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Coming to the end of myself, my resources, abilities and knowledge was a frightening thing. It was even worse when I realized that for a good chunk of my life, I had attempted to control my environment, choices and associations in order to become “independent,” “free” and “self-sufficient.”

It only took a moment of God-inspired illumination to discover that any semblance of control I thought I was exercising was just an illusion. My bumbling attempts to live “independently” and “free” were shown to be futile and based on an attempt to work my way into God’s favor.

I have a niece named Ellie Grace, born to my youngest brother, Ben, and his wife, Jessica. Though I have three kids of my own, I’m finding there is something very special about a niece. I can sit and watch her for hours … not that she does a whole lot of anything yet. Mostly she just sleeps, smiles occasionally, and cries at regular intervals for a variety of reasons: Hungry. Tired. Needs to be changed. Wants Mom.

Last night as I was holding Ellie, wondering what was going on in her beautiful little head, I felt a twinge of envy. That surprised me, so I asked the Lord why I was feeling that way.

Ellie is dependent, reliant and in desperate need of someone—her parents—for every point of need and life: food, shelter, comfort, care and companionship. She’s small, defenseless and dependent. When she has a need, she cries out. She doesn’t even know the things that she doesn’t know—just that when she cries out, there is someone to care for her, to comfort her, to love her.

Reading the Psalms is something I do almost daily. I see in the pages of the ancient songbooks a life unfolded, described as one that was lived by a man “after God’s own heart.” Trying to be a man like David seems like a very spiritual thing to do, but I don’t believe David is someone whose actions I want to emulate, in that I don’t see that he was great because he did great things. I believe he was great and was called a man after God’s own heart because of where he lived his life: in dependency on God.

Here’s what I mean: For a long time, I would read and use Psalm 91 religiously, in a formulaic manner. When I had trouble and had tried all of my other options, I would run to God with the hope that He’d rescue and protect me. Nice. However, that doesn’t sound like a man after God’s heart; it reflects me, functioning independently, trying to do everything I knew how to do, and when trouble inevitably came my way, I’d run to God to fix it. Then I’d repeat as needed.

The first two verses of Psalm 91 leap out from the page at me: “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust’ ” (NKJV).

This safe place isn’t one I just visit when I’m in trouble. It is to be my home address, the place where I live. Dependence on God is a way of life-dwelling, remaining, living, abiding, resting so close to Almighty that His never-turning shadow is perpetually cast over me.

God is not to be simply at the top of my list of emergency numbers—He is to be my list. My purpose. The one I trust. My hope. The one I am dependent upon. Kind of like Ellie is with her parents.

is senior pastor of Hillside (Reno Foursquare Church) in Reno, Nev.