“But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that the extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are experiencing trouble on every side, but are not crushed; we are perplexed, but not driven to despair, we are persecuted, but not abandoned; we are knocked down, but not destroyed, always carrying around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our body. ” 2 Cor. 4:7-10
Alright. Can I be real with you all for a second? I struggle with self-doubt. Well…it’s not really a struggle, it’s more of a perpetual battle – a constant war that’s waged on the battlefields of my mind and heart. And I’m not trying to be overly dramatic here. I’m just being honest. The closest analogy I can think of to describe my inner angst is that little angel and little devil that sit on your shoulders when you’re in a moment of crisis (or you need to make an important decision). Do you remember seeing those in cartoons growing up? The angel would try to stop the character from making a bad decision, while the devil would try to entice the character to do something he/she shouldn’t do…playing to their desires. That’s what it feels like to me – except it’s a little more intense. I often feel like I have two competing voices in my head (and I know that may sound weird, but stick with me).
The first voice tells me everything that I’ve grown up hearing in church; namely, that I am loved, and that I am a forgiven and cherished child of God. And that nothing I have ever done or will ever do can change that. That God’s grace is enough for me, and that it pleases Him (God) to work in and through my weaknesses to accomplish great things – that He will use me to accomplish the good works that He has prepared for me.
And that’s GREAT NEWS! It’s encouraging.
But the other voice tells me that I’m a hopeless case. That I’m a hypocrite. That I’m a failure. That I’ll never be able to perform at the level that I need to perform at. That there may be grace…but there will never be joy. And that I should just give up and let someone of greater character and integrity take over – someone more qualified, more eloquent, and more faithful.
Not the most encouraging, right? But this is the voice that often feels the loudest. It’s hard to drown out this voice for some reason…the one that LOVES to remind me of all of my failures and shortcomings. And because of that, I often start to doubt myself.
Now, there are a lot of factors that contribute to this second (more negative) voice. And I could probably spend a few hours writing about them. But we don’t have time for that. So I’m just going to share one – the one that seems to be the most relevant/recurring in my life. I don’t know if you can relate to this…but I often hold myself to ridiculous standards and expectations. Standards that say: “you can’t mess up, you need to keep doing more, and you need to prove yourself to everyone and win their approval” – just to name a few.
Now, it probably comes as no surprise that I can’t live up to those kinds of standards. I can’t please everyone. I can’t take on every possible thing (even if they are good things). And I can’t be an expert in every field. I just can’t.
I can’t because I’m limited. I’m not infinite. And I think that the reason that many of us struggle with self-doubt (and maybe even self-hatred) is because we often fail to think of our finiteness – our “limitedness” – as good news. More often than not, we don’t see our limitations as a gift. We see them as a hindrance. But this is how God created us. He created us with limits. And to use the words that God uttered at creation…”that’s good!”
There is a reason that God designed us with limits. And I have to think, given the greatest commandments (love God and love neighbor), that God designed us with limits because we’re meant to thrive in the context of relationships (with Him and with others). If we didn’t have limits, then we wouldn’t need each other. But that’s the beauty of the Church. We’re all gifted in different and unique ways. And when that’s all brought together, we begin to see something beautiful – something more whole and more complete.
But we often fail to consider that (or…believe that). And so, as a result, we become completely self-absorbed. We become so concerned with the expectations (and remarks) of others that we try to be everything in and of ourselves. But that’s not sustainable. It’s not sustainable because we weren’t meant to live like that. That’s not the way that God designed us.
And so what are we supposed to do? I think the Apostle Paul helps us out here: embrace your weaknesses. Embrace your shortcomings. Embrace your limitations. Embrace them because in your weaknesses (in your limitations), God’s power is on full display.
And listen, I know this is hard. It’s hard because even though God loves us without qualification (with all of our weaknesses/limitations), we really struggle to believe that. We struggle because everything in our lived experience (especially for those of us in the West) tells us that we need to drum up our own lovableness.
But listen to me…that’s not the gospel. You’ve been designed with limits. And that’s a good thing. You don’t need to be good at everything. And while some of us may shudder to hear and believe this…it’s actually a good thing that you’re not good at everything. Your limits – your weaknesses – display the glorious power of the gospel. God loves to work in and through your weaknesses…supplying you with everything that you need to accomplish His incredible purposes. So embrace your limits. Lean into the gift of community (the Church). And let the world see just how glorious and incredible God’s power is.
- What kinds of expectations are you placing on yourself right now? Are they healthy? Are they realistic?
- How can you remind yourself this week that your limitations are a good thing (that God purposefully designed you that way)? What kinds of practices/rhythms could you lean into that help you embrace your limitations?
- How might you be able to help others struggling with self-doubt right now? In what ways could you encourage them, or serve them…to help them see that their limitations are not a bad thing?
By Ryan Leeds|Copper, CO