The lie of self-reliance


“I cannot give if I do not receive. In giving, I am also able to receive.”

In John 4, Jesus initiates a discussion with a Samaritan woman with “Give me a drink” even though he knows that the woman needs a drink from him more than he needs the drink he is requesting.

The Samaritan woman had to discover her own neediness and drink from the living waters before she could give a drink to others.

I have too often tried to help others with a drink when I myself have not allowed Jesus to fill me with His living water.

Many people in the world today are thirsty and hungry and yet they are not aware of their thirst. Activities, busyness and self-medication (alcohol, drugs, sports, etc) serve to mask the thirst that exists. People refuse to admit their restless desire for God and “repress the awareness of it” because they are “unable to bear the terrible craving for God that eats away at their hearts.” (Adrian van Kaam)

I need to “be attentive to that kind of thirst of Jesus in my fellow men that I can relieve best because of the person I am.”  I need not pretend or try to be someone that I am not. Do I fail to see people in need and do I lack compassion because I have been unable or unwilling to receive from Jesus. Unless I receive from Him, I have nothing to give.

Only in recent years have I paid attention to notice my own thirst. In doing so, I am much more aware of the thirst of others.

Attachments and affections  may prevent me from receiving His love. It is only when I give these attachments to Jesus that I am able to give my whole self to Him and receive His love. Van Kaam says, “To live a spiritual life is to excel in the art of receiving without fear or withholding.”

I am comforted that the Lord did not give up on the Samaritan woman and He has not given up on me. This is grace. In the same way, His grace enables me to persevere with those who initially reject, are hardened or even fearful of that which I am offering to give to them—new life in Jesus.

Van Kaam is helpful here. “The lie of self reliance never covers up the hollowness that gnaws at the core of our existence.” It requires the work of the grace of God to enable a person to see in their own blindness.

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