The Pursuit of God

Serious Topics for Serious Christians

The Self-Help Deception: Seeking Cures Apart from God

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Today you can find scores of books, seminars, and teachers who all promote the idea of self-help. As the term suggests, self-help is when you help yourself by yourself. While they completely discount God’s reality, self-help teachers urge you to buy into the lie that you can take charge of your own destiny. They tell you that you can use the principle of “mind over matter” to remove physical, emotional, and psychological burdens from your life. They say that you can control the quality of your life and health by wielding the great power of positive thinking. It’s all a bunch of irreverent rot.

If you are serious about pleasing God in life, you need to discard this ridiculous notion of self-help. While people say you are a powerhouse of potential who just needs to learn how to flip on your own switch, God says you’re an impotent dot of a creature who can’t do bumpkus without Him. Self-help encourages a mentality of self-reliance and autonomy. Such a focus is going to lead you far astray from where you need to be.

The truth is that you don’t get any say about how sweet your experience of this world will be. God is the One calling the shots in your life whether you acknowledge Him or not.  He is the One controlling your circumstances, health, and overall comfort. God says that the only choice you really have is in deciding how much you’re going to submit to Him in life. He doesn’t make any promises that if you submit to Him, He’ll respond by making your life one big bowl of pitted cherries. God isn’t into this tit for tat game that we humans are so fond of. He doesn’t say, “If you toss five bucks into the offering plate Sunday morning, I’ll respond by giving you $500.” He says, “I’m the King.  I give commands, not suggestions.  If you defy Me, I’m going to make you very sorry.”

God says that He created you for His own personal benefit and that He has come up with several options for how your life can go. He isn’t going to sit down with you and review each of those options in detail, nor does He say there are infinite possibilities. There aren’t infinite possibilities—there are only the possibilities that God has decided to create. You see, every soul is like a man walking through a forest. There are many paths through the forest, but those paths don’t begin to cover all of the area. As the man moves through the forest, he is restricted to staying on the paths which someone else created. That someone else determined ahead of time how much of the forest the man would see by where he laid down the paths. There are whole sections of forest that the paths entirely avoid. There are many places where the paths intersect with each other. When the man comes to those intersections, he can choose which fork to go down, but he never gets the option of leaving the path entirely and exploring on his own. His experience of the forest has been limited by the one who created paths for him to walk down.

God is the path maker in your life. Ego pleasing statements like “You can make any dream come true if you just believe” are just a bunch of guff. You do not have infinite options. You don’t have infinite potential. You are a creature with extreme limitations. You can only ever choose between the options that God presents you with, and there are countless options that He will never give you. In this world, the number of doors that God opens to you will be vastly outnumbered by the ones He shuts in your face. You can dream all day about being some Olympic athlete, but if God hasn’t given you the physical abilities you need to thrive in your dream sport, then you’re just wasting time beating your head against that closed door. You can pine after some perfect job, but God is the One deciding whether your resume is read or ignored.

Self-help theories make you the captain of your own ship. They teach you that you have infinite options in front of you, so just choose the course that pleases your ego the most and set sail. But God teaches that He is the Captain of your ship—you’re just the dude swabbing the deck. If you try to get mutinous and throw God overboard so that you can start calling the shots, He’ll cause a large tidal wave to come along and wash you overboard into a sea of Divine discipline. You are not in charge. God is in charge. If your ship is currently getting tossed about in some storm of hardship, be it mental, physical, emotional, or spiritual, you need to realize that God is the One who steered you into that storm. If you don’t like the way God is running your life, He’s the One you need to talk to. To just go sneaking off in some corner with a self-help manual trying to figure out ways to make God do what you want is a waste of time. If you’re going to listen to the theories of people who don’t even revere God, you’d better be involving Him in the experience and asking Him to show you if there’s anything of value being said. Pleasing God means involving Him in our lives, not ignoring His existence while we try to operate without Him.

It is our soul choices which God cares about. It is our soul choices that He judges us by. Soul choice is a very simple concept—every choice boils down to the same two options: submission or rebellion. When we choose to submit to God, we acknowledge that His will is not our own, and we choose to embrace His will over our own. For example, the Holy Spirit convicts you to apologize to the friend who you just offended with some snarky comment. In this moment, you make a soul choice. God’s will is for you to apologize. Your will is to not apologize. When you choose God’s will over your own, you have chosen submission. When you tell God to stuff it and decide that what you want is more important than what He wants, you’re choosing rebellion.

Submission is the central theme of every soul’s life whether they acknowledge it or not. Every hour of every day, we are all choosing between submission and rebellion. The problem with self-help theories is that they treat submission to God as an irrelevant concept when it is actually the foundation upon which everything else is built. It is your soul’s submission to God that keeps you out of Hell, not your good works or your nice smile. It is your degree of submission after salvation that determines what your initial experience of eternity will be like. Submission is vital. You can’t possibly help people in life while you totally avoid the issue of their submission to God. When you teach people to rely on themselves and to choose what they want in life, you are not teaching them submission. God says that we are totally dependent on Him for all things. When we reject this truth and say that we are actually self-reliant creatures who can take care of ourselves, we are practicing a soul attitude of rebellion. Anytime we adamantly reject a truth that God has presented us with, we are refusing to practice submission. Submission says, “You’re King, I’m not.” Rebellion says “I’m king, You’re not.”

On this site, we address many problems and struggles which Christians deal with. We then present you with prayers and exercises which we say will help you gain something positive from your struggle. But why are our methods helpful? Because we are not just teaching you some mind over matter idiocy, we are teaching you to practice submission to God. Let’s take the Christian who struggles with the fear that God doesn’t really love her. Fears are driven by underlying false beliefs. Before you can arrive at the conclusion “God doesn’t love me,” you must first accept many other lies as truth. God says He does love you—clearly you are rejecting this truth because you say He doesn’t. Rejecting what God says is the opposite of submission. When we tell the fearful Christian to start rehearsing the statement “God loves me” in her mind, we are teaching her to practice submission, not just positive thinking.

Submission is when we embrace God as the Supreme Authority in our lives. We decide that what He says goes simply because He is the One saying it. His claims might sound false to us, and we might not be able to emotionally connect with them, but in spite of these things, we choose to practice submission by embracing what He says. “God loves me.” When our fearful Christian keeps rehearsing this statement, she is choosing to practice submission to God. It is the practice of submission, not the reciting of mere words, that is going to drastically improve the quality of her existence. Soul joy, peace, and satisfaction are developed through continuous submission to God. When we hold back in the submission department, God retaliates by causing us to spiritually languish. Submission is vital.

Our submission is so important to God that He responds to it in very extreme ways. Consider Heaven and Hell: both of these places are God’s response to the submission of His creatures. Demons and humans and who knows what other kinds of creatures end up in Hell because of insufficient submission. Humans are only allowed admission into Heaven if they meet God’s minimal submission requirements, but then their experience of Heaven will vary widely depending on what their overall degree of submission to God was. Acknowledging who your Creators are and agreeing that They outrank you is a long ways from total surrender.

Most Christians practice a form of submission to God that is far from complete. We admit that we need Him to save us, but we refuse to accept the fact that He is in absolute control of the universe. We’ll take His saving grace, but we don’t want Him to tell us how to run the ministry we’ve just started and we’re not about to let Him write our sermons. Such partial submission is far from pleasing to God. The fact that God saves someone doesn’t mean that He is thrilled with them. God is extremely generous with His grace, but He is also very disgusted with the way most of His kids are treating Him like their Servant instead of their Master.

When you’re looking for help in life, you can’t just go plucking any ego-pleasing statement out of the air and think that rehearsing it a thousand times will make you into a better person. You can’t just immerse yourself in a bunch of pride stroking mental imagery and think that’s going to solve all of your problems. Look around at all of these arrogant self-help teachers who are patting themselves on the back for discovering the key to perfect health and then charging you a bunch of money for access to their secrets. Is it really an improvement if we go from being chronically depressed to being arrogant know-it-alls who stand around taking the bows for the way we can make the universe conform to our wishes? Does it please God when we crank out books and seminars that teach people to totally ignore His involvement in their lives and act like all that matters is how happy we are in the present moment? Is physical health more important than spiritual health? Is pleasing ourselves more important than pleasing God? Any theory which encourages you to find answers within yourself is a pile of rot. You don’t have answers. God does. If you refuse to seek Him in life, He’s going to bring you plenty of answers that are going to end up making you quite miserable in the long run. Don’t fall for the common lie that “if it feels good it must be good.” Many of God’s most devastating forms of discipline come in some very pleasant packages.

On this site, when we list truths for you to rehearse and describe images for you to focus on, they are things which have been specifically chosen because they align with God’s truths. God is always with you—this is a fact, not a theory. When you then focus on images of God being with you in your mind, you are practicing submission to Him by embracing His description of reality. You might not feel like God is with you. You might feel like He’s a thousand miles away totally ignoring you. But God says that He is with you. In life we are constantly deciding who we will acknowledge as the supreme authority: God, or someone else. If we want to thrive in our relationships with God, we must be practicing submission to Him, and that means treating Him as the Supreme Authority even when our emotions aren’t able to resonate with the things He is saying.

God is constantly putting us through submission exercises in life. These exercises come in such a wide variety of forms, that we often don’t recognize what they are at first. Why does God bring fear into our lives? Why does He have us struggle with doubts and theological crises? Because these things are fabulous contexts in which to practice submission. God says that everything comes down to submission. He says you can trust Him to take the best possible care of you. Maybe you say that you can’t trust Him because He’s a creep. Who are you going to choose as your supreme authority in life? Are you going to say that your view of reality trumps God’s, or are you going to say that His view trumps yours because He is the King?

Rehearsing God’s truths is a very powerful and productive exercise only because we’re really rehearsing submission, and God says that we were designed to thrive only when we are living in total submission to Him. Now does this mean that our lives will be perfect and cheery the minute we lay it all down? Not at all. When God talks about us thriving, He’s looking at the big picture. A baby can be thriving, but that doesn’t mean he can walk yet. It just means he’s moving in the right direction—that his growth is right on track and everything’s happening at an ideal pace. As Christians, we want to experience God’s definition of thriving. We want to be constantly moving down the path of maturity, developing at His ideal pace for us. God’s ideal growth plan for you isn’t going to look the same as His plan for someone else. But His ideal plan for you is one that He says you can experience if you are not holding anything back in the submission department.

There are four essential soul attitudes that God constantly works on developing in us: reverence, trust, submission, and dependency. Every trial He puts us through in life is about pushing us down one or more of these roads. God doesn’t put us through difficult experiences just to persecute us. He always has some positive spiritual goal in mind. We align with those goals by asking Him to help us learn everything He wants to teach us through the trial. This is a form of submission, and by His own choice, God always rewards submission.

Self-help theories teach you to greedily grab at all kinds of goodies that randomly exist in the universe and are yours for the taking. God teaches us to see Him as the One who rewards us in life and then He says His rewards must be earned through submission. We don’t get to go Heaven just because we are alive and breathing. God says there’s a price for admission, and that price is a form of submission which He defines. It is only by submitting to God that we end up being rewarded by Him. This is His game, and when we play by His rules, He rewards us. When we try to play by our own rules, He punishes us. God is the King and He will not just sit back and smile while we ignore Him, mock Him, and try to pretend we can go around Him. So anytime you are looking for help in life, make sure you’re involving God in the process. It doesn’t mean you have to live in your prayer closet and never make a move until He speaks from the sky. God communicates to us through a wide variety of forms. There’s nothing wrong with doing some research and reading through material that people have put out on a certain subject. But you need to be depending on God to guide you and acknowledging that He is your only Source of wisdom in life.

God will always point you back to Him. He will always lead you down roads that increase your focus on Him and there will always be spiritual lessons somewhere in the mix that He wants you to learn. God is not interested in giving you a blissful life, He’s interested in walking you through a carefully orchestrated series of experiences which will strengthen your personal bond with Him. Developing a deeper relationship with your Maker is why you exist. Whenever that goal drops out of view in your pursuit of solutions, you’re getting sidetracked, and it’s time to ask God to help you get your priorities back into alignment with His.

FURTHER READING:
Focusing on Truth (The List Exercise)
Understanding Fear: The Power of Beliefs
The Power of Positive Thinking
Praying BIG
Why God Isn’t Healing You (Encouragement for Frustrated Christians)
The Mechanics of Spiritual Growth: Four Essential Attitudes
If God controls everything, how is it fair that He punishes us for making certain choices?

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