Chapter Five: The Self-sufficient Soul

Chapter Five The Self-sufficient Soul

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Once Mable understood the gospel, I began to walk her through how she should respond to Christ. The gospel is God’s most extravagant outpouring of His love to the world. There is nothing more profound that the Father could have done to prove His love to us than execute His Son on the cross. The gospel is God’s final and complete answer to the question, “Is God good?” He is good. He is profoundly good. Unfortunately, though Mable told me that God is good, there was an objective disconnect between what she knew to be accurate and how she lived that truth out in her life. She did not practicalize the gospel, speaking of God’s goodness specifically.

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Her affection for Christ had been sporadic during the good seasons and nonexistent during the bad. She had not experienced God’s goodness daily because of her gospel disconnect. This consequence led her to find her version of goodness through mutual need-meeting. Rather than trusting and resting in the awareness that God is good, she trusted in her ability to find what she thought was good, which led her to make an awful decision—marriage. The concern now was that she would make another terrible decision in her endless craving for what she believed to be good. My goal was to reorient her thinking about God and teach her how to live out this new way of thinking in her everyday life. I illustrated it to her:

Several years ago, I used our then-two-year-old son as a prop in a church meeting. We did not rehearse the illustration, and our son had no idea he would be the day’s illustration. I placed him on the communion table at the front of the room. I stepped away from him and the table and asked him to jump into my arms. He did. I caught him. I placed him back on the table and asked him to jump again. He did. I caught him. Our son was exercising faith in his daddy. Thus, we concluded that our son knows who I am, has experienced goodness from me, and was willing to trust me based on his understanding and experience of me. Using this analogy to think about our relationship with God, we can say:

  • Theology gives us a basic understanding of who our heavenly Father is.
  • The gospel communicates to us profoundly the goodness of our Father.
  • Faith is our willingness to trust our Father during a time of testing based on our understanding (theology) and experience (gospel) of Him.

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What if our son had not exercised faith by not jumping into my arms? I would then have had to ask, “Son, why don’t you have faith in your father?” The answer to that question is threefold.

  • He would not exercise faith in me if he were angry with me.
  • He would not exercise faith in me if he were afraid of me.
  • He would not exercise faith in me if he were unaware of me.

This illustration describes Mable’s core problem: she tended to fear more than trust, and when fear was ruling her heart, she would not exercise faith in God but chose to take matters into her own hands. This pattern became increasingly evident as I began to probe her with more questions about other issues in her life. You could paraphrase Mable’s thoughts: “I do not understand (unaware) what God is up to all the time (anger). Sometimes I wonder if He is really good (unaware). When I get like this (afraid) I tend to default to my understanding of what good is by taking matters into my own hands. God won’t come through (anger), but I can.” If our son had not trusted me and chosen to stay on the table, he would have relied on his understanding of and solution to the problem. The table he was standing on was what he had faith in. The scary thing for him would be a leap into his daddy’s arms.

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Therefore, the choice to do it his way would have been a decision to rely on his sufficiency rather than his father’s. From this grounded assumption, I began to explore with Mable the reason why she had a lack of faith in God. Firstly, she had to understand that Biff was an essential but secondary issue. While I didn’t want to diminish his role in the chaos of the marriage, Mable had to know that the main problem was her longstanding, diminutive relationship with God—her theology. Mable’s sin pattern of self-sufficiency—need deficit theory—had been a dominating issue. Her self-reliance manifested when she chose not to trust God at a particular moment. She preferred to take matters into her own hands, control the situation, and make the decision that suited her craving.

This process is what happened when she and Biff were courting. They had dated for two years. There were signs that things were not right, but at twenty-eight, she felt it was too late to start over again. Here was part of her reasoning:

  • She wasn’t sure how long it would take to find another guy.
  • She wasn’t sure if there would ever be another guy.
  • She didn’t want to wait to find another guy and go through the dating process again.
  • She was also concerned about what others thought. “Why break up with Biff?” they would say. “You make such a cute couple.”

She later said, “Even as I walked down the aisle, looking at Biff, I knew he was not the right guy. But what was I to do after the waiting, the two years of dating, the plans for the wedding, and the expectations from friends and family? Though I was not at peace, I felt God would make it right. He hasn’t, and I’m pretty upset about it.” She chose her version of good rather than trusting God’s good. Her choice spoke more about an issue between her and God than anything else. This theological breakdown is what I explored. There was something about God she did not care for or was not satisfied with, leading to her diminutive faith. She had been unwilling to jump into her Daddy’s arms and let Him decide.

Call to Action

  1. What is self-sufficiency?
  2. How does self-sufficiency manifest in your life?
  3. Why do you not trust God in your sanctification when thinking about your self-reliance?
  4. What other areas do you suspect Mable would have difficulty trusting God?

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