What does it mean to live in actual dependence on God? Not just to give lip-service to the truth of Jesus’ words that “Apart from Me, you can do nothing”, but to actually live as if that were true.
I think I know what dependence on God doesn’t mean. It isn’t an excuse for laziness or permission to disengage from what is difficult. Dependence is not synonymous with passivity, though it may involve releasing control over outcomes. Actual dependence on God doesn’t mean shrugging my shoulders and saying “Well, I guess there’s nothing I can do.” Neither is dependence a whiny wimpiness like what we might associate with a person who needs to grow up a bit and learn responsibility.
What I’m learning that perhaps dependence looks like is to come honestly before God saying “I can’t do this” and then go out and do it. In that I don’t mean that I simply utter those words before anything I attempt to do. Rather, it implies that I am actually facing the reality of my human limits, and being honest with God about something that I know is truly beyond my capability. In other words, as long as I surround myself with only what is comfortable and manageable, I won’t ever be in a place to honestly say to God “I can’t do this.” But if I allow Him to lead me to places that are uncomfortable and unknown and risky (which could be in any relationship), then I am opening the door to “I can’t do this.”
Simply acknowledging I can’t do this is not dependence, but dependence is then moving ahead to do what I know I cannot accomplish, trusting that God will empower me or work through me or provide some answer to my inadequacy and inability. That is what moves it from passivity to actual dependence.
So when I arrive home exhausted from work, yet know that I am called to engage deeply with my wife and children, I pray that little prayer as I get out of my car, “God, I can’t do this.” And then I go in the door and engage with them. When I’m needing to listen to someone share their struggles and I feel burnt out and have no answers for them, I say in my heart “God, I can’t do this” and then I sit down and listen. Dependence is not passivity, but neither is it a determined pushing forward in my own strength or wisdom. Rather, it is acknowledging my weakness and need, then moving forward trusting that God will do what I cannot.