We are hardwired to a default position of trusting ourselves. I wish that wasn’t true. I wish I could say that in every decision, every thought, every step, I am actively living by faith and not by sight. But even the maintaining of this focus, of knowing where my focus is, requires faith and trust.
I don’t think we are nearly self aware enough, take seriously enough, or even fully grasp how true this is, in our assessments of situations, our perceptions of people’s actions, and what is and isn’t possible based on what we think.
It is this contrast between truth and perception that can really weigh us down, and when we choose to trust ourselves, we quite literally sink.
Look at Matthew 14:25-33
Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
“Lord, if it’s you…”
Peter knows Jesus for who He is, and he knows that if it really is Jesus out there, then Jesus has power enough to allow Peter to walk on water – something naturally impossible! He calls to Jesus, and when given the green light, he steps out of the boat focused on His master.
“But when he saw the wind, he was afraid”
Peter is walking on water! He had enough faith and enough courage to step out of the boat in the middle of this storm, believing Jesus was more powerful than the natural order. And yet, as Peter steps toward Jesus, he changes his focus. He went from assessing Jesus for who He is to eyeing up the dangers around him. It’s a perfect demonstration of the contrast between truth and perception. Peter perceived the danger and began to second guess his safety.
Peter knew that Jesus was greater than these perceived issues. Before, literally seconds before, he was defying physics to stand on top of water. But he defaulted back to trusting his assessment rather than the truth.
“You of little faith, he said, why did you doubt?”
Jesus confirms that Peter’s sinking was a trust issue. Jesus didn’t want Peter to come out onto the water as some sort of cool magic trick or to show off. No, He wanted Peter to experience the truth – that Jesus was above all things. That, despite perception, Jesus had him and Peter was in no danger at all. When Peter changed his perspective from focus on Jesus to focus on circumstances, he couldn’t see the situation for what it really was – that Jesus was bigger than the waves.
In an earlier post, I said: “When our perspective is aligned with Jesus, we see things for what they really are and ourselves for who we are meant to be.” When Peter was focused on Jesus, he saw things for what they really are – completely under his master’s control. And when he was focused on Jesus, he saw himself for who he was meant to be – someone who knew Jesus could be trusted, and someone who could do anything Jesus told Him he could do. So why did he shift his focus? Why did he doubt when in principle, he knew the truth? Why do we?
1. It’s what we’re used to. If we’re honest, we might just be more used to trusting ourselves that God. The less often we place our feet on uncharted territory (like water) and trust God fully despite what we see, the less used to trusting Him we’ll be. Are we simply so used to leaning on ourselves – our skills, our discernment, our trust in ourselves – that defaulting to trust in God isn’t a reaction we have? We need to cultivate this, and ask God to expand it within us. When we face difficulty, are we seeking Him or working up a plan? When we feel overwhelmed, are we placing that burden on Him or trusting ourselves to dig out?
2. It feels good to be in control. Things are being handled on our terms, in our timing, and with the conditions we prefer. We don’t have to wait for answers or worry about the outcome, and it feels good to be in control. It’s all within our view (so we think) and so we control all the variables. We don’t have to be patient. We don’t have to be reliant. And so we deceive ourselves into thinking we can handle it. When the waves come, we try to tread water instead of rely on Christ.
3. We feed our pride. We feel good when we can handle it; when we step up and stretch ourselves and things work out. We begin to convince ourselves that we’re the big shot and can handle more. It’s pride that says “I got this – I don’t need help.”
God doesn’t want us to live where we can trust ourselves. He wants more for our lives than that. Like Peter, God wants us to experience walking by faith, far beyond what we can see as being possible.
We should be able to say that it is true of us that “we live by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7) If we’re not living by faith, leaning on God and his strength, then we are living by sight and by our own strength. And we’ll soon discover how weak we are on our own.
If you are walking through a difficult season right now, I’d ask you:
– Are you focused on the wind and waves, or on Jesus?
– Do you believe that Jesus is greater than circumstances and can be trusted?
If you’re not walking through a difficult season right now, then I’d ask you a few questions:
– Are you ready to trust Him? Are you postured for dependence or independence?
– Are you feeding a pride in any way; a sense of “I got this.”