We Can't Do It Alone
"I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:5 (NIV)
When my son Michael was learning to tie his shoes, he could not master the task. But, each time I offered my assistance, he would yell, "I can do it all by myself!"
Yet he couldn't. He didn't have the skills or knowledge necessary for tying shoes. I'd offer for him to sit on my lap and I'd teach him, but he would just run away and continue trying—unsuccessfully—on his own. Eventually I'd have to scoop him up against his will as he writhed his skinny body into an unbendable stick, wailing and flailing around.
Michael was frustrated and out of sorts simply because he wanted to tie his shoes by himself. In his mind he was capable. As his parent, I knew he simply could not do it alone.
I understood his frustration because even as an adult, I often do not want to admit my need for help. We are taught from a young age that we should be independent, and sometimes even groomed to believe that asking for help is a sign of weakness or failure. We struggle with pride and want to prove our ability in the eyes of the world.
While this may be our mindset, it is not the mindset of Jesus.
In today's key verse Jesus told His disciples that apart from Him, they could do nothing. Although they had devoted their lives to following and serving Him, Jesus wanted them to understand they needed an intimate and interdependent relationship with Him.
Jesus was not commanding, but rather inviting His disciples to abide in Him. He promised blessings and that they'd bear much 'fruit.'
Just as an apple can only be produced if it stays connected to the tree branch for nourishment and life, Jesus was telling them and us that we must stay connected to Him. Without the vital life-giving union with Christ, we can bear no fruit in our lives.
What does that look like? It happens when we try tirelessly to extend forgiveness, change a person's heart, overcome a personal struggle, transform a situation or accomplish a goal. All too often we do things in our own strength and wisdom, rather than realizing or relenting to our need for God's help. But when nothing, or very little happens, we get frustrated and stressed, just like a child incapable of tying his shoes.
Our tendency to rely on our own knowledge, skills or experience can actually become a stumbling block. We may eventually find ourselves defeated and discouraged, secretly longing to throw ourselves on the floor and pitch a grown-up tantrum.
The word "abide" means to "dwell in, reside in, or continue in a particular condition or relationship." Upon accepting Jesus as our Savior, we are invited to abide in Him, and this verse encourages us as to why staying connected in a relationship is important to our faith. As we learn to dwell in Christ daily, we are better equipped to handle stress and adversities, and better prepared to avoid meltdowns altogether.
Just like I knew my son's limitations, God understands we need His help as we wade through life. He understands our desire for independence and our struggle with pride, yet if we abide in Him and accept His help, we will be better equipped to deal with the stress and challenges of life.
Dear Lord, I never realized the stress that I was bringing upon myself by assuming that I was capable of handling problems on my own. Forgive me for trying to do things apart from You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond:
What situation has been causing you great stress and frustration? Instead of tackling it on your own, spend time in prayer.
What stumbling blocks have you encountered lately? Doubt? Fear? Worry? Marriage problems? Parenting challenges? Financial worries? Humble yourself before God and ask Him for help.
1 Chronicles 16:11, "Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always." (NIV)
Philippians 4:13, "I can do all this through him who gives me strength." (NIV)