In part 1, I promised you a part 2 to answer the question, “How do I let my crutches go?” (You may remember that we defined a crutch as anything we use for support that inhibits us from becoming the woman God wants us to be. This might come in the form of our temperament or personality characteristics as well as addictions or other toxic behaviors).
I’ve tried several times to let my crutches go by simply trying harder to do better. That technique might work for a little while, but it typically doesn’t bring lasting effects.
Has this ever been your experience? Have you ever noticed that despite your best effort, there are certain things about yourself you just can’t seem to change?
Let me suggest another route. Look at Jesus’ words in John 15:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. ~John 15:1-5 ESV, emphasis mine
The path to lasting change, progress and growth in your life is not marked by human effort alone. If you want to change, you must abide.
Isn’t it just like God to take conventional human wisdom and turn it on its head? Human thinking tells us that if we want to change, we should exert more energy and effort and await the results. God tells us that true change is only found when we abide – remain, continue, stay, dwell – in Him. He even goes so far as to say that when we don’t abide in Him, we can’t do anything.
Think of a plant that has fruit, an apple tree, for example. How does the apple tree get apples to grow? Does it will it to happen? Does it muster up all of its strength and shout out, “Apples, come?” Probably not. As those branches stay connected and dependent on the tree’s roots for nutrients and sustenance, the inevitable outcome is health and vitality. It’s fruit. It’s change, transformation, and progress in all the best ways.
Here’s the principle: We’re just like those apple tree branches.
As we stay connected to Christ, He exchanges our dependence on our crutches for dependence on Him.
God is the only one that gives us the ingredients we need for lasting change. So we must continually remain, or abide, in Him.
So what exactly does it mean to “abide?”
To abide means to go where God is and respond accordingly.
Technically, God is always everywhere, so it’s impossible to go where God is not. But there are certain places that allow us to uniquely experience and focus on His presence. These places might include your church, a special place in your house where you pray and read your Bible, or around friends who encourage you spiritually. Wherever these places might be, seek them out and visit often.
But abide also means to respond. If the pastor is speaking about a particular issue that hits home in your life, or if a trusted Christian friend brings something to your attention you might need to change, you must be willing to take heed and not ignore or make excuses. In order to abide, you must obey.
Let me give you a few other thoughts to consider as we attempt to put down our crutches and abide.
Embrace your limitations – The world we live in takes on an “only the strongest survive” mentality, so we’re often afraid to expose where we’re imperfect or when we fall short. In turn, we end up using our crutches to cover up. But to truly abide in Christ, we must first acknowledge that He’s the only perfect one and we’re the ones in need of help. In fact, we can’t do anything without Him (John 15:5). Are you sick and tired of pretending you’ve got it all together? I am! It’s exhausting! When we abide in Christ, He gives us the freedom to be open and vulnerable about our shortcomings.
Embrace the pain – I mentioned in part 1 that we often use crutches to mask the pain of deeper issues. But to abide in Christ, we’ve got to confront these things. And it hurts. A lot. That’s why we tend to avoid it. But on the other side of that pain is “much fruit,” (John 15:5) things like deliverance, healing and wholeness. So stay the course! Ask God to give you the courage to navigate through the messy, painful process that may come about as you travel this road. As it relates to unpacking the pain of emotional wounds, I’d recommend a great little book called Into Abba’s Arms, which I also mentioned in my post 7 Books You Should Read in 2017.
Embrace God’s promises – All this giving up the crutches business is tough stuff! But be encouraged! God has promised that to the extent you abide in Him, you WILL bear much fruit! You WILL experience breakthrough! You WILL experience change! Simply because God has made it available to you through Christ and promised it in His Word.
Giving up your crutches is a lifelong endeavor. We don’t get it right over night. But thank God for Jesus who makes us victorious along this journey!
What crutches has God allowed you to overcome in your life? Share your story with someone this week! People need to know that God’s transforming power is still active and available.
By the way, my husband is in the middle of a great sermon series at our church about our relationships with God, ourselves and others that might be a helpful tool as you explore some of these topics. You can listen to his latest sermons here.