What is the appropriate interpretation of Dependence on God? I believe we need to have confidence and competence in ourselves and we need to rely on ourselves. For example God isn’t going to make me pass my exams. I have to work on it and feel confident that I can do it as with any under taking. thx
We are supposed to be dependent on God, but God has no obligation to provide. Not sure how to handle that.
Everything that we have is dependent upon God. We couldn’t exist at all (and take exams, etc.) without Him. So, I think that it is incumbent upon us to recognize that all we are and have come from Him and because we were given human bodies we need to participate in doing His Will because (happily!) we belong to Him. Knowing His Will is, of course, another thing… All I can suggest is prayer and spiritual reading.
And, of course, we have to exert effort in our endeavours. I’ve heard that Christian Scientists don’t believe in seeking medical help, but instead rely on prayer solely for healing. If that is actually true, I disagree because God gave some people talent for healing the physical body and they should be practicing that gift to the best of their abilities and we should avail ourselves to their God-given talent. The same goes for any talent we might have.
I have a gift for cutting grass (and other landscaping/horticulture :p) and strive through my physical efforts to perform it to the best of my ability and to offer my efforts to God in thanksgiving for giving me this particular ability.
God gave us the gift of intellect to be able to pass our exams. Following His Will does not mean we should be irresponsible with our gifts but to use them out of love of Him and for good.
I find myself struggling with the same kinds of thoughts that range from feeling completely dependent on God for any success I may have, to believing that my efforts alone will either “make or break” me. I’ve been studying hard and making sacrifices for years in order to prepare myself for the application process for medical school. I get caught up easily with the notion that my quantitative measurement (GPA, MCAT) are going to be the only deciding factors. But then I remember that if God had intended us all to just be machines that simply downloaded facts, then there would never even be a need to struggle along in your studies. There would not even be exams in the first place because your “hard drive” would just spit out the right answer. God makes us weak so that we actively struggle along always searching for the truth. I feel dependent on God because he IS the Truth! So as long as you stay focused on God and keep up the struggle, you won’t be able to help but land right where God wants you.
What helped me with this concept was the story of the multiplications of the loaves. Jesus told his disciples to feed 5,000 people. They said, “It would take a years wages to feed all these people!” Jesus said, “Give me what you have.” They collected a few fish and a few loaves of bread. Jesus multiplied it and fed 5,000 (more like ten thousand including women and children.)
All that Jesus requires of us is to give what we have and He will do the rest.
I got in a car accident and suffered a head injury but I didn’t know. I was struggling to do normal things. I would get terribly frustrated that I couldn’t do what I normally could. Just waking up in the morning seemed practically impossible. I never knew how I was going to make it through the day. I did all of my normally easy jobs 1/2 as well and much I could not do at all. (I owned a business). Jesus knew that I had a head injury and he sent people to help me, even do everything for me. I couldn’t even conjure enough energy to cook for myself and people were feeding me and caring for me. The whole time I was frustrated with myself because I could not do all that I used to and I had no idea why. I honestly gave what I could and Jesus really stepped up to the plate and took care of everything that I couldn’t. It really is a miracle.
I eventually had to file bankruptcy on my business but God even took care of that whole process too. I didn’t even have to make the decision to do it. My priest ordered me to. It was the best move for me. Sometimes I can’t even believe all the things He did for me. I really was quite incapacitated and could do very little for myself.
I hope my answer helps you.
Let us say you are going to drive a car. You must have absolute confidence that your car will work fine for your trip, right? But isn’t it that to have confidence in the condition of the car means that you have confidence in the manufacturer of that car as well as all of the mechanics you brought your car to for maintenance?
The same it is with ourselves. To have healthy confidence in ourselves is to have confidence in God, because it is God who gave our talents and faculties to us.
Interesting thread…I’m studying The Spiritual Combat by Lorenzo Scupoli, in which the reader is counseled to “distrust” himself and trust only in God. I struggled with this a bit as well, trying to understand how I could make any decisions at all in my life if I can’t even trust myself! But with the help of a priest and continued study, I’m learning that I need to rely on God for all He provides - which is absolutely everything, every atom in my body and in the world - and realize that if I abandon my life and mentality and will to Him, in my heart and mind, everyday and every hour, then I can move forward with confidence as I just try to please Him. Maybe my decisions will turn out to be good or not, but since God rules all, I need not worry! But if I try to trust in my own abilities, my intellect, my skills, my (oh no!) perceptions of what is “good”, then I will be like a bumper car, banging into Heaven-knows-what, not providing any light for others, no fruit, only wounds…
One of the saints gave a practical answer to it when he said, “work as if everything depends on you but knowing that everything depends on God.”
St. Paul said that when bringing others to the faith, we plant the seed, Apollo waters, and God brings it to fruition.
Jesus said, “nothing is impossible with God.” Which implies the need for strong faith and prayer.
Just a thought.
Very interesting thread indeed. I also have read The Spiritual Combat by Lorenzo Scupoli, and for some time—read that “years” :)—I also struggled with the concept of “distrusting oneself”, on, as you so well say it, “how I could make any decisions at all in my life if I can’t even trust myself.”
The solution to all of this actually came to me quite suddenly, in the form of a book by Alexandre Harvard called Created for Greatness: The Power of Magnanimity, which is actually a business leadership book, but written by an Opus Dei member. It is an amazing book, I highly recommend it.
Anyways what the book says is that magnanimity, or “greatness of soul”, is the one thing Christians (and, although he never specifically mentions it, he obviously also emphasizes Catholics) forgot, because although we have emphasized the greatness of God and the littleness of man in front of Him (which is called humility), we have forgotten the greatness of humans, especially our own selves. We do not trust in ourselves, and the world suffers because of it!
Many Christians believe in God, but few believe in themselves, in their talents and capabilities. As their concept of humility excludes magnanimity, such people cannot—and will not—lead. It comes as no surprise then that the Western world today rarely recruits its political leaders among believing Christians.
The most influential leaders of the past three hundred years were not Christians. This is not because Christians were expelled from social life; it is because so many Christians voluntarily withdrew from it. It is the most astonishing case of the self-castration of a whole community in the history of humanity.
Actually this is a shock for me because all those books like The Spiritual Combat tell us to not trust ourselves.
And then Alexandre pointed to a quote by St. Thomas Aquinas, and I had to read it to believe it:
Reply to Objection 1. As the Philosopher says (Ethic. iv, 3), it belongs to the “magnanimous to need nothing,” for need is a mark of the deficient. But this is to be understood according to the mode of a man, hence he adds “or scarcely anything.” For it surpasses man to need nothing at all. For every man needs, first, the Divine assistance, secondly, even human assistance, since man is naturally a social animal, for he is sufficient by himself to provide for his own life. Accordingly, in so far as he needs others, it belongs to a magnanimous man to have confidence in others, for it is also a point of excellence in a man that he should have at hand those who are able to be of service to him.** And in so far as his own ability goes, it belongs to a magnanimous man to be confident in himself.**
I cannot believe it! Does that mean that Scupoli was wrong all along?! To be honest, I don’t know. Alexandre Harvard and Dom Scupoli may actually be talking of the same thing, but if they are, then it is far easier for me to understand Alexandre Harvard. For you see, Alexandre goes on to say:
The magnanimous Christian expects everything of himself as if God did not exist (magnanimity), and expects everything of God as if he could do nothing on his own (theological hope). He behaves like an adult on the natural plane, and like a child on the supernatural one.
He goes on to say:
In speaking of magnanimity, we need to consider metaphysical humility . The more aware we become of our personal greatness, the more we need to understand that greatness is a gift of God. Magnanimity without humility is no magnanimity at all. It is self-betrayal and can easily lead to personal calamities of one kind or another.
Magnanimity and humility go hand in hand: In specifically human endeavors, man has the right and the duty to trust in himself (this is magnanimity), without losing sight of the fact that the human capacities on which he relies come from God (this is humility)…Man’s exaltation must always be accompanied by abasement before God.
St. Joan of Arc was once asked why God needs soldiers to free France from her enemies. I think her answer most succinctly shows the position of Alexandre Harvard and St. Thomas Aquinas’ position in this:
En nom Dieu, les gens d’armes batailleront, et Dieu donnera la victoire!
In God’s name, the soldiers will fight, and God will give them victory!