I said last Sunday in one of the live streams that I was feeling unsettled.
I’ve thought about this since… and I think, although there a good deal of factors that have contributed to this, one of the main ones is that I felt unqualified for what I was being asked to do. I found myself helping to plan livestreams and devotionals to encourage and bring hope, and help draw us closer to God. But at the same time I was feeling fairly empty and discombobulated myself…
Initially I thought – I’m not cut out for this – how can I help others when I can’t do it myself?!
But I was reminded of the verse in Hebrews that tells us about the unique quality of our God compared to other gods. It says:
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.”
– Hebrews 4:15
And so, I was strangely encouraged. Ten years ago when I moved to Sutton, young and enthusiastic, I felt like I could do anything… Ten years on, I can probably do more things better (except if it involves physical fitness…) and yet I feel somehow less able and weaker!
If I am not wrong, I think this is something that comes to most of us – as we are confronted with more challenges, we become more aware of our shortcomings and weaknesses. However, this isn’t always a bad thing – because, as with Jesus this allows us to empathise with others who also experience their own weaknesses and struggle with temptations.
Peter Scazzero – author of “The Emotionally Healthy Church,” wrote this:
“In emotionally healthy churches, people live and lead out of brokenness and vulnerability. They understand that leadership in the kingdom of God is from the bottom up, not a grasping, controlling, or lording over others. It is leading out of failure and pain, questions and struggles—a serving that lets go. It is a noticeably different way of life from what is commonly modelled in the world and, unfortunately, in many churches.”
– Peter Scazzero
This flipped things on their head – in fact I was not failing for feeling weak and unsettled – I was actually failing for thinking that I had to be always strong and feeling wonderful – that was not the way Jesus led, and shouldn’t be the way that we aspire to be as we get alongside people either. Instead of squashing or ignoring the times when we feel weak – we can use them to help us grow in empathy, humility, and grace.
We are all called to love others – relationships with God and with others are central to our faith – and yet these can be ruined or remain shallow if we refuse to be real. Sara Shisler Goff writes:
“Not paying attention to emotions can make relationships with others, including relationship with God, more difficult, full of tension and strife, and less authentic. […] Unawareness and inauthenticity make it much more difficult to practice spiritual disciplines and to grow into the image and likeness of God.”
– Sara Shisler Goff
So, next time you are feeling like a failure, weak and not good enough for what you need to do… Remember – Jesus knows what that feels like. And, unlike us he was able to go through that and yet not sin. But instead of rejecting us for our mistakes – he has used his position of perfection to save us from our position of failure. And this is the place we should live from: A place where we authentically accept our weaknesses and vulnerability – and therefore live out of a dependence on God’s grace rather than a dependence on our own strength and perfection (which will always fail us!).
I wrote this yesterday ready to record today. After work I flicked through a second-hand book that had arrived in the post that day ready for advent. The book just happened to fall open on a page where the previous owner had messily underlined something – out of curiosity I look to see what they’d underlined, it was this:
“You aren’t equipped for life until you realize you aren’t equipped for life. You aren’t equipped for life until you’re in need of grace.”
– Ann Voskamp in ‘The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas.’
Why not spend a few moments reflecting on this as you listen to our worship group singing the song on this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9MoKAaSFPEI. A song that reminds us that we are weak and full of shortcomings – but we’re not called to love others out of our own strength, we are called to be authentically grounded in God’s grace and love for us. It is not our goodness or abilities that will save us – it is His grace that will bring us home.