True wisdom comes when our own resources come to an end and we put our trust in a power beyond ourselves The Bible tells us this in different ways: Paul writes, “Whenever I am weak, I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10b); Jesus says, “those who lose their life for may sake and the sake of the Gospel, will save it” (Mark 8:35b); the psalmist prays, “O Lord my God, I cried to you/and you restored me to health. You brought me up, O Lord, from the dead;/you restored my life as I was going down to the grave” (30:2-3).
We don’t come to this wisdom easily; it is usually forced upon us when life breaks down. We are diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, and for the first time we realize how fragile we are. Nothing we can do guarantees to resolve the problem. Our marriage breaks down and there is no return. This wasn’t our dream for our life. That only happens to other people. Our career path takes an unexpected turn. A job is lost; a promotion goes to somebody else. All our career and financial goals lie in ruins before us. One of our children is bent on self-destruction in spite of all our best efforts. Our hearts break and we simply can’t believe what has happened.
When life breaks down, we have two choices: We can either redouble our efforts to put our lives back together again and pretend the breakdown never happened. Or we can realize that we are not self-sufficient and need help from a source greater than we are. If we choose the second path, we begin a journey into a way of life full of a new-found freedom.
For obvious reasons this wisdom often comes later in life. It is more likely to come when we have lived long enough to have experienced the limits of our own resources, the most obvious being aging. But let’s be clear: age doesn’t guarantee wisdom. There are many older people who refuse to accept that they are not self-sufficient. They live in constant denial of their mortality and limitations and refuse to acknowledge that they have ever come to the end of their resources. They often criticize people who do acknowledge their limitations. “Why don’t they just suck it up and get on with it!” There are also relatively young people who have experienced just how fragile life can be and early on discover that they can’t live this life relying only on their own resources.
So where are you right now? Are you at a point in your life where you are at the end of your rope? Are you involved in an intractable situation over which you have no control? None of us want to be in these situations, and if this is not where you are, enjoy your good fortune. But if this is not the case, is this the moment for you to cry out to God for help? Is this the moment to realize that this one intractable situation is not an aberration, but indicative of much more to come? Is this the moment to stop living under the illusion that you don’t need help—and a lot of it? Is this the moment to realize how desperately—and everyone else for that matter—needs God? Is this the moment to “Cast all your anxieties on God” (1 Pt. 5:7a), and discover true strength? Is this this the moment to discover what St. Paul discovered, “Whenever I am weak, I am strong.”