During my early days of serving God, I remember being asked to share my testimony for the first time. This was one of the very first ministry assignments I ever had. I was hardly 17 years old. I walked up to the podium and just stood there. I don’t know what exactly I said, but it was only about three or four words, and then I ran back and sat down. I had prepared in advance what I wanted to say, but once I was actually up there, I was so scared. It was a long time before I could overcome this fear…
I’m sure all of us have had some experience like this where we’ve felt inadequate and have had these thoughts of “I don’t measure up,” “I don’t think I have what it takes,” or “Surely, I’m going to fail.”
I remember a story that came out some time ago in a newspaper about a young girl who committed suicide right after finishing an exam. They found a letter she left behind in her room, and all it said was something like this: “I can’t measure up. I will never be able to meet the expectations of my parents.” That’s all.
All of us have a natural tendency to feel like we don’t measure up. It doesn’t matter if we’re young, old, rich, famous, educated, spiritual or unspiritual. Even if we have 25 years of experience in our job or ministry, we still face feelings of unworthiness or lack confidence. Sometimes it has to do with something in the past: our childhood, our teachers or our friends calling us names. Regardless of where it came from, it affects us deeply and seems to follow us wherever we go.
We respond to these feelings of inferiority in different ways. Some people project themselves as being superhuman, coming across like they’re always on top of the world. Others handle feeling inferior through sarcasm and cutting others down. They may not even realize what they’re doing; they’re just trying to make themselves feel better.
Some people respond with false humility, saying that they’re nobodies and don’t know what to do, even when that is not actually true. Others cope by trying to maintain control in whatever situation they’re in.
We can so easily be discouraged when we look at others and compare ourselves with them. We don’t realize our acceptance and usefulness to God has nothing to do with our abilities. We can only see where we fall short.
When All Seems Lost
Just think about Moses. After he killed a man and ran away from Egypt, I’m sure he went into a season of deep discouragement. He lost everything.
Forty years later, God came to him and said, “I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people . . . out of Egypt.”
But Moses comes back with, “Who am I that I should go?”
God tries to help Moses, letting him know that He will be with him, but Moses still says, “but I am slow of speech and of tongue” and makes all these excuses (Exodus 3:10–11, 4:10).
Naturally speaking, Moses had everything going for him as far as his background. He grew up with a good education as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; he was rich and powerful and all these things. But none of that really helped him when it came to this moment in his life. What an example that no matter how strong we are, we can still come to the place through some failure in life where we feel like we’ve lost it all, we can’t do it or we’re not worthy anymore.
In the midst of Moses’ arguments and excuses, God asked him a strange question: “What is in your hand?” (Exodus 4:2). All Moses was holding was a simple, dry stick. But that was enough for God, and He used it to do miraculous things.
Honesty with the Lord
When we feel like we don’t measure up, the answer is not to try to compensate by covering it up one way or another. It’s just to honestly say, “Lord, all I’ve got is a stammering tongue.” Then God can reply by saying, “The weak, fragile, dry stick in your hand, that is good enough. I will make you strong.”
It is when we come to the end of ourselves that God can work. Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” The more I struggle to find myself, the more ground I lose. But the more I lose myself in His grace, not depending on myself, the more I find life.
Whatever the Lord has called us to do, I pray we will understand that our weakness plus Christ’s sufficiency equals absolute victory. This is the only equation that will work. Our weakness plus the mask we put on equals only emptiness. And our strength minus Christ equals total failure.
Wherever you are in your walk with the Lord, I encourage you to speak honestly with Him. Maybe we need to be like Moses and need to pray, “Lord, I’ve heard what You’ve said to me, but I don’t think I can do it. All I have is a lifeless, dry stick that I have to depend on to walk through life.” And just like with Moses, I believe the Lord will answer us and say, “That’s enough.”
Lord, You promised us that You will never leave us nor forsake us. You are with us not only when we are victorious and do everything well, but when we are in the pits and don’t know what to do. None of us are strong in ourselves, Lord. Some of us are able to pretend quite well, but really, we are just like frightened little kids. Please, Lord, help us to acknowledge our nothingness and continue to draw strength from You and experience Your greatness. You are the One in whom we find everything we need. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Read more about how God can use those who start from zero.