We’ve all probably heard the familiar phrase, “Just pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” ~ or at least something like it. Maybe you’ve said it to you someone, or you’ve had it said back to you. It’s phrase that is supposed to muster up courage and admiration, whether in yourself or in someone else. But does it really?
Have you ever put on cowboy boots? They have those looped straps on the outside of each boot, so they do serve a purpose. When those cowboys are out on the range all by themselves, they needed something to help them get their boots on…and the cows couldn’t help out! And really….could you see a couple of cowboys helping each other put on their boots. Hahaha!! Those bootstraps fulfilled a purpose; and fairly quickly became a “self help” slogan. No where in the Bible does God teach us to do anything on our own. Even the Lord Jesus taught us that it is important to partner with each other, and more importantly, partner with the God of the Universe!
In John 7:16-18, Jesus shares these wise words, “So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.”
Again, although this phrase is meant to be a compliment/encouragement, there are some hidden dangers you’ll encounter when you try and pull yourself up by those hypothetical bootstraps.
One of the first dangers that come to mind is pride. The infamous verse in Proverbs (16:18) is known by most people, Christian or not ~ “pride goeth before the fall.” When we have an attitude of pride, we cannot always see clearly the circumstances that require us to pull up said bootstraps. We’re so busy looking down, struggling to get our feet to go where we want to go, that we will miss the path that God has for us.
Look at Jesus’ words in John 5:30-31, “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true.” He was Jesus! The Son of God! The Messiah! The Savior of the world! And even He knew that He could not do anything on His own…He had to commit His ways to the Father God.
The only thing that you could even remotely say that Jesus did on his own, was His death on the cross. However, in this action, He was given full authority and ownership to lay down His life for our sins. Jesus, the Son of God, knew what the outcome would be and He went willingly; Jesus, the Son of Man, knew what the outcome would be but needed a charge from His heavenly Father to complete the task.
See here in John 10:17-18 the simple beauty of obedience alongside serving the Father, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
When we believe the lies of the world, tv media, social media, and let’s face it…our own thoughts sometimes…and strike out purely on our own to accomplish something, we are not walking in the truth of God’s word.
But what if that thing, that task, whatever it is that we “pulled up our bootstraps on our own” goes amazing well?! What then?! My friends, these are the moments that satan uses to blind us to our need for fellowship and obedience to the Father. We start believing the lie that we don’t need God and maybe, we don’t need anyone else. This kind of thinking is cute when it’s a toddler saying, “I do it myself.”, but it is not cute the older we get. As we mature in our relationship with the Lord, we are learning to lean on Him and others more and more!
There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking for help!
Yep…you heard me right! Sure, there are plenty of things we can do on our own ~ seeing to our basic needs, driving a car, paying bills, laundry, cooking, etc. But even in those things, there will come a time in our life where we will need help with those basic tasks as well.
To give you some encouragement to ask for help (from others and from the Lord!) let the kindness of these verses wash over your tired soul ~ from John 15:12-14, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.”
The more you continue to pull up on those bootstraps of yours, with your own strength and determination, the more you will wear them out ~ and they will break. Trust me ~ you don’t want to be out all alone on the prairie of life somewhere with broken bootstraps. Oh how much the Lord will welcome you into His arms, when you come to Him asking for direction in your life…and He will fix those broken bootstraps of yours as well!
Psalm 37:23-24, “A man’s steps are established by the Lord,
and He takes pleasure in his way. Though he falls, he will not be overwhelmed, because the Lord holds his hand.”