We envision life as a series of steps toward independence. As newborns about all we can do on our own is cry and poop. As we mature, we learn how to use a spoon, put our pants on, and wobble about. But we’re still completely dependent upon others to cook our food, wash our clothing, and pay the mortgage on that house in which we wobble about.
Eventually, though, we make it. From toddlers to teens to adults. We have a paycheck. We have four walls to live in and four wheels to get us around. Even when hard times come, we know that God won’t give us more than we can handle. We got this. We’re strong, resourceful, independent people.
And we’re delusional.
No one, not a single person, is independent. That’s the Great American Lie. In fact, to claim that we are is a denial of our humanity. God’s goal for us is not to grow more independent, but to grow increasingly aware of how dependent we are on him and others for everything.
There’s Always Someone Else
God’s job is to give us more than we can handle. Not just in the dark seasons of life, but in the party times and yawning times. Every hour of every day, we live in a web of complete dependence upon others—and the Lord who stands behind them all.
The bed we wake up in—it was built by someone else, the sheets made by others, the alarm clock designed by someone. The coffee we drink or breakfast we eat—a thousands hands were involved in collecting, packaging, delivering, and selling it to us. The car we drive—how many millions of people were busy designing, manufacturing, welding, painting, and marketing it to us? Our jobs—we can’t do them without coworkers, suppliers, and customers.
Every minuscule detail of our everyday lives is impossible without countless others. Independence is just smoke and mirrors. The truth is we are completely and blessedly dependent upon people we know, as well as total strangers, to get up, eat and drink, drive to work, put money in the bank, raise children, grow old, and retire.
From the moment of conception to the moment of burial, we don’t do a single thing without someone else’s involvement. If you deny this, remember that even the air you breathed in to give voice to that denial was provided by Someone Else.
The Cosmic Web of Dependence
Other writers have pointed out—and rightly so—that God gives us more than we can handle in hard times so that we learn how dependent we are upon him. This is true, but it is only part of the truth.
We are enmeshed in a cosmic web of dependence. That’s what it means to be human, to be a creature of our Father. To be beholden to others. To identify ourselves not as self-sufficient, autonomous individuals but as members of the vast body of humanity.
Children of parents.
Companions of friends.
Citizens of a nation.
Christians of a church.
Children of God.
We can’t handle being human alone. Being human is being in a state of constant dependence.
This is God’s gift to you. He has given you your body and soul, eyes, ears, and all the members of your body—as well as doctors to care for your body, ophthalmologists to keep those eyes seeing, and even the undertaker to care for that body when you die.
He has given you clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home—as well as grocery stores, carpenters, and farmers to provide those goods.
You can’t even read these words without someone first teaching you how to read. Or making the computer or phone you’re reading them on.
So much for independence.
Behind every person, every breath, every bite of food is the God who provides. God gives, we receive: this is the base reality of being human. Embrace this truth with thankfulness. And rejoice that even your thankfulness is a gift from above.
God’s job is to give us more than we can handle that we might learn to flourish in our dependence, rely solely upon him, and see in the face of every one who contributes to our life the face of the One who is Life itself.