“Self-help” and the Paradox of Faith

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.
— Romans 7:15

There was once a rabbi in a small village who was very much loved and respected. One day, the nearby dam broke loose and water was flooding the village. While everyone was preparing to evacuate, the rabbi just climbed up to the rooftop of his house and prayed.

As the waters reached the rooftop, a boat pulled aside. They yelled from the boat, “c’mon, get in the boat!” The rabbi responded, “God will save me.” The rabbi continued to pray as waters went passed the rooftop and was now waist deep on the rabbi. Another boat came by and everyone was yelling for the rabbi to get in the boat. Again, the rabbi responded with, “God will save me.” He continued to pray and the waters rose to his neck. A helicopter flew up to the rabbi and lowered a rope ladder. The pilot spoke through the loudspeaker, “climb up the ladder and get in the helicopter!” The rabbi responded, “it’s okay. God will save me.” Moments later, the rabbi drowned.

When the rabbi got to heaven, he demanded to see God. So, God came up to the rabbi. The rabbi angrily asked, “How could you let me die? I prayed and prayed for you to save me and you didn’t answer my prayers…”

God immediately interrupted the rabbi and said, “What are talking about? I sent you two boats and a helicopter! What more did you expect?”

So, what is the point of this little joke? I’m hoping to elaborate on this in the proceeding paragraphs.

Having seen the video “Wide is the Gate” once or twice, it got me thinking at one time about some of my usage of certain material classified as self-help. In fact, it directly targets Anthony Robbins in particular, which got my attention. Main reason is because I have used his material, such as Personal Power, since 1992. I tried it because at the time, I was in the deepest depression to the point of being suicidal. In fact, I will never forget the fact that Joelle sold her piano in order to get me the set. And you know what? It worked. It helped me to break out of my destructive pattern and helped me to move forward.

However, after seeing the video, it sort of had me wondering if I was doing anything that was not according to scripture. This sort of led me to stop using what I knew for a few years, and I can say that I started to watch my life slide to the point of depression again. Something that I have not felt for a long time. I found that I was starting to act like a combination of Grumpy Cat and Walter (you have to watch Jeff Dunham in order to get this) at the same time. I can’t say that it was all of a sudden. It was more like a frog in a pot situation. By the time I noticed that I was in hot water over this, it was too late. If you are wondering to yourself, “did he pray about it?” The answer is constantly. Well then you are probably thinking, “he must not be praying hard enough.” Are you kidding me? Just how many times do I have to wake up in the middle of the night crying to the point where my pillow is drenched, begging for Godly intervention to hold up the walls from crumbling all around, or at the very least some wisdom and understanding as to why the walls are crumbling all around, before it is considered praying hard enough?

Well, after serious consideration, I really can’t see why I, with my belief in Christ, should discontinue my usage and practices of everything that I have learned from Tony Robbins. In fact, I pulled out my Personal Power CDs and have been listening to them on my BlackBerry and have been doing the assignments that are on the CDs. I can imagine the pixels that are getting sucked off the screen by all of the sphincters closing on many of the pastors and legalistic church goers that I know. That’s okay. I’m used to this. I got people trying to talk me out of taking karate 16 years ago. You know the type. However, if you read this far, you’re probably going to hear me out, which means that all of this typing on my Q10 won’t be in vain.

Let’s take this whole notion of self-help to start. If you are thinking that by listening to the CDs and practicing what you are listening, you are not having faith in God, I will tell you to think about this for a second.

When you are not feeling well, what do you reach for? Do you reach for a pill, or are you pulling out bible scripture believing that is sufficient? Be honest with yourself. You have probably reached for a Tylenol, Rolaid, or Gravol without a second thought. Have you been unfaithful to God for doing so? Certainly not!

When I ripped my quadricep muscle clean off of my knee, should I have gone to church first? You’re probably chuckling, thinking, “Now you’re being foolish! Of course you should be going to the hospital!” Even Joelle’s first reaction when I could not stand up because of it was, “You’re not going to work. You’re going to the hospital.” Let me tell you that there is no one I know that is more faithful to God than Joelle, and yet she knew what had to be done. I never lost faith in the hospital. I spent most of my waiting time reading from the book of Psalms while I was in pain and shock. I truly believe that God was at work through the doctors there as not only did they fix up my injury, but I am walking far better than I was before the injury. Only God could do that kind of stuff.

If working out on an exercise machine, or riding a bicycle being unfaithful to God. I think we know the answer. We can pray and pray all we want for physical fitness, and God will meet us halfway. He’ll either provide the equipment or a gym membership. However, it is up to us to get up off of our butts and get working out. We must not be like Saul. When it is time to pray, we pray. But, when it is time to act, we act.

So, if none of the above are a lack of faith, how would using Personal Power to help me break my cycle of depression be considered a lack of faith? The main premise of those CDs is that we are already doing all of these things unconsciously, and he is demonstrating how to take control of this in a scientific way. In other words, he scientifically shows us how to create and break habits. After all, we create habits all the time. Some good, many bad. Even Paul was aware of this. So where is the lack of faith? If anything, I’ve seen books in Christian bookstores on leadership that use similar principles. Things like setting goals and taking action are very common. The only real difference that I have noticed are the use of scripture. So then, why couldn’t I do something similar and let scripture dictate the kind of actions that I need to take? I prayed about the goals that I had set both before and after. If anything, God is a very big part of this.

Not to mention that I have been depressed all summer, and not for the lack of faith. I could have gone to the doctor and he probably would have prescribed me some sort of happy pill. Instead, I’m using this to break the cycle. It’s not some voodoo spiritual magic. It’s simple science of knowing how we function and using it to break a cycle. It’s how God designed us. It’s no different than learning how our heart and lungs work. In case, it’s more like how our nervous system work.

Just as I am using Personal Power from the aspect of faith, I think that it is just as easy to misuse any of the books found in the Christian bookstores. There are enough pastors out there that are twisting the gospel to suit their own desires and doing far worse damage than me listening to a self-help CD. In fact we can use and misuse almost anything. It is up to us to discern whether our actions are in faith or not. And if we are not able to discern the difference, then we need to stop and pray. God is faithful to us in that he will point out the direction that we need to take.

I also remember a line that Morgan Freeman said in the movie, “Evan Almighty”. He said, “when you pray to God asking for courage, God doesn’t just give you courage. He puts you in a situation that will give you the courage.” The same for being happy and breaking the cycle of depression, God doesn’t just snap His fingers and your are happy. He will provide the situation, and tools when required, for you to break the depression cycle. He did so 20+ years ago when I first got Personal Power. He is doing so again, reminding me that He gave me to tools to break the cycle and it is up to me to act.

Just as I had faith in God in the surgery that made me walk better than ever, I have every bit of faith in God that this is helping me break the cycle of my depression and make me more fit to act in His service. Prayers have never ceased. However, when it is time to act, we act. Otherwise, just how faithful am I really being?

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