By Christel Humfrey
Lately I’ve been frustrated with my limitations. Since getting sick with an autoimmune disease I seem to need sleep like a baby on a growth spurt. I feel keenly aware of those extra 2-3 hours that I spend sleeping while others are being productive. Truthfully, I feel embarrassed about it.
I know I’m not alone in my feelings of inadequacy. I see the new mom who is overwhelmed by caring for her newborn baby while another mom goes out for a jog the day after delivery. I see the woman with a high school diploma intimidated by the woman with an MBA. I see the woman whose marriage is falling apart or who longs to be married, while another woman is posting pictures of marital bliss on Facebook.
We all have our insecurities. Ways we don’t add up. Ways other women excel at things we can’t seem to master. So what’s a woman to do when her inadequacies are exposed for all to see? I can think of several gut-instinct responses, all of which are more destructive than helpful. In fact, in most cases, the opposite of our first instinct is probably the better way forward. Here are five impulses to resist when you feel like you’re not good enough:
Isn’t pride at the core of each feeling of embarrassment or inadequacy? We long to be independent, to be free from need, and to be free from God. But what a silly delusion! We only continue to breathe in and out because God lends us life at every moment of every day. Perhaps each of our human limitations is an opportunity to put the spotlight on God’s perfections.
God never slumbers or sleeps (Ps 121:4), but I cannot go without. God always accomplishes what he wants (Is. 55:11), but my plans often fail. The depth of his understanding is beyond human comprehension (Is. 40:28), but God knows every one of my thoughts (Ps. 139:2).
How important for us to remember that in all aspects of life where we are limited, God is limitless. This kills our pride.
Comparison is like a knee-jerk reaction for most women. We wonder why we struggle while so-and-so seems to excel. In a day when ‘mommy wars’ are constant and social media self-righteousness is atrocious, the kingdom of God is refreshingly defiant. We race to win a prize, but all the competitors are on the same team. And we all get the same prize at the end—Christ. We have the same desire, namely, to give God glory. With each person that passes the finish line, we are all one step closer to our goal.
Can you imagine a woman who celebrates the success of another without concern for being outshined by her? If you’re part of God’s kingdom, this is your calling.
When insecurities arise, we need to bring them before God with honesty and humility. Remember who you are, not in relation to others, but before God. You are a beloved child. We may all have a certain ugliness to us now, but God is making his church beautiful; he is sanctifying his bride. Identifying with the church and finding contentment in who God is making you to be frees you to take joy in the success of others.
3. The Need to Prove Yourself
Why is it that we have such a hard time being viewed as weak or lacking in some way? If we are honestly being faithful before God, why do we let our peers be the judge and jury?
I love the counter-cultural response of the apostle Paul to criticism:
But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me” (1 Cor. 4:3-4).
If “all the world’s a stage,” as Shakespeare famously wrote, then we have an audience of one. Many may be watching, but only God’s opinion matters. If Christ has justified you, who has a right to condemn (Rom. 8:34)? Far too often we let people’s opinions hover over us like rainclouds, but God’s voice should drown out every other. If you are right with him, you don’t need the approval of others.
4. Trying to Be Like You Used to Be
Shortly after I was diagnosed with lupus, some godly women encouraged me to reassess my role and ministry. I needed to look for new opportunities that fit my physical limitations. For example, instead of being busy with different ministries on a Sunday morning, I could slow down and really see people. This allowed me to see who was struggling and to pray for them.
Sometimes our limitations slow us down enough to see what we were missing when we were at full capacity. Instead of trying to get back to what we were doing before God slowed us down, perhaps we should consider if he has different opportunities for us. Maybe he is moving us in another direction.
Unhappy people want other people to be as unhappy as they are. They love to steal joy because joy accentuates their misery. And so we open our mouths to complain—to bring others down—not realizing that all complaining is directed toward God. It flings accusations of injustice in his face. The sad part is that complaining doesn’t bring relief. It’s not cathartic, it’s insatiable.
Not only that, but it is also contagious.
But what if our eyes were strengthened to see past our perceived injustice to the lavish grace that is ours in Christ Jesus? What if instead of complaining to others, we brought our complaints to God and we had our hearts changed by the encounter? What if we, in turn, gave thanks for evidences of grace and testified of God’s faithfulness to us through the trials? This is the calling of a Christian woman.
I don’t mean to trivialize heartache and trial. The hurt is real. There is an appropriate sadness and grieving that needs to take place when bad things happen and when we are confronted with our inadequacies. But once our tears are shed at the throne of grace, we need to take up an eternal perspective. Sometimes this means resisting our natural impulses and instead resting in the promises of God. We live in a fallen world where our own sin, the sins of others, and the effects of the curse show us how painfully we fall short of every ideal we ever could have had. But because of Christ we are not destroyed by those inadequacies. Through Christ we can respond rightly to our trials and difficulty. And through him we have strength in even the most difficult weakness.
Christel Humfrey is a pastor’s wife and mother. She has a B.A. in music with a minor in ballet. Against all odds, she fell in love with a cowboy. Together they have three sons and minister in Calgary, Canada. In her free time she enjoys blogging at foretasteofheaven.blogspot.ca. You can follow her on Twitter @ChristelHumfrey.
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