Sunday, April 27, 2014

Living with Yourself as an Inadequate Person

I want to feel that I am an adequate person, but I know I am not. I will be facing some protracted challenges, and I know I’m not up to them – not emotionally, psychologically, physically, or even spiritually. My many failures confirm this for me.

I want to feel that I have things under control, but I do not. I find this threatening. I am therefore greeted by anxiety dreams at night and fear in the morning. My defenses have been breached and my insecurities stick out like spines on a porcupine.

I morbidly obsess over my weaknesses and failures. The Apostle Paul had his own weaknesses. He called one of them a “thorn in my flesh.” He prayed that the Lord would remove this painful affliction, but the Lord would not. Instead, He informed Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

In light of this, weaknesses and inadequacies are actually a plus and not a minus, as Paul concluded:

  • 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 Cor. 12:8-10)

Frankly, I want to be in control. I do not want any more “thorn[s] in my flesh.” They’re just too painful, but according to my Savior, I need them. He doesn’t want me to be in control or to trust in my abilities and strengths to carry me through. This was the very lesson Paul had learned:

  • We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. (2 Cor. 1:8-9)

He does not want us to be in control. This is what self-trust and self-righteousness is all about, and it’s in opposition to trusting in God. If I’m convinced that I got what it takes, I will not trust in God. I also must admit that I would not learn to adore God. Instead, it would be all about me, and the fact that I got what it takes to manage this life, no thanks to God!

I am an inadequate person, but so are all of God’s children. Paul admitted that he lacked what was required to accomplish any spiritual undertaking:

  • Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant. (2 Cor. 3:4-6)

Okay, we might be competent in Christ, but He also painfully chastens us and allows us to fail. How can I endure the constant stream of anxiety dreams and the morning panics? I can’t! He will have to enable me – the very thing He promised to do:

  • Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. (John 15:4)

But I do remain in Him, and I crash nevertheless! However, He has promised to rescue me:

  • “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” (Psalm 91:14-16)

The crashing is an unavoidable part of the Christian life (2 Cor. 4:10-11), but the rescue is also guaranteed.

We need to let go of all the demands that we place on life – that we be happy, healthy, spiritually successful, popular, wealthy, admired…. Instead, we need to place Him first in everything (Mat. 6:33) and entrust of our concerns, fears, weaknesses, insecurities, and inadequacies to Him:

  • This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing… The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all. (Psalm 34:6-9, 17-19)

Yes, I am a dependent, kept man, but I am God’s man. I am not defined by my weaknesses, failures and inabilities. Instead, I am defined by the unconditional love of my Savior – the source of all worth, truth, and reality. I don’t have to prove that I am significant, if I am significant in His eyes. I might be a failure, but not before Him.

Abraham was a spiritual failure. He had periodically pimped out his wife Sarah (Gen. 20:11-13). However, after the king of Gerar had taken Sarah to be his wife, having been told that she was merely Abraham’s sister, God visited the king in dream and warned him that he was a dead man if he didn’t return Sarah to her husband. He also informed the king that Abraham would have to pray for him so that God would heal him from his debilitating disease:

  • Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so I have kept you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her. Now return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all who belong to you will die.” (Gen. 20:6-7)

How is it that God would still call this spiritual failure a “prophet” and honor Abraham by requiring his prayer? Wasn’t Abraham a disappointment? Yes, but not in his Savior’s eyes, and that’s what mattered. Abraham’s relationship with his God overshadowed everything else.

Israel rebelled angrily against God as they were encamped against the Red Sea, and the murderous Egyptian chariots were approaching. However, their God parted the Sea making a way of escape for them. They hadn’t been faithful, but God saw something very different in them:

  • By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned. (Hebrews 11:29)

There are only two kinds of people – spiritual failures and those who know that they are spiritual failures. It is a great relief to simply accept this fact and to lay aside the facade. However, this is only possible if I know that, in Christ’s eyes, I am His beloved child who dwells in His glory.

I am inadequate. I can’t even manage my own life, but this no longer matters:

  • I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal. 2:20)

I am not in control, but this doesn’t matter either, because He is!

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