Struggling with addiction? Just say no.
Traumatic childhood? Put it behind you.
Depressed? Think happy thoughts.
Grieving the loss of a loved one? Get over it.
Do better. Try harder. Dig deeper. All are messages that enforce the belief that sheer willpower is enough to conquer any emotional foe. But in most cases, adopting that approach to our problems will only set us up for more disappointment and heartache.
The late Dr. Alexander DeJong, my childhood pastor; authority on addictive behaviors; and, himself, a recovering alcoholic, suggested that those who believe that their difficulties can be overcome by exerting more willpower should try that approach the next time they have diarrhea.
Always had a way with words, that Doc DeJong.
But that image, as graphic as it is, proclaims a mighty truth: Willpower alone will never help us to master our misery. When seeking to conquer our problems we don't need more willpower. We need God-power.
Self-sufficiency may be promoted by our culture but it is not a theme we will find in Scripture. Nowhere in the Bible do we read that we can do all things if we just try harder. Rather, in the book of Philippians (4:13, NKJV), we are offered this mind-blowing mantra: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Exerting more willpower puts the onus on us. That's probably why the word "onus" is spelled that way. But it is not our loving God's desire that we carry the burdens of life on us. So He has offered to carry them for us: Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. (1 Pet. 5:7, NLT) We would be wise to take Him up on that.
When it comes to gaining victory over our troubles, we are power-less (hypen intended), no matter how hard we try. But God is power-full. It is His strength, not ours, that empowers us to do all things.