“Cursed is the One Who Trusts in Man..”

People who’ve read this blog know my struggles. They know the problems I’ve had with faith and with churches and with the bible.  I’ve turned my back on all three and I’ve turned to one or the other at various times since then. At one time, I thought I had the answers. Now I know I don’t. It’s clear to me that I will never have peace about it. When things are at their toughest I know where I choose to turn, but faith has to be more than just a fail-safe method when faced with hard times, illness, or even death.

During my recent struggles with major life changes (moving, divorce, illnesses) I’ve sometimes turned back to those things I swore I wouldn’t and I’m still confronted with the same old platitudes that make no sense to me. The bible is full of them. Church is full of them. Yet no one can explain what they mean or how it should be lived. For example, I am going to attend a series of studies put on by a local non-denominational church for those going through separation and divorce. I’m doing it for the support mainly, but of course there will be bible study and discussion. None of my hard questions are ever really answered there. I’m convinced that no one will be able to answer them, but studying them is still something I’m willing to entertain. Well, to set the tone of the support group, a series of emails are being mailed to me with short devotions about divorce. In yesterday’s devotion I was struck by this:

When you are making decisions regarding a new relationship, do not make any decisions based on your feelings. Feelings are temporal and not always rational, no matter how strongly you may feel them. Be wise and take the time to grow and to build your life on a strong foundation…The Bible says you should not depend on humans—yourself or other people—to be strong for you. You must only depend on God. “This is what the LORD says: ‘Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD'” (Jeremiah 17:5).

I can’t begin to tell you how many times Christians have said this in worship, in bible study, in prayer meetings, on television, on the internet, everywhere. Yet, no one can tell me what that really means. First, how can any human being NOT rely on feelings when feelings are all we have to communicate danger, anger, fright, love, etc.? What does it mean to shut down all feelings when decision making? I’d like an example. When faced with two decisions of equal weight and import, feelings are always the deciding factor, aren’t they? And what does it mean when someone writes “do not depend on humans–yourself or other people–to be strong for you. You must only depend on God.”??

God is an immaterial entity that does not directly interact with human beings in any discernibly supernatural way. When we need groceries do we pray for them? No, we wait until we have money and we buy them. Or someone takes pity on us and gives them to us. Was God being depended on in this situation or people? I’d say the people. Yet, we are “cursed” if we turn to them for help and not “the Lord.” Harsh. Christians always like to say that other Christians are “God with skin on.” Yet when Christians fail to help other Christians the failure is always on the part of those who “lacked faith.” This is cheap simplistic faith in my opinion.  If faith is true and worth anything, it needs to wrestle with the hard issues and not fall back on plastic platitudes that mean nothing in reality.

I am really struggling still with questions like these and how that’s supposed to play out in reality and I’ve been “converted” since 1983! I can’t settle for the easy answers because they mean nothing. Some Christians say they have numerous answers to “prayer” yet others say theirs are never answered. Would any of us dare to say that those who don’t receive are at fault for “lack of faith” or “depending too much on people for strength?”  I wouldn’t dare say that. Arrogance doesn’t become us in that instance. There are times that I’d really, really like to rely on my faith again, especially when things get tough. But, in the midst of it, I’m reminded of the less than comforting answers like those above. So, I’m still going to that bible study, which starts in September. And I’m going armed with questions like these. Any thoughts before I go?

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20 thoughts on ““Cursed is the One Who Trusts in Man..”

  1. I think using those verses and phrases can mean two things. One is really about balance, “do not make decisions based on your emotions,” might really mean, “don’t let your emotions override the rational decision making process.” I think of that as akin to advice when buying a car.

    The second meaning which I hear in those words is about mind control in my opinion. “God’s ways are higher than man’s ways, the bible is God’s word, therefore believe what the bible says and not what you actually think about the matter.” That is how it has been pitched to (at?) me personally. And tying in the first meaning with the second can cause problems.

    I don’t see how the second meaning matters too much when you have reached the point of “God is an immaterial entity that does not directly interact with human beings in any discernibly supernatural way.” Even while retaining a measure of faith, one is committed to thinking through things rationally as best as possible.

    There are times that I’d really, really like to rely on my faith again, especially when things get tough.

    I feel that way often too, but now I feel I am being negligent in my responsibilities if I do. Maybe be informed by something that could pass for faith, but not abdicate responsibility by saying it was my faith that led me to a decision (meaning it was God telling me to do it, despite my rational thoughts otherwise).

    You think through these issues so well, I am surprised you struggle with those questions! Appreciate that you wrestle with them though, and thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. TTR,

    Thanks for the great comment! Frankly, I’m still surprised I struggle with these issues again too, but darnit! I want some answers. Better answers than I’ve always gotten. Am I barking up a dead tree here? I wonder. But your comment “maybe being informed by something that could pass for faith, but not abdicate responsibility by saying it was my faith that led me to a decision…” is right on target. That’s the best answer I’ve heard in a long time. Thanks for the clarity on that point.

  3. MOI, having glimpsed a complete solution which you subsequently rejected, perhaps you’re still looking for the Philosopher’s Stone. One problem here is that the answers you’re being offered are predicated on the very premises which you have rejected, with your head at least.

    Unfortunately, I think the whole “cursed is he who trusts in man” line of reasoning falls into its own trap. Who is telling us not to trust in Man? A human being that’s who. What they’re really saying is “cursed is he who trusts in Man, unless he trusts in my version of the way things are”.Didactic scripture and religion are always going to be mediated through human beings whose words, as Jeremiah says, are not always to be trusted. Any of us can claim to speak for God. For me, if the Divine speaks to me at all, it is directly, or by example in the lives of others.

    As for “who depends on flesh for his
    strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD’”
    This sounds to me like an injunction to follow the Spirit rather than materialism (“flesh”) as our sole guide when faced with hard choices. It asserts the supremacy of our spiritual nature over concrete rationality. Institutional religion is undermined by your autonomy, so it will try to talk you out of it. Again, we have the partiality of human agency here. If you do what a particular Church thinks you should do, you will be following the will of God. If you follow the promptings of your conscience, you will be relying on mere temporal feelings. Such people are actually saying “we have spirituality, whereas you just have feelings”. Well these poor untrustworthy feelings of ours, so adversely contrasted to someone else’s hotline to God, are just as much a part of us creatures as are our bodies and brains.

    As you say:
    “feelings are all we have to communicate danger, anger, fright, love,
    etc.” Would we go to an accountant to determine whom we should marry?

    This is an intensely personal struggle for all of us, and I sincerely thank you for sharing yours.

  4. Reg,

    You wrote:
    “Such people are actually saying “we have spirituality, whereas you just have feelings”. Well these poor untrustworthy feelings of ours, so adversely contrasted to someone else’s hotline to God, are just as much a part of us creatures as are our bodies and brains.”

    Good point there. I think I fall into the trap, again and again, of fundamentalist thinking, which is all about not trusting yourself to make decisions. I forget that the bible was written by human beings with the same likes, dislikes, prejudices, feelings, and biases as we have. I forget that the church claims to be the interpreter of those words and as much as they admonish us to go by what the bible says, they continue to tell us what it means. Ultimately, we have no one but ourselves when it comes to making decisions. You and ATTR are both right and am grateful for the wise comments as well.

  5. I can relate so much to the frustration of not knowing what Christians mean by these woolly statements! These words sound so good and noble, but as you say, how on earth is it supposed to be applied in practice?

    In the sitcom Father Ted, Ted says: “That’s the great thing about Catholicism [or insert Christianity here]… it’s so vague and mysterious, no-one really knows what it’s all about.”

    In this case, the woolly statement is an interpretation of that verse. I am wary of interpretations that seem to be plucked out of thin air like that. The Bible should be treated with care and read in its proper context. But then again, apparently God speaks to us through the Spirit to show us what it means for us, right? Hmm. That seems to me to be exactly the sort of feelings-based reasoning they are denouncing. I’d rather understand things with my mind, it feels much safer and less prone to misdirection.

    Great post, and good luck with the Bible study, hope it is interesting! (And hope you ruffle a few feathers with your questions!)

  6. Just don’t go to bible study. I mean, what’s the point? Do you really want to probe the darkness armed with bible philosophy? You might as well use fortune cookies for the basis of your faith in reality. People wrote the bible – other people. Not you. Not me. Not anyone who is alive now. The people who wrote it had agendas. The people who wrote it lived in an environment without science, technology or tolerance. Many of them were the radicals of their age. But that was then.

    If you want to understand the universe, then look at it. It’s here, right now. Don’t rely on other people’s interpretation of it, only your own opinion matters. You can only make determinations from what you perceive. What other people see and experience may not even be real. If you want to know God, then find God, but do not rely on the bible as your primary resource in that search. It just isn’t fair to reality.

  7. Hi Sarah!

    Love Fr. Ted. If he was parish priest, I’d always go to church. 🙂

    Yes, the contradictions of “don’t trust your feelings” but trust whatever other people have said in the bible is the obvious contradictions coming out of fundamentalism. What is the bible, but what people FELT God communicated to them. Of course some Christians would say that God communicated exactly what he wanted known, but if so, then He (sic) no longer does this today, since we obviously have contradictory statements coming through the mouthpieces of God.

    I suppose I’m looking for answers, again (sigh), in places I probably shouldn’t, but when between a rock and a hard place, we sometimes fall back into old patterns don’t we?

    Thanks for the encouragement!

  8. Writerdood,

    You wrote: “Just don’t go to bible study. I mean, what’s the point?” Good question! 😀

    I suppose, when one’s own opinion seems clouded by the clamoring voices of others, it’s hard to pick out one’s own voice any longer. i.e. turn to another’s words for guidance. Very good advice you give there. Now, if I can just listen to it and do it….

    Thanks for the comment!

  9. Hey Mystery. I scanned through the post quickly, obviously deserves a thorough re-read. All I can say is I too do not have the answers. I will keep respect for the Bible and for the good intent that was put in by some and put in by prayers by others for years untold thereafter. I have a problem with any book that leaves out women so completely. I have a problem with any book that portends to be The Word and is so horribly suffered by greed, lack of compassion, jealousy, ineptitude–ok, let me stop.

    My point quite simply is I have arrived in a place where I feel God, male or female, in my universe it doesn’t matter, because the male and female don’t have human hang ups; but, continued, God only, only lives on within the most pure part of any of us, true love and true compassion and pure consequent or perhaps, lack of thought kindness, the natural kind.

    So, what is a book? Is it what is set forth within or what we do with it?

    Maybe that’s the open question.

    God lives within, male or female, learned or unlearned, etc. Just a matter of not putting out the spark, or in other times, breathing some air to let the spark live.

    Peace to you.

  10. Surface Earth,

    Well said. I agree with you about all of that. Occasionally, I will forget all of it and wonder and fall into old habits of thought and wonder again. But I quickly recover, through the help of friends and their perspective. Yes, I cannot wholly subscribe to a book, if we can call the bible that, that leaves women so clearly out of redemption or marginalizes so much of life and its experiences. Who knows whether I make it to this study or not. But, I have to revisit the bible now and then for perspective. Thanks for the blessings!

  11. Surfacearth
    “God only, only lives on within the most pure part of any of
    us, true love and true compassion and pure consequent or perhaps, lack of thought
    kindness, the natural kind.
    So, what is a book? Is it what is set forth within or what we do with it?
    Maybe that’s the open question.
    God lives within, male or female, learned or unlearned, etc. Just a matter of not putting out the spark, or in other times, breathing some air to let the spark live.”

    I just couldn’t let that go by without thanking you for saying it.
    Your words have the sound of the kind of spontanaity you seem to be aiming at. Simplicity “the natural kind”. Amen to that, and bless you too.

  12. (((Moi)))

    Do you think it’s possible that in trying to find the answers, we miss the answers?

    We put so much effort into asking the questions and waiting on the answers for “our” lives, given by “others” who don’t know anything about us. Sure, we may carry similar experiences, like moving, divorce and illness, and we can listen to what others say “God” says but in doing so, we aren’t listening to ourselves.

    A long time ago, we learned that we weren’t to trust ourselves. Later, we picked up a religion that taught us it was sinful to trust ourselves. We can only trust God and His Word. That’s it. Yet, as you well know, it’s impossible really to trust a multitude of documents that might have some wisdom in it, (typically found in many belief systems and not in and of outself unique to the Bible or the Judeo-Christian traditions)…and a whole lot of stuff that makes no sense at all and hardly useful for practical purposes in today’s world.

    Don’t beat yourself up over people not being able to give you the answers or tell you what the Bible says. Is there any person on the face of the earth now or back then that can give you the pure, unadulterated truth of any original writings?

    Don’t beat yourself up over the fact that you can’t seem to find the answers, figure them out or hear from God about them. Don’t beat yourself up over returning to that which you rejected. Isn’t is a natural thing to do? It’s natural to be hurting, to need community and support. It’s natural to want answers…I’m just not sure we can expect absolute answers from multiple documents penned by fellow humans that lived ages ago. And certainly, at Bible study, again, you are with people like yourself. Human. Is it possible just to take what you need and leave the rest?

    I remember, always this sense of urgency within the faith. Gotta get saved…Now! Gotta repent…Now! Gotta have answered prayer…Now! Gotta get baptized…Now! Gotta give…Now! Gotta serve…Now! Gotta get to the church…Now! Gotta pray…Now! Gotta read my Bible…Now!

    How often did you hear the phrase; Gotta rest…Now!

    How often did you hear the phrase; It’s okay not to know…Now!

    :mrgreen: You do know that most of the time when I comment to you I’m also commenting to myself, right?

    I love what *writerdood* said.

  13. Zoe,

    First hugs back!!

    Second, you wrote: “I remember, always this sense of urgency within the faith. Gotta get saved…Now! Gotta repent…Now! Gotta have answered prayer…Now! Gotta get baptized…Now! Gotta give…Now! Gotta serve…Now! Gotta get to the church…Now! Gotta pray…Now! Gotta read my Bible…Now!

    How often did you hear the phrase; Gotta rest…Now!

    How often did you hear the phrase; It’s okay not to know…Now!”

    I love this. I remember that so well. We were urged always to never be idle, never give the devil a foothold, never become complacent, never fail to witness, etc. Work, work, work when the entire structure was supposed to be based on resting, as you say so eloquently. I’m thankful for friends like you all who give me that much needed boost of encouragement to listen to my own soul on this one. Writerdood is right. What do I want to go to bible study for? 🙂 It reminds me of the charge of the Goddess by D. Valiente: “And thou who thinkest to seek Her, know thy seeking and yearning shall avail thee not unless thou knowest the mystery; that if that which thou seekest thou findest not within thee, then thou wilt never find it without thee.” That is something no one in Christianity will ever tell you.

  14. What a wonderful quote! Can’t say I ever heard anything like it inside Christianity.

    As for Bible study…well, I’m thinking you won’t hear anything you haven’t heard before. You could go and plant some seeds of thoughts and get people thinking. :mrgreen:

  15. On vacation here, so it took awhile to reply. I think I might go just to relieve the boredom and shake things up a bit. if not for the beliefs, but for getting to know some people. (and seed planting of course). I can’t think of a better “ministry” than letting people know there is another view out there..

  16. Hi. Here is my opinion. I think that our mind can screw is up just as much as our emotions can, but many Christians uphold logic over emotion. I would like to acknowledge again, that they both can lead you in the wrong direction.

    So if God created emotions and logic what do we do? We say “Jesus, transform my heart and mind. Reveal the lies I believe about myself, you , and others.” Through the revelation of personal truth to each of our lives and the dispelling of lies held since childhood (We all have them such as “I’m not worthy” “I’m resonsible” “I’m bad” “I’m invisible” etc. whatever the enemy plants and is reinforced by continuous events in our lives…he’s not creative) We ask Jesus to tell us, show us, impress upon us the truth. Now there is a problem when we TRULY deep down do not expect a real clear answer from Jesus. That is another lie. That He throws us crumbs or just enough information for us to figure things out on our own. Nope, He wants to get specific and personal with each and every one of us. Once the lie is revealed, He brings truth to it. Once truth is brought , then there is genuineness. It is out of this genuineness that we make decisions both based upon our minds and our hearts that have been renewed by specific truths. See there is an answer! I am learning that most of our difficult questions have simple answers that Jesus wants to give. The problem is most Christians have been taught bad and subtle theology that has them convinced that God reallllyyyyyyyyyyyyy doesn’t want to help them that much, but just wants them to “have faith” or “trust” (all good things, illy defined) in His allusive mysterious power and plan only meant for Him to know. Blah garbage

  17. Thanks for the input Ashley. I think I will have to agree with this statement: “It is out of this genuineness that we make decisions both based upon our minds and our hearts that have been renewed by specific truths.” Even though the one caveat would be that most cannot agree what these “specific truths” are. Some say Jesus is central to the Christian religion and I would agree with that. Some say the church is central. I would disagree with that. So again, how is one to know which “specific truths?” The bible cannot be a standard because it’s obvious so many get differing “truths” from the same source. I would say our conscience is the last bastion of truth. Informed by many sources and taking advice from wiser minds than our own, we stand or fall on our own consciences. “If our consciences does not condemn us…” (1 John 3:21) Some bible interpreters exchange the word “conscience” with “heart” and you see the problem. Conscience implies the logical mind and heart implies emotions. So we are back to square one. It is a conundrum, but I take it on simple faith that I believe what I believe and you or anyone else can believe what you believe and if we don’t condemn ourselves, we are doing well. Thanks for the comment!

  18. My answer to that is ask Jesus. He will tell you. When He does, you will know the truth. I do not mean that in a mysterious, Christian cop out way, but literally…ask Him and then wait for His answer as you would a friend. If you cannot hear the answer, ask Him what is in the way.

  19. A good book to check out is Healing Grace by David Seamands. Anything by David Seamands or Leanne Payne is pretty good and captures what I’m trying to say a lot better than I can and I’m too lazy.

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