I Can't Do It By Myself
“I can do it by myself.”
It’s probably one of the most common first sentences for children. “I can do it by myself.” Of course, when I was a mom with little kids, there were many times that I was glad to hear those six words. You can open your own snack? Wonderful. Get me one, too, please. You can go potty by yourself? Great. Go for it (well…mostly). As parents, we want that kind of independence for our kids.
And then…there are the moments of hubris. “I can do it by myself.” You can suddenly swim without water wings? In your dreams. You can find your own way home from the park? You can’t even find your blankie in a dimly lit room! There’s no reasoning with little ones in those moments, though. They really do think they can do everything by themselves. Their worlds are governed by their delusions of grandeur.
It’s funny…until you see the connection to yourself. I may not actually say to my heavenly Father, “I can do it by myself,” but my actions betray what I really believe. Here’s an embarrassing case-in-point (Although I wish I was making this up, I’m not, I promise). About two minutes ago, when my computer froze, I realized that I had begun to write this blog without asking the Lord for help. Now, I profess to believe that I cannot do ministry apart from Christ. So, when I write blogs, I ask for the Spirit to help me. Except not today. Why? Because, although my mind assents to my weakness apart from Christ, my heart shows that really I think that I can do it by myself.
These delusions of grandeur can pop up in multiple ways. Often I perceive myself as wise and try to handle situations on my own. I have been known to implement new ministries without consulting the Lord. I enter into a complicated interpersonal conflict without prayer. And in every case, a moment will come when I realize what I’ve done. Mostly, it’s when I’ve metaphorically lost my way or started to drown.
Thankfully, the gospel has a simple solution to this problem. Here it is in one sentence: “I can’t do it by myself.” It’s an admission that comes from humility. “I can’t do it by myself.” I’m weak. I’m broken. I’m sinful. I couldn’t save myself, and I can’t do life by myself.
It’s simple, but it’s not easy. One reason for this is because if I am weak, then I can’t depend on myself. And if I can’t depend on myself, then who can I lean on? The Sunday School answer is, “Jesus.” If I am not strong or wise or powerful or good, then I am dependent upon Jesus for absolutely everything. (Jn. 15:5) But that is scary because my faith is also weak. I irrationally wonder, “What if he doesn’t come through?” And sometimes it feels like he’ll only come through if I have something to bring to the table. I feel as if the completely unbiblical idiom “God helps those who help themselves” is true. And I know I can’t help myself! Crying out, “Father, I can’t do it by myself! Help me, please!” continues to be a very uncomfortable place for me.
However, the gospel teaches that the admission of my own weakness is actually the first step towards strength. It’s counterintuitive, but it’s true. I read these words by Paul Tripp just this morning: “Your weakness is not the great danger to you that you think it is. Rather, the great danger is your delusion of strength, because if you think you’re strong, then you don’t seek the help that you desperately need from the One who is the ultimate source of strength of every kind….The hopelessness of weakness is the only door to the hope of real strength.” Well, that infuses some hope into my situation. Apparently, I’m on the right track.
Also, the gospel teaches that Jesus will always come through. And that his help is not contingent upon anything I do. Because I belong to him through faith (no matter how weak that faith may be at times), he will always answer my cries. A more biblical idiom is, “God helps those who can’t help themselves.” This is what he did through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. And he never fails. Never. When Jesus promised the gift of the Holy Spirit he said, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (Jn. 14:18) The author of Hebrews reminds us that the Lord said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.” (Heb. 13:5) Even more, he tells us, as he told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9)
Those are wonderful reasons to cast off my delusions of grandeur! To leave hubris behind and cling the One who has already done everything necessary for me. The one who will help me every single time I need him. The cry of my heart today is now, “I can’t do it by myself! Help me, please!” and Jesus has helped. You can tell because you’re reading this blog right now (and next time, I’ll pray before the computer freezes). What is the cry of your heart today?