Written by Paul J. Bucknell on July, 19, 2019
Is God a Crutch? Examining God’s Existence and Our Faith
Paul shares from his fifty years of Christian life and experience on how he views God’s aid.
Some people compare a person’s belief in God to a man’s reliance on his crutch. The comment is not meant to be kind but to mock a Christian’s belief in God as if his faith depicts some kind of ignorance or weakness. I would like to respond to this challenge to the Christian faith in light of me now being a Christian believer for fifty years as well as a few recent incidents where I had to use a crutch and cane.
Better Than a Crutch
When people liken God to a crutch, they mean God does not genuinely exist but is a figure of one’s mind. But, in reality, God does exist. The crutch portrays faith as a fairytale portraying naivety, but faith spectacularly opens the grand door of the spiritual world for mankind to experience knowing God and living in His presence. When likening God to a crutch, people want to do away with the crutches, but God’s people never want to put God aside as inferior or unimportant. Mankind cannot exist for a second without God sustaining them. Likening God to a crutch makes people with faith appear deluded and sad, but Christian believers are wholly delighted and joyful at living by choice in a personal relationship with God. After 50 years of faith, I seek to know more of His presence, love, and strength. With the Psalmist I ring out: “I love Thee, O LORD, my strength” (Psalm 18:1).
The use of a person’s dependence upon a crutch or cane becomes a very poor illustration of a person’s belief in God. It would be better to compare God to the sun and a crutch to a candle. Yes, they both shine but are totally different entities. The sun creates energy while the candle is dependent on the wick, wax, and air. My belief in God has not ceased over these years but rather grown strong, becoming more confident in God’s wonder-working ways. Faith opens my eyes to the true reality of what is going on in this world. I fear for those without this window into spiritual realities and the resulting deception from the darkness.
Faith and God
When I broke my foot, I quickly became appreciative of the crutches and then later the cane. A crutch enables a person to put no weight upon the foot, whereas the cane allows some pressure on the foot. Later, when my foot healed, I was very grateful for being able not to use these assistant devices. This experience is so different from my belief in God. After fifty years, I realize, more than ever, the grand privilege God has granted me by opening my eyes to my dependence upon Him, allowing me to revel in my personal relationship to the Almighty Creator who is committed to my good. I am regularly overwhelmed by the preciousness of my faith which provides a wonderful eternal relationship with God.
This cane comparison (I’ll use the cane as it has been my companion for a longer period) also fails because the argument assumes our belief in God constructs God’s existence. An atheist’s belief or profession doesn’t create God’s nonexistence nor does a believer’s faith fabricate the Lord’s existence. A person’s faith in God doesn’t at all influence God’s being. God is an entity all by Himself, stretching beyond the bounds of space and time. Whether we believe our bodies are assembled in time from the chemicals of the earth which God has magically created does not establish God’s existence or affirm or deny the fact of its truth. The truth is settled from what is true and discovered by a careful examination of the facts.
God exists outside of time, a place we cannot not easily visit. His creation—that which He has created and sustains—exists by the power of His Word (Col 1:16-17). The Lord has created not only our bodies but our souls, our immaterial parts, with which we can conceive and relate with Him. To confuse God with a crutch grievously deforms our view of God, leaving no likeness to reality. This discussion, however, takes us away from our purpose so let me proceed back to the heart the argument: Does a Christian believer’s faith display a show of weakness?
Due to my celebration of being a Christian believer for fifty years, I will personalize my answer by my life. Remember that a religious Christian is not the same as a believing Christian. A genuine faith goes beyond intellectually adopting a set of doctrines to claiming personal association with the One who revealed a collection of doctrines in the Bible. This four-time Bible quote captures the essence of faith, “But the righteous will live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4)
My black cane publicized my weakness. Others watched me hobble about. My friends stated how fancy my cane looked with its battery-operated light, but I told them that while it was very nice and helpful, you will not see me utilizing the cane if I was well!
While it is true that I needed a cane to get around for a while—it was temporary. God’s help, however, is constantly needed, making this analogy categorically unhelpful. People, even in their greatest health, are in dire need of God’s strength, food, health, encouragement, guidance, wisdom, love, and forgiveness. Instead of assuming faith in God is only occasionally needed or that we only need God for religious comfort, people everywhere, as a matter of fact, are fully dependent upon God the Lord as the Maker and Controller even if they don’t know it. The argument that we don’t need God is like the bird who declares it does not need the air or the pea that denies it ever had a pod. By assuming faith’s likeness to a crutch, people recklessly conclude that one’s belief in God provides only a little emotional support.
Before discussing what I have learned from my personal relationship with God, let me highlight some differences between relying on a crutch and God. Those demeaning my faith state that my cane is just like the God I believe in, but their arguments do not consider significant facts which flip their argument upside down.
God lives for Himself rather than functioning as a placeholder to meet my personal needs. God is to be worshipped and obeyed. A cane merely serves as a tool to help me accomplish my purposes. No one is supposed to ask what the cane feels or what the cane wants. It’s a tool and does not possess a will and purpose while God serves His own purposes rather than the meeting of our needs.
People live in constant dependence upon God, whether they realize it or not. I got a cane because I needed it, but God is a whole different matter. You and I, whether we acknowledge it or not, are part of His great creation by being born into His world and borrowing His elements to form our bodies. Scientists excitedly seek the next discovery that God unfolds by examining the mechanics of the designs found in His world. Astronomers attempt to comprehend the extent of the universe, but no matter how far we can see, we must remain within the shell that we explore. The universe is our shell, but the universe dwells within God’s control as all things do.
The spiritual world can be understood as another mysterious dimension that people typically cannot perceive—some boldly, though ignorantly, declare that it doesn’t exist! We shouldn’t, however, absurdly consider the spiritual world less real than our physical world only because we can’t see it.
Nor should we relegate God to the spiritual world as if He has no place in this sphere of matter or involvement in its rule—especially if He claims to have entered this world as Jesus. It is quite likely that the so-called spiritual world is a clearer or more complete picture of reality than our physical world which is cloaked in dark matter. Consider how ironic it is for God to observe man’s claim that there is no God or Creator when mankind’s total existence and purpose is from God. Claiming ignorance regarding what we cannot see and understand is much more honorable than asserting that there is no spiritual world or God. People should, at the minimum, admit being open to God’s existence (cf. Romans 1:20-23).
“For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created by Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Col 1:16-17).
People live subject to the rules of the Creator whether they choose to recognize it or not. Though God allows people, at this moment, to a certain degree counter His commands, yet there are greater invincible laws that remain standing such as the principle of justice, closely entwined with the coming Judgment Day. God is not a cane to use but the Designer of the whole world (Genesis 1-2). He equips human beings with a function of moral awareness and accountability within a system of rewards and judgment. When we live uprightly, we are blessed, but disobedience leads to drudgery, rebellion, and judgment. God’s commandments lead mankind to the best life possible, but man doubts God’s commands are good and suffers.
God makes our success totally depend on discovering His will and, by His grace (this is where we in a special way need Him), align ourselves to His will. This only comes by understanding the reason He sent His Son Jesus to the earth to die for our sins that we might find life in Him. To escape the darkness, we must gaze and follow the Light.
Biblical revelation plays a crucial role in our understanding of God. Without faith, people cannot apprehend God’s being, let alone, make accurate statements about Him.
My Testimony of Dependence upon God
So what is it that I have experienced over these fifty years? I should start by stating the obvious, at least to most of us, that God’s existence, person, and will is not at all dependent upon my faith, observations, or obedience. Just as rainbows existed before leaning how they are composed by various waves that comprise white light, so God existed even when I was ignorant of Him. My testimony on how I came to know God has been shared elsewhere, but here I share my exploration into knowing the person and nature of God.
Rather than thinking of God as something to be despised and be cast off as soon as possible, God is my joy and boast of my life. Though invisible to my eye, the Lord is a constant helpful friend in my life. He differs so much from the cane that I quickly wanted to be rid of. God is my wisdom and glory. I would have nothing without Him. The very things He bestows on me brings the richest benefits into my life.
When I acknowledge His existence and seek how I should properly relate to Him, only then do I gain a willingness to know Him and live along with His purposes. Jesus spoke of our need to humble our hearts, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). Discovering ourselves as spiritually poor enables us to welcome the blessedness of His kind and powerful acts of love.
As I lived on in my Christian life and gained more knowledge of this world, I learned the importance of linking this material world, including my physical life, with God. This linking or connecting with God requires faith, the awareness of God and His invisible realm. Our faith might be weak or strong, but as an electrical wire, there must be a proper linkage or our lives will be “shorted.” This earthly journey is both a study on how He cares for us but also a place where we can join Him in His works. The more I recognize His goodness in food, friends, parents, my spouse, children, work, etc., the more I see how He sovereignly provides and guides me through my life. I increasingly become enthralled at God’s work in my life.
The Lord, early on, gave me a consciousness of His presence, though admittedly He was somewhat hidden due to His spiritual nature. I knew He was there, yet I could easily ignore His commands. The more I involved myself in selfish deeds, the easier it was to deny His efforts to be close to me. On the other hand, when I sought the welfare of others and what He wanted from my life, the more I could discern His presence (James 4:8). Today, I am so convinced of His radical love for me that I seek the love of Christ to fill me so that I can truly love others. This reliance on Him chiefly defines His work for me just as it did for Jesus (John 4:34)—to further shine His love through my life. Without Him, I would end up myopically focused on fulfilling my desires, but when I seek His pleasure in caring for others, then He fulfills my needs and concerns (Matthew 6:33). God, therefore, has become the magnificent glowing source of love for my otherwise naturally self-focused (i.e., sinful) life. God is not like a cane which helps me here and there, but the very source of intentional kindness swelling up in my life. If He leaves me, I only end up with me, but with Him, He abides as the river of love flowing through my soul, motivating and moving me to please Him by loving others.
God is not my walking stick but rather boldly states about me that I am His refined tool existing for His purposes. Paul uses the word “servant” to connote this unique and rewarding relationship (Philippians 1:1). He welcomes me into His world of love, light, and purpose where He daily enriches my life. As part of His creation, He reveals His rich intentions for my life (John 15:15). The delight of life comes from discovering His purpose for me and pursuing it. While the scientist finds excitement from his discovery of a specific enzyme, life provides endless discoveries about God not only through creation—the scientists’ limitation—but through His Word. Faith in God, the Author of the Bible, issues more profound excitement for the things of God. He hides them, and yet makes them discoverable if we would but search for them (Proverbs 2:4).
God does allow people to have a wrong perspective of Him and wrongly conclude that they don’t need Him, but they still live wholly dependent on Him. By making us, we are morally responsible to Him. Instead of fighting God’s rule, I personally, by His grace, stepped back and sought His good presence through my faith in Christ. I accepted the way His truth guided me about my conclusions in this world—about people, relationships, values, purpose, love, and just about everything. This mindset does not mean that I fabricated Him through my faith but that I humbled myself to recognize my great dependence upon Him. I need His Word to instruct me about Him and life. Without Him, I moved towards eternal judgment. With Him, I celebrate life eternal. Instead of fighting for my independence from Him—somehow concluding that was better, I found the fullness of life in discovering His will for my life through my faith in Him.
Instead of faith being a crutch, our belief restores our relationship with God, enabling us to recognize and seek Him out. He is the Savior upon whom we desperately need to rely. We dare not thrust Him aside as a disposable crutch but instead delight that God has sent a Savior by which we can be saved. The Christian life thrives on discovering and remembering His kindness shown to us so that we can grow in His love.
God is not a tool for manipulation, to gain what we want, but the One who befriends us and desires to work with us by empowering our lives. This faith is amazing, wonderful, and exciting. People might use this “crutch” image to make me and others feel inferior because I depend upon God, but I smile at them. They are equally dependent upon God—but they don’t know it. I need not be defensive or offended—even if that is their intention. They, however, would be most benefitted if they sought out the Lord.
One More Thought
I could stop here and leave this conversation, but I know a relationship with God is so fantastic that I want to share with you how God has taken the initiative to help us not only realize our need for Him but for finding our purpose and fullness for our lives. There is no downside to our faith. You see, we all start and end in full reliance on God and the world He has made. We all begin our lives with a self-serving nature (this being our sin nature) forming desires which counter His will. This selfish tendency well-describes our sin which beckons God’s full judgment. We become free when we discover how Jesus died to take away our sins. All the judgment due me fell upon Christ on that cross. Our living faith begins as we discover full forgiveness by recognizing God has His Son, Jesus Christ, to bear the full weight of our sin.
Upon discovering this magnanimous love, we can then proceed to seek His purpose for our lives in this world. True liberation only happens as we understand our dependence upon Him physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Yes, we have our stubborn minds insisting on the notion that submission to God constricts our lives, but it works out just the opposite. God specially designed people to work along with Him, and so, we are freest when we live in harmony with God, just as a fish feels at home in the sea.
God fashioned us as specially designed vessels. He personally and wonderfully designed us so that we could know Him and daily seek out how He will help us discover and carry out His good purposes for our lives (Eph 2:10).
I am so excited about being a Christian for these fifty years. My sins, the times I doubt and resist His purposes, are there but fully forgiven through Jesus who died for me. Instead of covering up my guilt or making excuses for my ill choices, I spend extra time getting to know God and carrying out His will for my life.
This time with God goes something like asking Him each day, “How can I further extend your love and truth to others today?” Me, His tool? Yes, am a specially-crafted creature to complete His special purposes for my life. Great joy results from discovering my relationship and purpose from God. The Christian’s joy and life purpose come by knowing and serving God and others. We are thankful and delighted in our relationship with Him. Only by recognizing our need and dependence upon God can we be broken from our pride and begin to discover the richness of Jesus’ love and grace as our Savior. We become even more dependent upon Him when we embrace His forgiveness and righteousness.
Did you see that? Instead of demeaning our dependence upon God, we rejoice in our amplified need of Him and rely on the help He provides by believing in Jesus the Savior and His ongoing work through His Spirit.
Faith stretches as a bridge between God’s glorious love and our self-seeking lives. Jesus is the bridge, the only way across to God’s goodness. Faith, like eyelids, open and allowing increasing pulses of His constant love and presence into my life, resulting in a truer perspective of our need for Him and an ongoing quest of how we can introduce God’s greatest gift to people around us. Faith is the commonsense understanding of God’s world and the integration of His love and ways into our own. That is a treasure hunt I will follow the rest of my days (Psalm 23:6)!
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith.’”