We humans are funny creatures, we can look at our own performance and find it wanting and then look up to the heavens and ask, “God, are you even there?”
I originally wanted to wax eloquent on this topic, but I’ve recently found myself smack in the middle of it.
Life has been a bit heavy lately. February brought with it several weeks with a house guest, an impending but yet-unsettled job change, my grandma in the hospital, and a whooping cough scare in our family and close friends. Just when things seemed to ease up, there’s more emotional heaviness, my husband’s grandma in the hospital, a running injury, a minor car accident, and my house is a wreck as we prepare for my husband to start working from home.
I can count my blessings, to be sure—the Lord has been good to us. But the past few days as I’ve been trying to keep up with schooling the boys, supporting others, reorganizing all the things, and nursing my physical injuries, I’ve just come up short.
This out-of-control season, with its full load of stress—good and bad—has gotten to me.
I’m not strong enough to bear it. I’m not together enough to catch up on the cleaning, the cooking, the financial planning, the interrupted school days, you name it. It seems there are so many plates spinning and people needing and I’m failing them all.
Yesterday I couldn’t really enjoy anything. I was dull to any feeling but sadness. Emotionally needy. Physically hurting. Spiritually exhausted.
And my pride doesn’t like the feel of it all.
At times like these it’s easy to get discouraged. My glaring limitations stare me down, and I allow my personal gloominess to cloud my view of the Sovereign God who loves me.
The truth is, I’m finite. Limited. Small. That’s part of what it means to be a creature in contrast to the Creator. And while it might shock me at times when I’m faced with my limits, God isn’t surprised. “He is conscious of [my] frame, He is mindful that [I am] but dust.”
But all too often instead of looking up to see the One who is strong for me, I continue to look within and mourn my lack of God-like power over my circumstances.
When my self-confidence wanes, I find my wayward heart can project that same lack of confidence onto the Lord. Have you ever done the same?
“Things aren’t going my way! I can’t get control of this! I can’t seem to get control of myself! God, are You even there?”
That’s not exactly a rational train of thought, is it?
On our good days we might think of ourselves as “independent”, “self-sufficient”, “got-it-together”, “responsible”, “emotionally stable”, and, let’s be honest, just plain “awesome”.
And then when things fall apart, “I’m failing at everything.” “I’m a burden to others.” “I’m a hot mess.” “I just can’t even.”
Sometimes our confidence fails because it was misplaced to begin with. Sometimes our faith falters because we took our eyes off the Lord long before things went sour.
I’m not necessarily saying the hard times and our failings are caused by this misplaced confidence (though sometimes that might be the case). What I’m saying is that when our confidence is shaken, it may be that we’re upset with God not because He has failed us, but because we aren’t as awesome as we thought we were.
When we’re brought to the end of ourselves, the world’s counsel is often to dig deeper within. “Believe in yourself!” “You’re stronger than you think!” “You’ve got this!” And while it’s healthy to silence the voices that accuse and condemn with the promises of forgiveness and life in Christ (see Romans 8!), we can’t ultimately combat our short-comings by looking within. God doesn’t intend for our struggles to lead us to despair of ourselves and then stay there.
Check out the exhortation in Isaiah 40:26-31:
Lift up your eyes on high
And see who has created these stars,
The One who leads forth their host by number,
He calls them all by name;
Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power,
Not one of them is missing.
When you feel out of control, don’t project that uncertainty on the Lord by thinking that you’re the only one who can fix your situation. Look up! Your God is the sovereign Lord over all the universe! He made and sustains the stars and He made and sustains you!
Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel,
‘My way is hidden from the Lord,
And the justice due me escapes the notice of my God’?
Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable.
He gives strength to the weary,
And to him who lacks might He increases power.
Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,
Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.
When self-doubt strikes, don’t project that doubt onto the Lord by continuing to wallow in your own weaknesses and failures. Look up! Your God is strong and gives strength to the weary!
Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.
When you’re afraid and think no one notices, don’t project human ignorance onto the Lord by assuming He’s forgotten you, too. Look up! Your God knows the hairs on your head, and He who watches over the sparrows cares even more for you!
I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
When help is hard to come by and your situation and yourself seem helpless, don’t project that hopelessness onto the Lord by forgetting to run to him with your need. Look up! Your God is your “refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46)
While this season has been hard and humbling for me, bringing with it more than a fair share of tears, I’m riding the waves more smoothly than I have in the past because these truths have been much more at the ready and I’m quicker now to cast my cares on the Lord.
I’ve heard it said recently, “Trials can make you bitter or better.” For the Christian, the “better” God intends for us is to be strengthened in our confidence in Him.
Our human resources may fail us, and while it humbles us to realize that we can’t ascribe greatness to ourselves, let’s not forget to ascribe to the Lord the greatness due to His name (see Psalm 29). We’ll find our confidence will return when it is grounded in the right Person. And we’ll find the next storm of self-doubt and disappointment, while still painful, will have less impact on our faith when it is firmly rooted in a God who doesn’t disappoint those who hope in Him.
Here’s to growing in grace.