Why Do I Feel So Inadequate?
Maybe like me you doubt your talents, treasures, gifts, abilities, and resources too. Maybe like me you struggle with a thorn of inadequacy.
Would you take a walk with me in the garden? Imagine with me the warmth of the sun shining on our freckled faces, shaded by the brim of our floppy straw hats. Hand-in-hand and heart-to-heart, together we navigate the cobblestone paths of the garden, taking notice of how much the twists and turns resemble those of our lives.
Captivated by our surroundings, our conversation comfortably silences for a moment. The pleasing fragrance beckons us to stoop down and pull a bloom closer—yet the pain at our fingertips causes us to retract our hand. We have been pricked by a thorn.
How can something so beautiful bear something so painful?
Our eyes move from the prick at our fingertips to the knowing in each other’s eyes—sparkling with joy and brimming with hurt. In recognition, our cheeks round as we exchange an encouraging smile, fully aware and familiar with the beauty and pain we see in one another.
Photo Credit: © Pexels/Rafael Barros
This beauty and pain has been present since the beginning. The first mention of pain (and thorns interestingly enough) is in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). Everything was perfect until the serpent deceived Eve to believe his lies over God’s truth causing her to doubt what she had was enough.
Regrettably, I can relate to Eve. Just like her, I too listen to the wrong voice sometimes. I too wonder if what I have and who I am is enough. Am I smart enough, pretty enough, talented enough, successful enough, kind enough, strong enough?
Even as a Christian woman who knows my identity in Christ, I still find it difficult to live like it on a daily basis. I feel insecure and inferior more often than I’d like to admit.
How about you? Maybe like me you doubt your talents, treasures, gifts, abilities, and resources too. Maybe like me you struggle with a thorn of inadequacy.
This idea of a thorn in our flesh was first mentioned by the apostle Paul (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). While Paul never tells us exactly what his thorn is, as I read his letters I recognize his struggle with inadequacy. I relate to his admission of weakness, fear, and trembling over his disbelief in his eloquence, wisdom, persuasion, and worthiness to represent Christ.
Paul’s thorn hindered him so much, he asked God three times to remove it. However, for some reason God refused. Since God is all-powerful, He could have removed Paul’s thorn. So why didn’t He?
Paul believed it was to keep him from being conceited and arrogant. His train of thought makes sense to me, because if we were adequate on our own we would have no need for God. Pride would creep in and we would be tempted to exalt ourselves rather than exalt Him.
The Positive Purpose of Thorns
Thinking back to our garden analogy, God designed flowers with thorns to protect them from enemies. The same is true for us. Our thorns of inadequacy are protection from the enemy because they make us fully aware of our need for God’s power.
He says, “My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness.” Since I feel weak most days, this promise gives me hope and freedom from striving to be adequate on my own. We don’t have to exhaust ourselves trying to be something we were never designed to be.
Through Paul’s words and experiences in my own life, I am realizing my inadequacy keeps me dependent on God. I've come to believe we feel inadequate because we are inadequate and I’m convinced God is using the very thing that makes us feel so weak to make us strong.
Turning Weakness to Strength
Those whose weaknesses turned to strength are listed in Hebrew’s Faith Hall of Fame. Friend, that is you and that is me when we rely on the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through us! Just as Paul learned to boast in His weakness, we can too with this perspective.
He is not just turning our inadequate to adequate. He is making us perfect. When we feel like we lack what it takes, He is simply asking us to offer what we have and believe in His hands it is enough, because He is more than enough. We can have confidence, not in what we are offering of ourselves, but rather because we are offering Him.
We need to stop listening to the messenger who tormented Eve, Paul, and who now torments us. This thorn is not to our detriment, it is for our betterment! While Satan wants to use our thorns to steal, kill, and destroy, Jesus wants to use them to display His power.
The key is to take our thorns to His throne because Jesus is familiar with thorns.
A Crown of Thorns
Jesus also found Himself in a garden. In Gethsemane, He prayed three times for His suffering to be taken away, but God refused. Do you notice the connection to Paul pleading three times and God’s refusal? God could have changed the plan, but He loved us too much.
Whatever your thorn may be, if you find yourself pleading for God to take the pain away and He refuses, can you look to Paul’s and Jesus’ examples and trust God knows what is best? Can you believe His decision stems from love for you?
His love was so great He took our thorns and placed them upon His head. He knew we were weak and helpless and could do nothing to save ourselves, so He came to save us from the eternal pain of being separated from Him.
An Eternal Garden
Revelation promises us one day there will be another garden, but this time with no more tears and no more pain (Revelation 21:4). Our suffering will be over and we will finally find rest.
Until that glorious day, may we embrace, boast, and even delight in our thorns because they keep us humbly dependent on God. I pray we walk through this garden of life, hand-in-hand and heart-to-heart with Him and one another, trusting He will use our thorns for good.
Just like He worked in Paul’s thorn to make a lasting impact on this world, we can believe He will do the same in and through us. And that, my friend, is beautiful.
Photo Credit: © Unsplash/Larm Rmah
Rachael Adams is a writer, speaker, podcaster, and founder of The Love Offering. Her heart’s desire is to encourage women to realize their God-given purpose to live out our faith together by loving God, loving others, and learning to love ourselves. Rachael and her husband live in Kentucky with their two children. Connect with her online at rachaelkadams.com or @rachaeladamsauthor on social media.
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