Serving Out of Our Broken Places

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It’s been a while, but before the holidays and the official Winter In Which A Family Member Of Mine Gets Sick Every Week began (still happening, unfortunately), we were talking here about serving and grace and going through a list of questions on the topic. Today I’m resuming that conversation with the fourth question from my church’s “Stepping into God’s Game Plan” panel, which is this:

How do you deal with feelings of inadequacy when it comes to serving The Lord or even joining a community of believers?

I’ll tell you what I don’t want to do with those feelings –I don’t want them to stop me, but I don’t want to ignore them either.

He’s teaching me these things, it seems, ALL the time. So many situations have recently exposed my weaknesses in serving, and I am learning (slowly) to be thankful for that. Why? Because brokenness is my only gateway to His power. We either believe the truth of 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 or not. It’s a simple truth but an enormous one for us as we step out in obedience to serve: God told Paul, a believer so in touch with his feelings of inadequacy, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Do you recall Paul’s response? “Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” He embraced the weakness. He let it draw him to deeper faith. He was content to go where it wasn’t easy because he believed God for this very real power, and he experienced it over and over. Be honest – do you believe God for this strange truth? Do you boast in your brokenness? Are you confident that God, exalted in it, blesses you with all-sufficient grace and that it’s better to have that than anything else? I think of Paul’s motive – “for the sake of Christ” – and I must search my heart for these answers: who is Christ to me? Do I treasure Jesus?

Because I’m human, my answers vacillate between believing and not believing enough. Remember the “help my unbelief” cry in Mark 9:24? I sure relate to that guy. The only remedy I know is to cry out for more faith and fill my mind with his truth. And when I do embrace his promise, receiving his strength in my places of weakness, I never regret it. He is faithful to fulfill his promises, and I can count on his power to emerge when and where needed. I love when this happens!

Even though he personally proves that his power works in this way and it’s wonderful to experience, I still default to resisting these places of weakness. At times I forget how they ignite his power, and there are other times when I just want to do it my way, hoping to avoid the unpleasant emotions that weakness brings. He’s showing me, however, that it’s impossible to run from weakness, so why do I even try?? Here’s what I mean:

When I initially pondered this question, I was thinking about the kind of weaknesses that arise in serving outside our comfort zones, and I had in mind the serving opportunities that required of me what I could not do well. There are plenty of times I’m called to serve in areas outside of my skills, abilities, and spiritual gifts – places where it’s obvious I bring nothing to the table – no experience, no expertise. It’s uncomfortable, and, truthfully, I scare easily. It’s in those places that I come face to face with my weakness and because he’s slowly rewiring my thinking through his Word, I’m beginning to place my trust in The Lord a tiny bit quicker since I’m aware I have none in myself. That’s one kind of weakness. But over the last several months, my focus has shifted to the inadequacies of my heart that surface when serving out of my strengths. What about the gifts and skills he has blessed me with? Do I recognize the struggle in using them for his glory? Am I aware of the problems those more comfortable serving opportunities may reveal?

I’m learning to ask those questions because I realize that EVERY act of service has the potential to be wrecked by the inadequacy – the sin – of my heart. I am broken. Apart from his grace, there’s no hope for me to be enough, and I praise him that I don’t have to know that life. He is my everything, and that issue is settled for eternity.

There’s no end to my heart needing Jesus.

– In my mentoring relationship through Gospel Village where I have no clue what I’m doing and talking to a teenager about life feels SO awkward.
– When I was a foster parent and at one particular point thought I actually felt my heart break.
– Anytime I’m teaching God’s Word to a group of women and I’m forced to confront the temptation to measure myself by the approval/disapproval of others, to allow the activity itself to define me as a person.
– Supporting someone whose grief draws out my own and all I feel is sadness.

Whether it’s easy or hard, natural or unnatural, I can make it about me rather than God’s glory. It is useless to pretend I’m not inadequate. I love what Paul Tripp posted on Facebook a while back:

“It’s only when you face the depth of your need that you can adequately celebrate the grandeur of God’s provision.”

Lord, give me a stronger craving for that; help me to want it more – to receive in my heart the lessons of inadequacy you teach me, letting them drill into my soul a deeper awareness and gratitude for your glorious provisions of grace.

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