How many times have you felt discouraged because your best just didn’t seem good enough? When I was young, I struggled with deep depression because I thought I was an incapable person, that my best wasn’t anywhere near par, that I was always two steps behind. Now I know that I’m perfectly capable, but I sometimes tell myself I have so much potential that if I just worked harder, if I were more disciplined, I could achieve much more. So I still fear that I will never be able to measure up to my expectations for myself.
When I’m preparing to share something for ministry, I find myself wondering how I can make my words touch someone in a new way. I remember a specific youth meeting a while back. I started preparation with a clear vision of what I wanted to communicate. My subject was solid, I had taken a lot of time compiling my notes clearly, and I was ready. But during the meeting, everything fell apart—or so I thought. My delivery wasn’t very clear, I skipped points, and the kids seemed disengaged. I ended up feeling very discouraged. I’d tried my best, but it hadn’t been good enough.
The last two paragraphs seem pretty heavy, but the real problem with them is that I referenced myself over thirty times. As long as “I”—my own ability, my own strength —is the main focus, I won’t get anywhere.
I recently read a quote by Mark Twain that made me smile. It goes:
“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very’; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”
Well, I came up with my own version:
“Substitute ‘Jesus’ for every time you’re inclined to think ‘I’; your Creator will damn your fleshly nature and all will be as it should be.”
I know ‘damn’ is strong language, but in some uses, it’s accurate. Romans 8:3-4 reminds us that Jesus “condemned sin in the flesh in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us.” In other words, I need to rest easy in Jesus, because He came to take away my flesh and give me new life.
A world that cries “I know best” is also a world crushed under the burden of feeling that “It’s all up to me.” Jesus came to damn our flesh, everything that’s held us back from birth, and to hold us up every step of the way.
While reflecting on one’s past, the truth seems much more readily apparent. In the example I gave about that youth meeting, it didn’t matter if the delivery wasn’t perfect. It was up to me to do my best, and up to God to work in their hearts. In the other example, I went from the ditch of self-deprecation to the ditch of a merciless drive. He knew it was because my focus was on what I needed to do, and not what He could do.
So this Sabbath remember that it’s not all up to you. Take a moment to refocus on Him, to lay everything at His feet, and know that He holds everything in His hands.
“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3