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Facing Our Inadequacies

“Why can’t I do well in school like my classmates?”. I’ve frustratedly asked myself this question numerous times. While I’ve learned how to better steward my mind over the years, I’m not a natural when it comes to academics. Aside from this, there are many things I’ve found myself to be ungifted at in comparison to others I know. I have terrible rhythm, which makes singing and learning an instrument difficult; I tend to have poor reaction time and not be aware of my surroundings, which makes me a less-than-gifted driver; I’m very clumsy and uncoordinated, which makes me a poor athlete, and I lack good comprehension which makes reading a time-consuming endeavor. The list can go on, and I know that as life progresses, I will discover more tasks that do not come easy to me.

We all have areas of life that come harder to us. We may be more prone to certain sins than others or more prone to fail at a specific task. Some of us have a bent toward deceit and anger, while others are more tempted to despair and anxiety. Perhaps you feel like you are most prone to every type of sin and have the most difficulty when it comes to a vast number of tasks. You may think to yourself, “Of course, I can’t be sinless or good at everything, but why do I seem much worse than everyone I know?”. I’ve had thoughts like this before, and whether or not they are true, they reveal something about my nature and my heart. Thoughts like this tempt me to wallow in my inabilities and sins and compare myself to others who are far more gifted Christians, wives, students, and writers than I am.

Recognizing Our Inaqequacies

From a young age, many of us have been told that we can do and be anything we set our minds to. To a child, this is a hopeful message that causes us to dream of being astronauts, lawyers, doctors, and famous actors, though we have no skills that would indicate we’d do well in those careers. Numerous times, I’ve heard young girls express their desire to be a famous singer, though they lack the ability to carry a tune. I just smile, nod, and think to myself, “How cute. Surely, they’ll mature out of this”. Typically, they do.

These young children grow up, learn what they are skilled at, and use their talents and gifts to do what comes more naturally to them. Yet, we all face times in our lives when we must struggle through something that does not come naturally to us. We have ADHD, so completing homework on time is a struggle, but it’s necessary. We’re naturally impatient, so picking up our spouse's dirty dishes with a kind heart is seemingly impossible, but it must be done. And we tend to be timid, so sharing the Gospel with a co-worker is intimidating, but it’s our duty. We all have obligations like reading the Scripture, caring for our spouse and children, doing our work, and making disciples, yet many of these tasks may not come easy to us.

When it comes to these things, we can’t simply choose to ignore our responsibilities. We must often do things we are not good at. More than this, as Christians, we have the obligation to fulfill our God-given duties whether or not they are enjoyable or easy for us. So, how do we do this? How do we not wallow in self-pity, despair, or comparison?

Recognizing Pride

The first thing I find good to realize is this: focusing on our inadequacies and thinking we can succeed at everything we set our mind to is pride. We fall into self-hatred because of our inabilities and sins because we have a view of ourselves that is higher than it ought to be. When we sin, it should grieve us, but it should be no surprise to us that we’re capable of sin. On the other hand, when we presume that we’ll be amazing at everything we do, we hold an unrealistic view of self, not acknowledging our limits. We may think, “If so and so can do well at this, certainly I can as well,” but that’s not always the case. Perhaps we are simply less gifted in certain areas than others.

It has often felt like a slap in the face when I failed at something I thought I could do because my friend was good at it. This prideful presumption led to another fall to pride – a focus on my inadequacy. While self-deprecation and self-admiration seem like opposites, they both reveal themselves as pride, having a focus on the self rather than the Savior.

Living in Thankfulness

The solution to our self-deprecating or self-admiring pride is not self-flagellation. Beating ourselves over the head and telling ourselves how terrible our pride is will not help (I’ve tried it, and it’s just miserable). Yet, I’ve found increasing freedom from my pride through praise. How often would we despair over our inadequacies and inabilities if we were focused on giving thanks to God every moment of our lives?

If we lived in praise and thankfulness to our Lord, not only would we not have the time of day to focus on ourselves, but we’d happily accept our insufficient nature, knowing that God alone is sufficient. His grace is sufficient for our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). And we know His grace more deeply when our minds are set on praising Him for His grace. Through praise, our pride diminishes, and we are able to see the sufficiency of Christ alone.

Living in Humble Dependence on God and Others

More than this, we overcome temptations to despair over our inabilities by humbly depending on God and others. My mind goes to Paul and many other prophets in Scripture whom God called. Paul was an unskilled speaker (2 Cor. 11:6), Isaiah was a man of unclean lips (Is. 6:5), Jeremiah was only a youth (Jer. 1:6), and Moses was not eloquent, being slow of speech and of tongue (Ex. 4:10). Yet, each of these men was called directly by God to minister to His people. Their call was inescapable, and God desired that they fulfill their ministry with dependence upon Him. God called many men, not gifted in the flesh, to fulfill His purposes. But why? So they would not trust the flesh, but trust their Lord. Could God not have raised up men of eloquent speech who were older, revered by many, and not as sinful as those He called? Indeed, He could have, yet He created His people with a desperate need for Him and for others.

Ultimately, it is true that all we need is Christ, yet God has still made us with a need for other members of the body. Why? Because they are the means to our sanctification. It was not good for Adam to be alone. He needed a wife. It is not good for me to be alone. I need my husband. And my husband and I need other Christians to spur us on to good works. When we are unable or lacking in giftedness, God uses others to fulfill His purposes. What I lack in strength and leadership, my husband fulfills. Even when it comes to something as silly as my poor rhythm, my husband guides me as he plays guitar, and we sing together. All this is done through grace, knowing that God is willing and working in and through our inabilities.

Living with Priority

Numerous times in life, I’ve gotten excited to take up a new hobby or project, only to spend a short amount of time and too much money pouring into something that no longer interested me a few weeks later. I’d get excited about bettering my art skills or learning how to play ukulele, then quit because other tasks demanded my time and attention.

We guard ourselves from despair and comparison by prioritizing what is important. While hobbies are beneficial, if we place too much time and energy into things that are not nearly as important as others, we will fail at the important tasks God has given us and give into despair. We must realize that we cannot do it all, nor can we be good at it all. When we fail to reach our unrealistic goals, we can so easily fall into self-pity, thinking of all the other people we know who seem to accomplish all their tasks with ease and enjoy multiple hobbies. Though I doubt that's the case for many; it seems most of us have more limits. Our simple duty is first to prioritize what God has called us to, then pursue other things if we’re able. Even if the other things we desire to pursue are noble tasks, we should hold off until we're properly fulfilling the tasks that God has already given us.

Think with me of the qualifications given to elders. Paul says, “If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task” (1 Tim. 3:1), yet he lays down some responsibilities a man must first meet before he takes on this noble task. One of the many qualifications is that this man “manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive.” He goes on to explain why, saying, “for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church?” (1 Tim. 3:4-5). A principle we can take from this is that while we may aspire to many noble tasks, our first duty is to please God in the tasks He’s already given us. We can guard ourselves from sinking in despair over our inabilities by prioritizing what God has made us able to do.

In all this, we must remember the sovereign hand of God, who has intentionally made each person as they are. He is pleased to strengthen us in our weakness, and all our inabilities are beneath His sovereign will. What keeps us from wallowing is not a look in the mirror accompanied by a motivational phrase; it is thankfulness, humble dependence, and prioritizing what pleases our Lord. In all this, may we remember that we are finite humans created by an infinite God who prepares for us good works that we may walk in them.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Ephesians 2:10


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