned. I usually look to scripture for comfort and support, but it’s not always that– it can be harsh and reality-shaking. Sometimes it pulls the wool off your eyes and makes you see right into the heart of your sin. That’s how I felt reading these verses– a shiver went down my spine when I realized the weight of who I was in the story.
Woe to those who go to great lengths
to hide their plans from the Lord.
They do their works in the dark,
and say, “Who sees us? Who knows us?”
16 You have turned things around,
as if the potter were the same as the clay.
How can what is made say about its maker,
“He didn’t make me”?
How can what is formed
say about the one who formed it,
“He doesn’t understand what he’s doing”? (Isaiah 29:15-16, CSB)
The Lord said,
“How terrible it will be for these stubborn children.
They make plans, but they don’t ask me to help them.
They make agreements with other nations, without asking my Spirit.
They are adding more and more sins to themselves.
2 They go down to Egypt for help
without asking me about it first.
They hope they will be saved by the king of Egypt;
they want Egypt to protect them.
3 But hiding in Egypt will bring you only shame;
Egypt’s protection will only disappoint you. (Isaiah 30:1-3, NCV)
Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help
and who depend on horses!
They trust in the abundance of chariots
and in the large number of horsemen.
They do not look to the Holy One of Israel
and they do not seek the Lord.
2 But he also is wise and brings disaster.
He does not go back on what he says;
he will rise up against the house of the wicked
and against the allies of evildoers. (Isaiah 31:1-2, CSB)
I love the Message version of that last verse:
Doom to those who go off to Egypt
thinking that horses can help them,
Impressed by military mathematics,
awed by sheer numbers of chariots and riders—
And to The Holy of Israel, not even a glance,
not so much as a prayer to God.
Still, he must be reckoned with,
a most wise God who knows what he’s doing.
He can call down catastrophe.
He’s a God who does what he says.
How many times in my life have I said something to the effect of,
-I’ll do it myself!
-I can figure this out on my own.
-I don’t need anyone else’s opinion or advice.
– It’s my life, I’ll do what I want.
-I know what’s best for my life. It’s my life, after all.
-God doesn’t care about little me, so I’ll just do this without him.
-I know this is what I should do, so I’m just going to get it done on my own.
And fill in the blank of many more similar statements that I’ve said over the course of my life… I’ve always been an I’ll-do-it-myself-or-not-at-all type of person. I like being the fixer, the one that makes everything all better.
But I’m not. I’m not the one that can fix everything and make it right or better. I can’t do this life thing on my own.
I’ve put all my confidence in who I am and what I’m capable of…which I’ve come to find out is not much. At least, not much without Him.
“Pay attention to what I say,
you overconfident daughters.” (Isaiah 32:9 CSB)
That’s me. The overconfident daughter, always trying to strive and do all the things without help to prove that she’s enough on her own. The one that thinks she’s in control and does everything in her power to maintain that control.
I can’t plan my life or get through it without the One that made it. I’ve tried making plans down to the detail and watched it all blow up in my face (hello, student teaching! hello, panic attacks and anxiety disorder!). It’s no fun, y’all.
Yet I keep doing it.
I keep planning and ignoring God’s plans, thinking I know better.
I keep trying to carry the weight and the burden on my own.
I keep refusing help and guidance when it’s what i really need right now.
I keep thinking I know best, I can do it all, I can balance all the plates and all the things without God or anyone else…
and that’s sin. Right in front of my face. It’s the first time I’ve called it that, but it IS.
The sin of pride. Of thinking I know better than God what my life should look like. He made it, yet I know how to live it better? To claim that he doesn’t know what he’s doing?That’s 100% pride.
Relying on myself and my own limited capabilities is denying the power and strength of God in me. It’s denying that God’s grace is what makes me sufficient, not me or my own strength.
Trying to be self-sufficient and “do it all” is not self-sufficient at all. It’s selfish. It’s me trying to put my hope and trust in myself and my lacking human abilities instead of believing and trusting in the God of abundance.
Putting my hope and trust in myself and the temporal things this earth offers, instead of seeking Him and His help, does nothing but lead me down a path of exhaustion and struggle.
The people of Judah did the same thing. They were in trouble, in fear of Assyrian soldiers on their border, and kept turning to their own devices for saving. They tried to save themselves, and look for someone else to lead them into safety instead of the one that made them. So they ran from God, and into the arms of another.
The people that they found to lead them into safety? Egypt. The very people that enslaved them.
They sought out an alliance with the people that had hurt them in the past. They chose to turn back to what they knew instead of walking into the unknown… even though what they knew was nothing but bad news.
A quote from my devotional reads: “Yet in crisis they turned to what they could see and remember, rather than seeking God’s merciful path forward.”
So, when Judah discovered the Assyrian army on the border, they ran. But they didn’t run to the safety of their God… no, they ran to what they knew. They ran thinking of how they could fix the problem, leaning on their own devices and their own abilities. In crisis, they reverted back to what they could see (instead of trusting the unseen, they depending on pagan gods and the like), and what they could remember (they were enslaved by Egypt, sure, but hey, at least they were alive! and they knew what to expect! *eye roll*) They thought that they could handle it on their own… which clearly, if you’re running to the people who held you as slaves, is very untrue. 😉
Despite this, God still wanted to be their help. He longed for Judah to turn back to Him and let Him help them. He still wanted to be the place they went for safety. As my devotional reads, “but their faithful God longed for them to turn upward toward His mercy, and forward on the path He made for them.”
Upwards toward His mercy. He wants us to focus on Him. Fix our eyes on Him, the author and perfector of our faith, as it’s written in Hebrews 12:2.
Forward on the path He made them. He wants them to not run back to the failures and mistakes of the past, just for comfort or security. That’s what He’s for. But he does want Judah (and us) to keep moving forward. He’s got the path set out. He’s got it planned. (and He doesn’t need our help planning it, or us trying to plan it ourselves). He calls us to move both upward towards him, and forward on the journey he’s got us on. We can’t stay put. (ugh).
I’m quite like the people of Judah, I’ve learned. In fact, I wrote in my Bible study book as I read this story, “man, I’m like Judah.” Gut check!
When I get overwhelmed or I realize I’m not in control of a situation… I run. I hide. I get out of there before things get worse or I get hurt or rejected.I surround myself with what’s familiar and what I like instead of getting out of my comfort zone to do something new. I rely on old habits and security blankets to find solace instead of seeking God for comfort and peace. I don’t like when things get too hard or uncomfortable for me to do on my own… so when they get to that point, it’s easier for me to just give up and move on.
When in crisis, I run for the hills. I run to find comfort in things (food, Netflix, books, internet, sleep, social media, the list goes on) and what I know (striving, fixing, working to be enough, people pleasing, ignoring problems, burying my feelings, hiding, isolating).
I really AM like the people of Judah. I don’t look upward or forward for help. I look at me, and try to fix myself.
Why is it so easy to look backwards but not forwards? WHY is it so easy to fall back on the past and the old way of life when the one Jesus has for us is so much better?
Why is it so easy to look for help, comfort, solace, EVERYWHERE but the feet of Jesus– our true Comforter, our Prince of Peace? Why can’t I depend on him? Why can’t I need him?
For me: I like the old way of doing things. I like my comfort. I like my easy way, where no one gets hurt and everything’s safe and cozy. It’s safe. It’s secure. It’s predictable and I know what to expect. It’s not going anywhere. Sure, it’s not making me better or changing me… but at least I’m not going to get hurt or rejected or fill-the-fear-in-the-blank by staying put where I am.
but that’s not the way of Jesus. Jesus calls us to focus forward and upward– towards His plans and path made for us, and to Him for comfort instead of slipping backward into familiar territory.
Going forward into the future where things are unknown? Flipping terrifying. But that’s why He is our help. Our only solid, never-changing, constant help in trouble. That’s who he is. That’s who he wants to be for us. For me.
He wants to be my help. He wants me to WANT His help. He wants me to believe that I need him and his help.
Therefore, the Lord us waiting to show you mercy, and is rising up to show you compassion, the Lord is a just God. All who wait patiently for Him are happy. (Isaiah 30:18 CSB).
He is waiting on us. Waiting on me.
He is waiting to show us mercy. He’s waiting to be our help, to love us back to life.
But we have to accept his help. We have to run from our self-sufficient selves and deny that we can do this on our own to get that mercy and compassion. We have to quit running from Him and run toward Him and His promises.
I have to lean on Him for help and strength in every situation, and quit depending on myself to get it all done (when that’s not what he wants of me in the first place).
“You will be delivered by returning and resting; your strength will lie in quiet confidence.” (Isaiah 30:15 CSB)
It doesn’t say you’ll be delivered by helping yourself or planning your life on your own.
It doesn’t say you’ll be delivered by handling your problems on your own.
It doesn’t say your strength lies in striving and being enough on your own.
It doesn’t say that you’ll be delivered by running and hiding.
It says that by returning (instead of running) and resting (instead of doing it all yourself), He will deliver us. He will lead us down the path He’s planned out for us. And our strength will be in our confidence in who He is and His promises for me, instead of it being in who I am.
By being willing to accept His help, He will help me. He will guide me and bring me comfort when life looks differently than I expect. There’s nowhere I’ll go without his presence. There’s nothing I can do to be separated from His love for me.
He is in control. He is sufficient for all of life’s worries and fears. He will help me, comfort me, and be my safety.
Admitting my need is so hard. I HATE being needy. I HATE relinquishing control and surrendering to the fact that I need help. But there’s no way for me to do this life the right way without relying on God– without admitting that I NEED him every hour of the day, I need help with every aspect of my life. It’s hard.
But when I admit that? I quit running to those old habits and familiar thoughts. I quit running away and giving up because I know it’s not my strength or sufficiency doing the work. And I realize that I can do all the things I’m supposed to do, no matter how unknown or scary or different they may be– not on my own strength, but through strength the Lord has given me.
Help is a tricky thing. Relying on someone or something else isn’t always guaranteed. But relying on God to help me means I can unload the burdens life on my own has given me. I can let him shoulder the failures and rejections and fears and stresses, and He will be sufficient and strong enough to hold them all.
Because I am not strong, y’all. I am frail and weary and all kinds of needy without Jesus.
But with his help, I can be who He made me to be, and follow the path He’s called me to be on. By needing Him, I no longer have to rely on myself to do and be it all.
In my Bible study book, I wrote this prayer as I was reading Isaiah 30: Lord, help me to WANT to NEED You.
I want to need You, Jesus. I want to need Your help. I know I need it, but I want to need it instead of not wanting to accept help like my usual striving self. I want to rely on You and your help instead of trying to help myself. Because I’ve learned, helping myself does nothing but send me to places and things that won’t sustain me like You do. I can’t plan my own life. I can’t depend on the things of this world to comfort me or help me. But I can depend on you, the author and perfector of my faith. I can lean on you, and you will deliver me into rest. You will provide comfort and a hand to walk me down the path you’ve made for me. I want to need you, Jesus. Help me ask for help. Help me to want to need you every hour instead of thinking I can do all of this on my own. Lead me to seek help at your feet instead of the places I run to– the things that bring me only temporary comfort. Help me to seek you first before I run and hide from the problems life gives me. Because I can’t do this on my own. Amen.
This song has been on repeat as of late…
Here my heart surrendered
I tell my soul again
You are Lord of all
And though the seas are raging
You will speak and tame them
In You I find my rest
You are in control