2 Corinthians 11: 30
2 Corinthians 12: 9-10
“Your world becomes less threatening when you throw off the pretense of being able to handle things by yourself.”
I underlined the above sentence two years ago, September 1, from Jesus Always, written by Sarah Young, and it still jolts me back to reality today. This word is threatening to us because most of us do live the lie of believing we can deal with our challenges all on our own.
Most of us work hard to impress friends, family and employers with our talent, wit and intelligence and skill, don’t we? The goal (whether we realize it or not) is to create the illusion of being able to handle all of life’s difficulties on our own because this current world is threatening! Trust no one. Rely only on yourself. Be independent. No one wants to listen to you complain about your troubles. Boast in your strength. Brag about those accomplishments. Make sure everyone knows what you have achieved. It’s pride, seductively whispering to us that we are strong and in control.
Everyone is either desperate to become known or desperately terrified their inadequacy and weaknesses will become known. Which camp do you fall in? I can relate to both. The demons of “inadequacy” and “not good enough” try to attack me every day. I have not found this to be a fulfilling way to live. Have you?
It’s time for the healing balm of God’s word to mend my wounded heart. How about yours?
If anyone could boast of his worldly achievements, and take pride in them, it would be the Apostle Paul. But he doesn’t. In fact, he gives a completely counter-cultural message by boasting of his weakness. Yes, you read that right, his weakness.
“If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weaknesses.” 2 Corinthians 11: 30. (NIV). God displays His power through our weakness. If we are strong in ability or resources, we are tempted to do God’s work on our own, and that always leads to pride. But when we are weak in strength and resources, and allow God to fill us with HIS power, we are then stronger than we could ever be on our own.
This is why God allowed Paul to experience a “thorn in the flesh,” or some sort of physical weakness. Paul asks for it to be removed three times and God refuses. It’s not because God is cruel, withholding something good and not answering prayer. Rather, God is teaching Paul (and us) to rely on his power. “Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12: 10.
Yes, please. More of Christ’s power. I want me some of that.
It’s a paradigm shift. We need to recognize our limitations. We have to think less about ourselves and more about God. Our focus moves from what we cannot do to what God can do. When we are focused more on our Heavenly Father, and what HE is capable of, when we understand better who God is and His will, when we know God more intimately, we learn that we can trust him to work through us.
The key is to maintain a close-up view of God’s power, not our inadequacy.
We have all watched a toddler perch at the edge of a pool while a parent (or grandparent, or other grownup) in the water encourages the child to jump in because they stand ready to catch their little one, right? That child becomes so tuned in to the strength in those outstretched arms that the fear of the water fades. When God becomes our front and center, our inadequacies will also fade into the background.
When I observe the amazing gifts and talents of my family and friends, my first instinct is still to withdraw and hide for fear that I don’t measure up to their expectations of me or their level of ability in terms of housekeeping, meal making or organizing. What others can do better than me often remains front and center, rather than how Christ is blessing me. I need to grow in my expression of gratitude to anyone who joyfully uses gifts and talents that I don’t have. I need to receive them as a blessing, not as a reminder of what I am not. I’ll never be a Martha Stewart or Julia Child, and that’s okay. I am grateful to those who actually enjoy creating a beautifully decorated home and making delicious meals.
Inadequacies relentlessly roar at me when I’m doing the things that I love to do the most, which is teaching, making music and writing, (what if someone else can write about inadequacies and weaknesses so much better than me?) but I have a choice to make. Do I give in to these demons, or do I review God’s work in my heart and believe in his promises? Do I give in to feelings or stand on Truth? Do I stay paralyzed at the edge of the pool, or do I take a deep breath and lean into my heavenly father’s strength?
In our humanity, we are limited. The key is to recognize our limitations, and depend not on our own energy, effort, or talent, but on God. Our limitations and weaknesses not only help develop our Christian character but also deepen our worship, because in admitting them, we affirm God’s strength.
Jesus Always has appeared on all major bestseller lists with sales of more than 16 million copies worldwide.” God has used Sarah Young as a vessel to speak to so many of us, and I am grateful. He gave her a unique, public ministry even though she’s done very few interviews, social media or public appearances. The Holy Spirit pours out on the page, splashing me with Truth almost every morning that I take the time to read her devotionals. Young’s devotional writings are personal reflections from her daily quiet time of Bible reading, praying, and writing in prayer journals. I have also experienced moments when I know the Lord is speaking to me and it’s like taking dictation, and I long for more of those moments.
You choose to work in us and through us, and I am grateful. Help us continue to lean into your strength and not get tangled up in our perceived weakness and inadequacy. Help us release the pride of thinking a task or ministry is all about us. Keep our hearts and minds open to your leading. May we keep your promises front and center. May we keep your kingdom purposes front and center. Forgive us when we give in to inadequacy or when we give in to pride. Amen.