The Torment of Self-Reliance


Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the word of his servant? Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God. But now, all you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches, go, walk in the light of your fires and of the torches you have set ablaze. This is what you shall receive from my hand: You will lie down in torment.
Isaiah 50:10-11

My way doesn’t work. I’ve tried and tried and tried and I recognize I cannot do it.

But God can.

Yes, I’ve been a victim and there have been things that have happened to me that have been totally out of my control that were not my fault, and this has caused several tremendous obstacles in my life. Obstacles that make it difficult to trust others and easy to take all the responsibility on myself for my own safety.

As a little girl, I was in the dark and suffering alone. I was not safe. I was powerless to change my circumstances or my victimizer. So I did the only thing that made sense at the time and blamed myself.

As long as problems are always someone else’s fault, how can things change? As a little girl if I made the abuse my fault then somehow I falsely believed I had a little control over how to change it. I became very self-reliant. I learned to control my emotions and not overreact or do anything that might cause my adopted father to get upset with me. I tried to be the good girl who stayed out of the way. Deep down I felt like a very bad girl who was to blame for everything. I did the same thing in the relationship with my abusive pastor. Abuse taught me how to keep my cool. As an adult those well worn neural pathways of self reliance are difficult to change. That’s why I’m in counseling, because I know that I need help.

But not only do I need help from a counselor, I need to allow God to light my path and to cease trying to light my own way. God knows how hard it is for me. He gently calls my name reminding me to look to Him over and over again.

Dan Allender says in The Wounded Heart:

If we ignore or trivialize our self-protective manner of dealing with people, we will inevitably overlook the deepest sin of the heart: our fallen commitment to take charge of our life so we will never be hurt or shamed as we were in the past. And if we fail to recognize and repent of the sins of the heart, we will not deeply change. We will not deeply love.

To the degree that we labor to keep ourselves intact, we become less human, less loving, and more like those who cavalierly abuse and dehumanize for their own survival. The honest person will admit that even though her fire-lighting strategies have won her a certain sense of safety, she is not living as she was created to live, and in the hollow chambers of her heart she is lonely as hell.

It’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. And no matter how dark things have gotten, somehow His kindness shines through. He’s never once given up on me. He knows the deep pain that has caused me to become self reliant and He patiently waits for me to follow Him. He does not want our souls to be in torment. He does not want us to be lonely. He wants us to know His love and experience it from other people. He wants us to find our peace in Him. Most of all He wants us to trust Him. I acknowledge that I have trusted in myself. I know this needs to change.

CS Lewis says, He(God) isn’t safe, but He is good. If I’m totally honest with myself I will admit this frightens me. So much of my life has been about figuring out ways to keep myself safe. It was never intended for a child to have to do this, and it’s certainly not intended for a child of God to either.

No, He isn’t safe. But a broken human in a broken world certainly isn’t safe. We need a good Father to lead us.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of living in the torment of my own self-reliance. I want to follow Him. I’m asking Him for the grace and wisdom to do so.

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