Two months ago, my husband and I packed all our belongings into our car and drove across the country to live in a state we had never visited. The problem was, not all our stuff fit in our car, so the rest of it ended up strapped onto the back, piled on top of a hitch basket purchased in a last-minute panic.

As we drove away from our home in Oregon, I began my week-long obsessive worry about the luggage strapped onto the exterior of our vehicle. Would it get stolen? Would it fall off on an interstate somewhere in the middle of America? How would we stay at a hotel without someone taking all the stuff piled up high on the hitch?

I worried about this more than I’d care to admit, and in my silly desperation, I was driven to prayer. I began to ask God to keep our belongings secure, and as the week progressed, so did my awareness of my smallness and my inability to control anything. My prayer began to sound something like this: “Lord, I really can’t do anything without you. I can’t even keep my belongings from being stolen off the back of my car. I need you to help me, because I really can’t do anything without you.”

In the grand scheme of things, my worry was silly. I can always replace a bike, a cooler, and backpacking and camping equipment. My world would not have been shattered. But God is kind and often trains us toward greater holiness and dependence in even the smallest of worries. In this small worry of mine, God taught me something beautiful about the extent of his care for his children and the realization that is necessary for us to receive it. He says to little, powerless ones like me, “Apart from me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

Modern Christians have a bounty of privileges. We don’t want for much. Most of us have food in our fridges every day. Most of us have jobs, and we have money. We have talents, knowledge, and skills, so we can do most “anything we set our minds to,” as the culture would have it. We are independent, capable, smart, and, as the culture would tell us, do not need help from anyone but ourselves. This is a silly thing to believe. In fact, it is a grievous, dangerous mistake to believe we are capable on our own. The narrative of the Bible tells us the opposite. Jesus says, “Apart from me, you can do nothing.” Nothing. He could not have said it more plainly. We delude ourselves when we think we are capable of controlling our little corner of the universe, and we become angry and anxious when we attempt to exert control over the little things that arise which, in reality, we have no control over.

I cannot control whether someone steals my belongings off the back of my car as I drive across the country. I am not omniscient or omnipotent. I can’t have eyes on it at all times, and I don’t have the power to determine what ultimately happens to me or my belongings. So, God tells us, “Apart from me, you can do nothing.” But this is not meant to drive us into deeper fear or deeper despair. It is meant to be good news, gracious news! God loves to care for our needs. He is merciful and provisional to his core. We do not have to coax him toward providing for us or twist his arm into caring for us. He is ready, and he is inviting us to humble ourselves before him and admit, “Father, apart from you I can do nothing.”

The beautiful irony is that when we admit our powerlessness, we invite God to be powerful for us in ways we could not have dreamt or imagined. God longs for us to accept his invitation for him to work on our behalf. He has provided his Holy Spirit as a counselor, a guide, a protector, an instructor (John 14:26, 16:13-15). The Holy Spirit is the one who will lead us in the way we should go, who will put the wisdom into our minds that we need, who will put words into our mouths so that we do not need to fear what we will say (Matthew 10:19-20). He loves to work powerfully on behalf of his people, but it requires something of us. It requires something simple, yet difficult for hard-hearted, self-sufficient sinners: supplication, a humble begging of God to rescue us and work on our behalf. We tend to reserve supplication for only the circumstances in life that are the most filled with suffering and fear. Yet how do we expect to be equipped to humble ourselves in moments of overwhelming suffering if we have not practiced how to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God in “small,” day to day needs and fears?

The Apostle Paul begins his letter to the Corinthian church with the following statement: “I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling” (1 Corinthians 2:3). We tend to paint an all too simple picture of the Apostle Paul as the powerful church father who taught doctrine mightily and who exhibited a holiness which we all should follow. This is all true of Paul. However, we often miss the reason behind Paul’s holiness and his powerful testimony about Christ. Paul came to the Corinthians in weakness, in fear and in trembling. This is not the image we tend to associate with Paul, but it is his own self-description. How does such a man pen the soul-piercing words we read in the letter of Romans? How does someone who is small, trembling, weak and fearful exude such power to write the majority of the New Testament letters and build the early church? Paul himself tells us why: “My speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Cor 2:4-5). Paul’s life was powerful in building the kingdom because he first came in weakness and trembling. There is no receiving of the Lord’s power without first coming in weakness and humility. Living a powerful life requires we admit we don’t have any real power—not a single ounce—without the gracious intervention of the Holy Spirit. The power of God is demonstrated as a result of admitting we need his power and intervention, and this was something Paul was well-acquainted with (2 Corinthians 11:23-33).

There is good news in the gospel for weak people, and the gospel is only good news for people who acknowledge their weakness. Jesus Christ saves sinners and draws near to the suffering. The good news even goes so far as to remind us that God does not send away the needy (Matthew 11:28-30). He does not shun the anxious (John 6:37). He does not shame the struggling (Isaiah 42:3). Our anxieties and struggles range from sin to suffering and may be a result of unbelief, trauma, or both. But the good news remains the same: God has put on flesh and has dealt with both our unbelief and our suffering, and he offers his own power instead. We can draw near to the throne of grace in our time of need, whether the need be laced with sin, suffering or both, and he will be faithful to draw near to us (Hebrews 4:16, James 4:8). In fact, his very presence dwells within his people and he draws near to us before we even realize that we need to draw near to him.

God is inviting us into a life of Spirit-filled power that will change not only us but the world around us and the eternity to come. This requires something simple yet difficult of us—that we admit we need God’s help in every moment and every hour of our time here on earth. We must train ourselves to recognize and accept our smallness. When we lift our prideful, self-sufficient eyes to heaven, we see a God who is high and lifted up, powerful and holy, and we see him stoop down low, lending his ear to hear us and bending his hand to help us. He imparts his power to lowly people who recognize their position, and in a graciously ironic twist, he raises us up in power with his Son to expand his kingdom (1 Corinthians 6:14). When we admit our need in issues both big and small, we are ushered into a life of Spirit-filled power. As a result, we experience joy and freedom and have the privilege of seeing a big God work on behalf of very small people. These very small people are very precious in his eyes, and he delights to work for them and demonstrate his power toward them.

I invite you to join me in training yourself toward a dependence on the power of the Spirit through “silly” and “small” prayers. Recognize your need, your smallness, your inability to enact any form of change on your own. But take heart and don’t be discouraged by your smallness, because our really big and really good God wants to provide you with his power so that you and all the world may see that he really is a God of total power and utter goodness. He loves to help small people, but his small people must see and admit their need. There’s no problem too small or too big for our holy God to handle. So go ahead, little one—admit your need to him. He’d love to hear all about it and offer you his power.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

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