March 8, 2015

Feeling Inadequate Again

I struggle with feelings of inadequacy. I have been this way since I was a child, and thankfully, these feelings seem to come and go more than predominate my days. I used to find myself depressed regularly, and I would often find myself saying negative affirmations about my life, my work, my abilities, etc. It seemed that once I started to feel this way, I would cycle down into feeling miserable about myself, in general. I know that this is a ploy of the enemy. I know that this is a tactic that he uses to shame us into feeling that we are worthless and not valuable to God. This seems to be the primary attack he uses whenever a believer is trying to follow the Lord's will for their life. This is especially true if the believer has received a certain call on their life, and they are working toward fulfilling the Lord's purpose and plan. Satan doesn't want God's people to achieve, to succeed or to complete these plans because often these plans are directly tied to the Lord's overarching will for His Kingdom. Yes, the enemy doesn't want the gospel message to go out, to reach the people, and to bring more and more lost souls into the Kingdom of God. I know this is the case because it has been the enemies plan from the beginning of time. I feel that it has been the plan of attack on my life since I became a Christian some 40 years ago. Let me explain...

I came to faith as a child. I learned my purpose and received my calling when I was a teenager. Since that time, the enemy has been bound and determined to thwart the plans the Lord has for my life. I spent many years in distress, in spiritual oppression, and in doubt -- simply unable to believe that the Lord had any purpose in mind for me. After all, I was a screw up. I was unable to think, to speak, or to do anything of good practical use. I wasn't a good student (or so my teachers told me). I wasn't beautiful or graceful (or so my parents said). I wasn't serious and sober minded (as my friends reminded me). I wasn't athletic. I wasn't talented. I wasn't good at anything in particular. I simply didn't measure up to any one standard. I was an outcast, socially awkward, unfocused, undisciplined, and generally, clueless.

Yet, I had child-like faith in God. I came to a personal knowledge of grace, saving grace, at Bible camp, and later confirmed my desire to follow the Lord in high school youth group. When I was baptized, I was immediately interested in all things biblical. I became a "girl on a mission" to know the Word, and to understand who Jesus was and is. I found a single-mindedness that led me to seek the Lord with my whole heart. I faltered, I failed, and I found myself often with feelings of great insecurity and doubt, but I persevered. I resolved to never give up, to never give in, and "to keep on keeping on." If anything, the one label that hurt me the most growing up was that I was a "quitter." Yes, I was told that I quit everything, never stuck to anything, and never could accomplish any goal or task. I was lazy, I lacked focus, and I waffled in indecision. All of these added up to the pronouncement that I was never going to succeed, and that I would always quit whatever I started.

Quitter. I was a quitter. Yes, this is true. I did quit a number of pursuits. I did lack focus. I did lack follow-through a lot of the time. Still, I was young, very young, and as is the case with many young people, discipline and follow through are often absent (ask me about my college-students, eh!) However, I had this resolve within me. And, often this resolve was the kind that would boil over whenever someone said to me "you can't do this." I would steam, I would smolder, and I would gather up all my strength, determination and sheer will, and I would overcome -- just so that I could say to them "See! Now what do you have to say about that?" Of course, by the time I actually did the "thing," most of these naysayers were long gone. They were off seeking another victim to devour with their condescending and biting words.

It took me many years to learn that I could achieve pretty much whatever I set my mind to achieve. I could be a good student. I could be athletic. I could be artistic. I could be musical. Of course, some of these things required a lot more effort for me to do, and some were downright difficult and challenging. But, with effort, consistent effort, I could do them. I might not be perfect or polished, but I could do the 'thing' that I was told was impossible to do. I could do it. I could do it.

Many of these so-called naysayers, now long gone and forgotten, missed seeing me achieve the thing they so convincingly said couldn't be done. They never got to see me overcome, and I never got to see them eat their words. I so wanted to shout out "Revenge is a dish best served cold," (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan"), and just watch those naysayers swoon from the realization of my triumph. Yet, in quietness and without much fanfare, the only person to ever see me overcome was the One who gave me the will, the desire, and the attitude (yes, the mighty attitude) to actually do it.

Many a time, I wanted to exact revenge on these people, to make them suffer for their painful and harsh words. Thankfully, the Lord never gave me that opportunity, and in time, the desire to make other people suffer for their sin toward me became less and less of the focus. I also came to realize that hurt people tend to hurt other people. People who put others down, who shame others, who use words to tear apart rather than build up, are people who need the love of Jesus more than anything else. These are the folks with the problem, these are the ones who choose to perpetuate the cycle of abuse in order to salve their wounds. Unfortunately, the damage they leave in their wake often causes lifelong hurt. One word, one casually inflicted dart, can cause a lifetime of doubt, of misery, and of depression. Our words do matter. Our words are precious, which is why the Bible clearly instructs us to be careful in how we use them.

Today, I woke up feeling inadequate. I woke up feeling as though I had been punched in the stomach by a bully, and I felt so unworthy, so devalued, and so unappreciated. Now, I know those feelings are not true indicators of my life at present. Nor do I believe that my thoughts on the matter were accurate or represented what I know is the truth of Scripture. Still, there was this lingering doubt that said to me "You are not worthy. You are not good enough." I laid in bed for a long time, unable to shake the sound of those words. I wanted to get up, I wanted to move past the indictment that I was a failure or a fraud. Still, I gave in to them, for a time, and I felt miserable. I knew what was best, I knew what the Word told me to do -- to stand against the enemy and to lift up my shield of faith and my sword of the Spirit. It took me a while to do that, and in the ensuing time, I sunk low, so very low. Why, Lord? Why must I feel like such a failure? Why must I always believe that I am not good enough? When will my work be enough? When will my achievement be satisfying to me, to you?

The truth struck me like a chord -- and I became aware of my own issue -- of my need to achieve, to prove my worth, my value, and my ability to achieve. As I reflected on my words to the Lord, I came to understand that the only naysayer was the one within my mind. The biggest enemy of all turned out to be me.

The truth of the matter was simply this: I desire achievement, fleshly achievement because it proves to me that I am worthy, I am valued, and I am good enough. All my work seeks to elevate my own sense of esteem, to make amends for all the critical comments received in childhood, and to prove to all those people who hurt me that they were wrong about me. They were wrong. They didn't know me. They didn't understand me. They didn't care about me. They missed out on knowing me, being a friend to me, and allowing me to be a friend to them. They chose to hurt me instead of hugging me. They chose to wound me instead of welcoming me. They chose to laugh at me instead of loving me.

When I came to faith in Jesus Christ, I received the greatest gift of all. I received His worth and esteem. I received His grace, and in that grace, came the blessing that said to me "you are worthy, you are valuable, and you are good." Yes, sin marred my life, and in order for me to be reconciled to a loving, but righteous Heavenly Father, I needed a perfect Savior. My Savior took my sins and the penalty for those sins upon Himself, His perfect self. In exchange, I received forgiveness, I received mercy, and I received grace. His worth, His perfect worth was imputed to my account, and as a result, my sins were washed clean, wiped from my slate forever, and buried in the deepest part of the ocean. I am cleansed, and I am free.

So today, I realized that whenever I give in to thoughts of inadequacy, I am, in a way, saying to the Lord, that His free gift of mercy was not good enough for me. I am still trying to prove my worth to Him, to everyone, really. I must stop doing this because it is not honoring to God. I am beautiful because He says I am. I am good because He says I am. I am able to accomplish all things because He says I can. If He says it is so, then I must believe it is so. The God of the Universe doesn't make errors, mistakes, or issues. He has perfect wisdom and judgment. He knows what He is doing, and He is not confused about His identity. He knows what He can and cannot do (is there anything too hard for the Lord? May it never be!)

My life is in His hands. My future is bound up in the plans He has for me. My days, my weeks, my months, and my years have been planned out, purposed, and prepared for His good work. Therefore, the plans the Lord has will come to pass. I will overcome. I will triumph. I will succeed. I will not overcome, triumph, and succeed because of anything I do in my own strength, in my own flesh; but rather, I will do these things only through His blessed grace. It is for His Name that I work, that I prepare, that I accomplish, and it is for His plans and purposes that I surrender all. It is in His Name that I go forth, seeking to do all that He has planned for me to do. I rest in His Name. I trust in His Name, and I live my days fully in His Name. Selah! (Pause, and calmly think about it!)

God is good, so very good to me.

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