So I’ve continued to ponder the subject of faith being a matter of trust more than just a matter of belief, and about what it means to lean oneself on the Lord. (Read here to catch the last post to know what I’m talking about.)
There’s actually something about the idea of leaning on God that can be a bit troubling to some. I’m thinking specifically about those who say religion in general (and Christianity, in particular) is a crutch for the weak. It’s true enough that the idea of faith being “leaning” signifies dependence, even need. Certainly not a picture of strength that would be obvious to the world. And there’s also the modern thought pattern that says we should not trust in anything we cannot see or prove through natural means.
But here’s what I’ve come to realize. First…I don’t think there really is any such thing as a true “un-believer”, as in someone who has no faith at all. We all have faith; we all believe in something, and the truth is, we all take some things on trust that cannot be proven. Take the concept of creation versus evolution, just as an example. Which takes more faith–to believe that a Divine Being created the universe on purpose, out of nothing; or to believe that despite astronomical odds, everything we see evolved by pure chance–that somehow the universe won the lottery? Each point of view can cite evidence; neither point of view can offer indisputable proof. Both creationists and evolutionists are leaning on unprovable assumptions. That’s faith. Whichever way you happen to lean–you are still leaning. So it isn’t a question of who has faith and who doesn’t; it’s a question of where we are placing that faith. Everyone is leaning on some unproven truth somewhere–simply because there are always intangibles that we cannot explain and cannot prove.
That brings me to the next thought–about faith being a crutch, and leaning being an undesirable thing. Not only does everyone have faith–everyone needs a crutch. Everyone leans, because everyone has to. Every single one of us is broken in some way, everyone in need of healing. Nobody is perfect. Let’s just call a spade a spade: people who present themselves as completely independent are lying to themselves and everyone else. It’s like the guy who was asked if he thought Jesus was a crutch, and replied, “Maybe so, but if you’re crippled, that’s not a bad thing.” If we are honest with ourselves, we all have some form of crippling in our lives; and for that reason, like it or not, we are all leaning on something. So…we are all leaning, because we’re all crippled. And a crutch is NOT a bad thing. 🙂
All that said…once again, it is not a matter of who has faith and who does not, or who is leaning and who isn’t. The question is…where are you leaning? What, or whom, are you leaning upon?
So what does that mean? Doesn’t sound very nice to accuse all humanity of being weaklings, does it? But there is a key to having strength, according to the Bible. That is the paradox: we gain strength through leaning.
I’m thinking of Isaiah 40, where it says, “They that wait on the Lord will renew their strength.” The word renew also implies “exchange”. When we lean on the Lord, we actually exchange our weakness for His strength.
A friend of mine put it this way. He said if we are burdened down with a load and are top-heavy under the weight, we can bear it without faltering if we lean upon something immovable. (He demonstrated this by pressing his own weight against a wall.) Simple physics says when we lean like that, we actually are transferring the force of that burden onto the thing we lean upon. Because we lean upon the wall, our load leans upon it, too.
This really is the picture that helped me learn about faith at a time when I desperately needed it. By learning to lean upon God–Someone strong, immovable–I felt my burdens shift, I felt stronger. I exchanged my strength.
I guess I’m saying all this to say…if you’re going to lean–and you will lean–it’s best to find a place to lean that can carry the burden, that can help you exchange your strength. In my humble opinion, there’s only one place for man to lean that is entirely trustworthy.
Jesus put it this way: “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt: 11:28)