August 3, 2008 by

More About Leaning


Categories: faith, food for thought, Meanderings (look it up)

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)

Musician. Composer. Recovering perfectionist. Minister-in-transition. Lover of puns. Hijacker of rock song references. Questioner of the status quo. I'm not really a rebel. Just a sincere Christ-follower with a thirst for significance that gets me into trouble. My quest has taken me over the fence of institutional Christianity. Here are some of my random thoughts along the way. Read along, join in the conversation. Just be nice.

7 Responses to More About Leaning

  1. Lightbearer


    I whole-heartedly agree with you that there is only one place to lean. I would say that to lean anywhere else would be to be duped by an illusion.

    God allows His people to get into situations where we cannot help ourselves, so we must trust Him. In fact, I believe that He allows those situations so that we do learn to trust Him. And, in learning to trust Him it helps us to grow up into Him.

    I also agree with you that everyone trusts in something. Those who refuse to trust in Christ, refuse because they don’t want to relinquish control of their lives to the LORD. If they relinguish control of their lives to Him, then they are accountable to Him. They would rather remain in control (obviously an illustion) and continue on their current path.

    I admit that I am weak and give the control over to Him. I became weary trying to do it all myself. I thank God for His invitation to come when we grow weary and heavy-laden. His rest is very welcome.


  2. Kansas Bob

    Loved this post Jeff.. thanks for sharing it.

    I have found my enemy to be my own understanding.. that thing that I have leaned on most of my life. Small wonder that Proverbs 3 tells us to not lean on it.

    I agree with Gary that God allows us to be in places where our own understanding cannot help us.. places where we must live out of our innermost being.. uncomfortable places.. I am in such a place today and request your prayers to help me to lean.

    Blessings, Bob

  3. tysdaddy

    But what does it mean to say that we “lean on God”?

    This can be true only when seen as leaning on other believers. For God is not like your wall. He is not physically present to help us stabilize ourselves. Just as our burdens are usually not physical.

    But when believers share their burdens with others around them, flesh and blood people who are the physical embodiment of love and grace, then the concept of having something to lean on makes the most sense.

    Otherwise, we may just be tricking ourselves into a sense of stability that is false . . .

  4. Jeff McQ

    Gary, great thoughts. Thanks for adding to the conversation.

    You asked for my prayers. You have them.

    Larry, thanks! 🙂

    tysdaddy & D-P,
    Interesting thoughts on seeing at least part of "leaning" as leaning on one another. At the same time, I have a couple of cautions concerning this…
    First…I think it might be over-reaching the analogy to say God is not like a physical wall. I have never had an emotional burden cause me to have to lean physically on someone or something. Remember, we are using "leaning" to mean "trust". Trusting in God, casting our cares on Him, etc…these are matters of the heart and we should be doing that with, or without, someone else in the picture. To translate that to leaning on one another requires a whole other conversation.
    Second…regarding leaning on one another…the same Scripture that tells us to bear one another's burdens (Gal. 6) also says that each man should carry his own load. My take on this is that there are two extremes, and one happy middle. One extreme is independence (I don't need anyone; it's just me and God); the other extreme is co-dependence (I need you, and I need you to need me back). The happy middle is *interdependence*, a mutually life-giving, burden-sharing relationship.

    I guess I'm saying all this because I think there is a danger in interpreting leaning on God *strictly* as leaning on one another. We are built for interdependence, and we do need one another in a healthy way. But to suggest leaning on God is *equivalent* to leaning on others, IMHO, is an invitation to co-dependency.

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