ZERO self-confidence. Absolute mistrust of self. Is this really the path to holiness? It sounds more like a weak person. How do I sort this out?
First, I must define something. Self-trust means I can do it. I can do it on my own. Without God. I can say that I trust God, but what’s really going on? What’s my motive? Sure, you can trust me to hold a dollar for you, but what happens when I have to suffer or bleed to keep it safe? What if I run out of money and need that dollar to survive?
I can build an immense and powerful organization that does good for the poor and sick. But if it only fills me with vanity? What then? I will surely rot and die.
The human drive for power and control is infinite. If I don’t understand and accept this, I will lose every time. These deep carnal desires take on the most complex forms. We weave a web of self-deceit over a lifetime to get what we want. This is a truly hideous danger. And for those that go too far, entire nations aren’t enough to satisfy the appetite.
Now. If I believe that I’m somehow exempt, then the devil wins. Why? Because in this kind of thought, I place a certain virtue in myself, of myself. I’m good on my own. Superior. Even if I credit it as a gift from God, I’m still in danger. So how do I protect myself? Never trust me.
This sounds radical and unreasonable. It might even lead to a clinical paranoia. But not if I trust God. The Word is clear. What’s the refrain we sing over and over again?
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5)
It’s all there. But if you’re not sure, just ask Isaiah (64:6):
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
The best I can do on my own is filthy. Other translations say “polluted garment”. Polluted with what? My sinful nature. It drives me crazy. The best, the absolute best I can do by myself is stained. It drove Paul crazy too:
I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. (Romans 7:15)
How often can I identify moments in my life when there was not the slightest hint of self-interest behind my actions? Be careful not to get caught up in your own web of lies.
The only antidote to this condition… fearful and loathsome… is to trust in the Lord with all my heart.
I must understand, I must acknowledge, that on my own I can do no good. This might be the most unacceptable thought of our century. And it might be the most accurate.
Too many people and institutions prove this to me repeatedly. I’ve proven it to myself far too often. So again, I ask: what’s left for me except complete despair? Just one thing.
The blood of Christ.
Think about it. Bottomless mistrust of self can only be redeemed by an infinite trust in God. He showed me how much I can count on him. On the cross he nailed up his pact of trust for me to behold.
Oh, how this flies in the face of modern wisdom!
We encourage each other sincerely and earnestly. “C’mon, you can do it!” we say. In the end am I doing harm?
Instead should I be saying, “Listen. You, me, we’re all miserable failures. In every action, thought and word we add a stain of sin. If you think otherwise, the stain may be even darker than you realize. There is no hope for you. Except one. Jesus.”
You might say I’m exaggerating, but what would you say to Isaiah? Nobody ever really likes the prophets. They’re never accepted. Instead, we kill them.
Here’s another way to look at it. Let’s say you’re working on a task that’s hugely important to you. What if you rely on your own strength, and it fails you? You get scared. You panic. But those who rely on God alone never run dry. They are fearless. Why? Because they have all their chips riding on God’s faithfulness. They’re all in.
True courage does not come from self. When he wanted to fight Goliath, David’s argument to Saul was, “The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17:37) Who rescued David? The Lord!
Any trust in his own ability to fight Goliath would have resulted in a rational fear or a psychotic delusion. Goliath should have beaten him easily. Instead, David stood upon the truth — the truth that God delivers handsomely upon genuine faith.
Be wary. Losing trust in yourself is hard. It will take me a lifetime, and it will not end until death. It’s like pulling out all your teeth. The roots run deep.
This doesn’t mean you never act. You pray. You take action. You go back and examine yourself in God’s presence. Then you go back again. Little by little you lose faith in yourself and gain more in God. You gain courage. But it’s almost unrecognizable as it’s not at all like Hollywood’s heroes. There’s nothing flashy here. Yes, there might be true danger, but it’s deeper than the situation alone.
It’s peace. It’s your spirit responding, almost instinctively, to the Holy Spirit. It’s full communion with God.
Mistrust of self. Complete trust in God.
Ask God for this grace. Trust that he will deliver. Study the examples in Scripture.
When you set yourself to a task, accept your weakness. Then see the wisdom, power and goodness of God who loves you. Pray hard. Experience the victory of the Lord Jesus in your life.
For though we live in the world we are not carrying on a worldly war, for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ… (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)
Many concepts in this post were adapted from THE SPIRITUAL COMBAT by Lorenzo Scupoli.
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