Whether you consciously admit it or not, what is it that you take pride in? Is it your physical appearance–your beauty or charm, or your muscular, lean physique? Or perhaps you have had success with something less initially visible, yet nonetheless obvious–such as your intellect–which has won you attention and acclaim? Yet, as the years progress and you find yourself losing much of what you had previously found pleasure and confidence in, what is it that you will find your identity in?
“Let him not trust in futile things, deceiving himself, for futility will be his reward.” (Job 15:31)
God gifts us with various strengths. Some people are simply born beautiful. Others, although not quite so naturally attractive, nonetheless study how to enhance their natural appearance and through faithful application of their efforts in the areas of exercise, diet, wardrobe, make-up, and hair, over time achieve the same success the former had at the beginning. Certain other individuals find it easy to be charming–we’ve all known young children and teens that simply melt your heart with their winning ways and adorable smiles. For others it takes a life experience in which they find that to accomplish their goals they must become as charming as they can. Yet others are mentally brilliant, almost from birth. Whether because of genetics or a rich and stimulating environment, they find that they are intellectually gifted. They can cerebrally accomplish what others only aspire to–the intricacies of the world are somehow easier for them to grasp–and they achieve distinction through their intellect. And then there are those who, although not initially sprinting out the intellectual gate quite so quickly, set their sights on an academic endeavor, and through perseverance and faithful application of themselves to it accomplish a goal admired by all.
The number of abilities and natural gifts we are blessed with and can take pleasure in is, quite honestly, as innumerable and unique as we are individually. Yet as with all good things, our sinful natures tend to take the blessings God has given and misappropriate them. Whether it is something that has come relatively easy to us or that we have had to fight for, these are qualities that tend to define us, and as such, there is the tendency to place our trust in them.
I recently found myself misrepresenting to my mother-in-law the plight of the older woman, observing–perhaps correctly from a godless perspective but certainly not so as one who claims to follow Him–that because older women tend to lose their physical appearance they need to provide for themselves something else, such as an advanced education, wealth, or other distinction with which to impact society and keep from becoming irrelevant as the years progress. Yet almost as the words left my mouth, I realized I had inadvertently lied.
It is true that from a worldly perspective, once the relatively attractive physical appearance of youth leaves us it makes sense to have provided a back-up, yet this issue brings to the forefront the question of what it is that we truly rely on in life for our self-worth, identity, and hope. Is it beauty? Wealth? An education? Personality? Power? Influence? A career? Physical prowess?
Ancient Israel also struggled with their national identity. During the time of Samuel the Prophet, they demanded a king:
“Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, ‘Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.’ But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, ‘Give us a king to judge us.’ So Samuel prayed to the LORD. And the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.'” (I Samuel 8:4-7)
Israel wanted to be like the other nations, who did not have God to lead them. Rather than being content in the Lord, they wanted their identity to be in something else.
Later on, they tried to ally themselves with Egypt because of it’s perceived military strength, but again, God reproved them:
“Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, And rely on horses, Who trust in chariots because they are many, And in horsemen because they are very strong, But who do not look to the Holy One of Israel, Nor seek the LORD!” (Isaiah 31:1)
To the contrary, He had previously admonished:
“When you go out to battle against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them; for the LORD your God is with you, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 20:1)
Christ is our strength and our identity. In time, our physical appearance and strength diminish, as do our memory and cognition. Our charms no longer work, nor are money and power secure, as countless losses of fortunes–whether because of the economy or otherwise–illustrate. Our identity–our strength, what we rely on, take pride in, and find our ourselves in–is not to be anything other than the Lord! And to help us see this truth, He eventually–if we live long enough–takes back everything we have falsely relied on throughout our lives to show us that we weren’t supposed to rely on it in the first place–that He always was and still remains the only One we need!
Help us not “trust in futile things, deceiving ourselves,” but “look to [You] the Holy One of Israel,” and “seek [You] The Lord!” Amen.