“The whole secret of existence is to have no fear. Never fear what will become of you, depend on no one. Only the moment you reject all help are you freed.”
–Buddha, 563-483 B.C.
This quote from Buddha presents itself as the “secret of existence,” which apparently is fearlessness. What I find so interesting is that this proposition is presented in parallel with independence — as if independence produces fearlessness.
However, the world we live in is one of dependence. Our food is grown, produced, and sometimes prepared by others; our gas is refined by others; our money and stocks are held and managed by others; our data is stored on the hard drives of others (on some sort of nebulous “cloud”); our roads are managed, our homes are built, our laws are written and enforced, and our countries are run by others. We trust others with enormous responsibilities every day — our lives, finances, and overall well-being. So true independence today can only truly be achieved by denying civilization itself (which, as you might know, is what Buddha tried to do — don’t let the rotund nature of his modern engravings disguise his malnourished reality).
And so here we are, in a world of dependence and “collateral damage.” Dependence in some shape or form is inevitable. So we can dismiss Buddha’s “secret of existence” in exchange for the reality of existence. We are dependent upon the services and systems of others, even though they continue to fail us. Just last week, online services including Netflix, Pintrest, and Instagram were temporarily down because of severe storms in North Virginia, where Amazon hosts their web services. Also last week, Stockton, California became the largest city to ever file bankruptcy; tensions continued to rise in Sudan; violence and attacks increased on institutions and individuals in Greece; the madness spreads in Syria; the Mexican drug war continues indefinitely; and clashes with riot police in Spain. The list goes on.
Thus, in a world that is constantly changing, we must begin to ask ourselves, “who can we trust?” If you have never asked yourself this question, then you’ve never watched a spy film. Questions of trust and responsibility are constantly before us. Sometimes we may trust friends, or family members, and our perceptions may be shattered. One journalist describes the reality that Libyan children are now being faced with after the fall of Gaddafi, “Friends and teachers are missing from school. Parents and relatives are dead. A new flag flies; children sing a new national anthem. Even friendships are dangerous to navigate.”
What operates tangent to dependence and trust is responsibility. When we trust someone, we have given them responsibility. And when the responsible party behaves irresponsibly, the trust is broken. Philosopher and theologian Ravi Zacharias speaks of the consequences of such irresponsibility in the recent financial crises:
“One day it comes home to roost. Look at the whole financial crisis globally right now. It is the happy pagan philosophy. That’s exactly what it is. In the banking system and the insurance system, just go and live any way you want, borrow and don’t worry about having to repay, we can keep printing more money, we’ll dole it out from the government, we’ll bail you out, we’ll do this, we’ll do that. And look at what’s happened. Ultimately what’s happened is like Greece: burn the buildings, burn the government, pull down your lampposts, destroy your systems, and so on.” —Ravi Zacharias, “Engaging the Happy Thinking Pagan,” a Just Thinking broadcast transcript.
When people and companies behave badly, the consequences go beyond the individual. The breakdown of responsibility ultimately leads to the breakdown of trust, creating fear and lawlessness.
When this happens, where do we put our trust? Who do we turn to? I for one, turn to Christ because I believe that Christianity presents the most coherent and reliable explanations for the major questions of life and existence — origin, meaning, morality, and destiny. (If you have any questions about what the Bible or Christianity has to say about topics like this, or others, please drop us a comment in the area below and we’d be happy to see if we can help.) For origin, it tells us that God created us and the universe (Genesis 1-2). For meaning, it tells us that we are to obey God’s commands (Ecclesiastes 12:13) and to testify to the Truth (Acts 1:8). For morality, it tells us that God wrote the laws of right and wrong (Exodus 20). And for Destiny, it tells us that we are either going to Heaven for eternity if we believe in Jesus (Romans 6:23), or hell for eternity if we refuse Him (Revelation 20:10).
And that’s just scratching the surface.
Then there’s all the stories and testimonies about God doing amazing things in the lives of people — stories which can only be explained when God is added into the equation. I had a friend once who suffered from internal bleeding in his brain, he was miraculously healed. There is another man I know who was in a terrible car wreck that shattered half of his skull — and he lived (all of the details of that story are amazing). Then there is me. My family and I smuggled Bibles into a closed country, and the customs let us through without inspection, even though they inspected every other member of our team. There are countless stories of such occurrences throughout history.
The wonderful part about trusting God is that you are trusting God. Who, by definition, is perfect, sovereign and all-powerful. He’s never irresponsible — He defined responsibility. To put your trust in God is to put your trust in something indestructible and perfect — that’s why it makes perfect sense.
This is the price I pay—
Just for one riotous day—
Years of regret and of grief,
And sorrow without relief.
Suffer it I will, my friend,
Suffer it until the end,
Until the grave shall give relief.
Small was the thing I bought,
Small was the thing at best,
Small was the debt, I thought,
But, O God!—the interest.
—The Debt by Paul Laurence Dunbar
So when there’s no one left to turn to, we turn to God. Although I sometimes wonder how much we would save ourselves if we didn’t treat God as some sort of last resort. Even when we don’t trust ourselves, God does not change (Numbers 23:19) — after all, our salvation is not reliant on our faithfulness, but on His (Ephesians 2:4-5). Buddha would tell us that freedom comes from depending on no one, yet we too often find ourselves trapped with no one to depend on. We cannot run away from ourselves, since man is inherently sinful (Romans 5:12-14), we cannot remedy our own base nature; only someone on the outside can truly set us free.