God of the Losers
She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day . . . 1 Timothy 5:5
At one point in my life, success was my greatest enemy. While I was struggling with my drug addiction, when things got miserable enough, I would turn to God and his will. I’d abandon my way, reorient my life around recovery, and I would do well . . . as long as I followed God. In recovery though, when life went back to normal, I’d back off on my recovery efforts. I wanted God only as long as I needed him. When I was doing well on my own, I’d go back to my way. My success caused me to practice self-reliance.
Then, eight years ago, when life absolutely came apart due to yet another relapse, I found myself with very little left on which to rely. I lost my job and maybe my career. My family was on the brink of collapse. I was in treatment and couldn’t address any of those problems. I had nothing and I could fix nothing. It was only in that profound loss that I truly began to rely on God. He used my life catastrophe to teach me faith.
Paul taught this principle in today’s passage. In it, he gave Timothy specific instructions regarding the treatment of widows in the church. Hidden in the passage, is this principle – We often learn to practice faith in God only when we have nothing left. As long as we believe we are successful on our own, we struggle with faith. Faith is believing in God and then living out those beliefs, relying completely on God’s will. While we think ourselves to be successful however, we can believe in God, while still following our own will.
There are a few lessons here. First, I must pursue God’s plan daily. If I don’t purposefully choose faith, I naturally practice self-reliance, the opposite of faith. Second, when in any life trial, I must turn to God, allowing him to use the misery to teach me faith. Finally, I must recognize that God often uses difficult times in the lives of those around me to draw them to him. If I want to be used by God to point others to faith and recovery, my efforts are best spent, not with the successful, but with those who’re struggling. To this end, I spend my time in treatment centers and jail, where no one believes they are successful.
God can’t do much with the self-reliant. He is a God of those who realize how badly they need him. It is often only when we see our need for God, that we learn to practice faith, relying on him instead of ourselves.