I have this problem. I know, you are so excited to read a blog about my issues, but I am sharing this unpleasant truth about myself because I know that so many of us feel defeated by this. First, you should know I am somewhat like a muppet, maybe a bit of a fraggle. I get elated at the thought of a new, exciting way of doing life. It may be how I want to tackle a new fitness routine (I’ll do it everyday!), career goals (I’m getting published!), or even domestic chores (we are going to cut out all unhealthy foods and eat clean from now on!) And then, life happens. Migraines keep me from the long cardio work-outs I love, I didn’t realize how hard it was to find a traditional publisher who wanted publish my works, and we don’t have enough money to buy only organic foods. And I’ve talked to enough of my friends to know I’m not alone in losing hope about setting goals and dreaming dreams. Though at first we say we’ll get back to it, it inevitably feels too late. We are lost and can’t seem to get started again. Since we couldn’t do exactly what we wanted when we wanted, we let our failure define us, keeping us from trying again.
My husband tells me I’m too extreme. He tells me it’s okay if I can’t do everything, why not try some moderation and just do something. For years I’ve known he is probably right, but it took a conversation with my friend for me to hear it in a new way.
We were sitting in my family room and talking quietly because I had another migraine when my friend and I began talking about goals. She told me how her mother didn’t like making New Year’s Resolutions because she couldn’t keep them. My friend wasn’t put off when I stated I struggled with the same problem.
“But even if you don’t reach your goal,” my friend explained, “you still accomplished more than if you never made the goal at all.”
I have mentally had my mouth hanging open ever since.
So, instead of being upset that I can’t stick to a strict regime of diet and exercise, I should just do my best with what my energy and finances allow? So, instead of being frustrated by the fact that I can’t self-publish perfectly and my books are going to have flaws, I should just do my best and allow God to care for the rest? So, instead of feeling defeated by my inadequacies, I should just pick myself up and keep going?
I think my husband is going to read this and say, “I’ve been trying to tell you that for YEARS!”
He has, but I think I finally heard him. And I think I can finally accept grace.
We should know that’s what the problem is, shouldn’t we? We perfectionists, we extremists who believe we should be masters at everything right away and never fail, we don’t want to accept grace to cover our weaknesses. Perhaps, like me, you have found in the past that if you eat one “wrong” thing, you begin to eat everything in sight. Or maybe, you got off budget with one purchase and suddenly you find yourself on a shopping spree funded by your high interest credit card because you might as well since you already “failed.” Oh, friend, I get it. But surely part of our problem is, we think it’s all up to us.
The apostle Paul wrote some incredibly hard things in the New Testament, but on closer examination, the hard things are actually freeing. I have to admit that I don’t really want to identify with him when he talks about weakness and grace. I’d rather just think that eventually I’m going to get it perfect. But after 40 years of living I recognize, I’m not going to, am I? And if I could, who would get the credit? Me. I say I want God to get the glory, but here I am striving so hard to get everything under control and perfected so that I won’t be seen as weak.
Scholars will debate till the end of this age what physical inadequacy, what “thorn in the flesh” Paul was inflicted with, but I don’t really need to know. I just know that I can relate. I struggle with my own weakness – debilitating chronic migraines, and God has chosen not to remove them. The migraines cause depression and anxiety, and God has chosen not to remove those either. I have seasons when these illnesses aren’t as difficult, but they are always there, lurking beneath my everyday life. And you know what? Paul wants me to rejoice in them, brag about them.
Really, Paul? You’re kidding, right?
Paul seemed practically perfect, he goes through hardships and revels in them for God’s glory! (2 Corinthians 11) But, he struggled with conceit and so God allowed him to have an affliction (like his trials and hardships weren’t enough? but apparently they weren’t) and though he begged God to remove it, God wouldn’t. Instead He told Paul, “My grace is sufficient to you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Paul, who was tempted to be conceited, is made humble by his weakness and God is thereby shown to be strong because God is mighty in human weakness.
God’s grace covers us, friend. When we can’t accomplish what we would like, as we stumble and falter over the hard thing(s) in our lives, God is shown to be powerful, God is shown to be mighty. He must increase, we must decrease!
I know, it’s not fun. It’s easy to want to give up, to not try, to quit dreaming, to quit hoping. But if we are hoping in His strength, when we are watching for His grace to show up and see us through, He gets all the glory. People will start taking note of our awesome God, and isn’t that actually what we really want, even more than meeting the goal or seeing the dream come true?
Photo Credits: Olia Gozha, Lurm, Robb Leahy