Being capable vs being desperate

Being capable vs being desperate

Many of us are capable people, used to being able to sort out most of our own problems. In the developed world, most are educated, employment is generally high, and there is great pride in being self-sufficient. When problems come up, we can usually solve them or at least manage them.

Of course, there is something good about being capable people. All parents want to raise their children to be capable and self-sufficient. Yet this attitude of capability can make it hard for us to rely on Jesus in faith.

In Matthew 15, Jesus met a Canaanite woman. She lived in the region of Tyre and Sidon, northern neighbours of Israel. This woman was the very picture of what desperation looks like. She had a daughter who was severely oppressed by a demon. We’re not told more information, but based on other cases like this in the gospels, her daughter would be in a very bad way that could not be cured by traditional medicine. We don’t know the backstory of this woman, but she is out of options. Jesus is her only hope. She pleads with him to help her daughter. She is not deterred when Jesus ignores her or when she is cast in an unflattering light for not being Jewish. She kneels before Jesus and asks for help.

This woman may well have been a capable person most of the time. She knew things about Jesus, calling him Son of David, that she must have learned from others. When it comes to her biggest problem, her daughter, all her resources are not enough. She doesn’t ask Jesus to help because of who she is or how good she is. All she can do is drop to her knees and plead for help. Any help that comes is grace and not deserved.

Coming to trust in Jesus is always like this. We need to understand that for all our capability in everyday life, we can do nothing about our biggest problem. Our sin is too deep. We cannot deal with it like other problems in life. When we face our Maker, we cannot claim to be good enough or important enough; we just need to plead for mercy. Jesus is our only hope. Jesus, through his death and resurrection, offers help for our biggest problem that we need. And he is keen to give us that help; we simply need to ask. That’s faith: asking Jesus for help and realising we cannot do it ourselves.

We must not fall for the trap of thinking that because we are generally capable, we just need a little help from God. As if we were good and just need some tips to get better. That’s not sufficient. We are terribly lost even if we are generally capable people. Trying harder is not enough. We need to come to Jesus in desperation and faith.

There’s a warning here for people who have been Christians for longer as well. We can move on from the desperation we felt at our conversions and start to think too highly of ourselves. We might be doing well in our Christians lives a lot of the time. Don’t ever lose the belief that you need Jesus. All of us need to come to God in prayer, and often. When we feel capable and proud, we lose the prayer in our lives; it just drops off as we don’t think we need it. We can do fine by ourselves, we think. If that’s you, and you don’t have prayer as a significant part of your life, you are in danger. You will lack the wisdom you are asked to pray for and the help to resist temptation that you need. Pray now. Confess your prayerlessness and self-reliance. You and I need Jesus more than we know, and it is when we think we have it all together that we are at the greatest risk.