My Own Feelings of Inadequacy
My entire life, I’ve constantly felt a great deal of inadequacy. In every stage of life, the feeling of inadequacy morphs to fit whatever I believe my peers are expecting of me in that season. When I was in junior high and high school, it was my athletic abilities. In college it was my socializing abilities. In seminary, it was my ability to theologize.
Now, in my mid-thirties, I feel very inadequate as a single man without children. This is especially difficult in church circles where “old” single men are often treated as less valuable in God’s kingdom than married men. I don’t believe it is intentional, but it does happen.
Feeling inadequate can be paralyzing, and it’s easy to sink into depression when you feel as though your feeble attempts at accomplishing something will have no big, lasting impact.
But I think there are a couple of problems with that thought process.
- The first is the belief that we are supposed to have some huge, lasting impact on the world. We aren’t necessarily called to have a huge impact. We are called to be obedient and glorify God in whatever circumstances we find ourselves.
- The second is the belief that we are somehow responsible for the amount of fruit that will come from our act of obedience. We sow the seeds and water, but God is the one who grows the crop.
How Jesus Feeding 5,000 People Speaks to Human Inadequacy
I’ve read through the book of Mark a couple times this month, and yesterday morning, I paused on Mark 6 where Jesus feeds 5,000 people.
As news of Jesus’ miracles and teachings spread throughout the surrounding towns and countryside, people began to flock to him whenever news about his whereabouts spread. Before Jesus miraculously feeds 5,000 people, he and his disciples go out to what Mark called a “desolate place” to pray and be refreshed. Somehow word got around about where they were heading, and the people from the surrounding towns beat them there.
Jesus had compassion because they were like “sheep without a shepherd,” and he began to talk to them.
After a while, the people were hungry, and the disciples suggested that they be sent away to the surrounding towns to find food. Jesus responds by saying, “Why don’t you give them something to eat?” The disciples respond sarcastically, “Should we go spend our entire, yearly salary trying to buy dinner for all these people?” The disciples clearly felt inadequate to do what Jesus had called them to do.
1. Recognizing our inadequacy is a good thing.
First of all, if you feel inadequate, your feelings are not lying to you. This event in the book of Mark occurred just after Jesus had sent them out to do ministry in pairs. Jesus told the disciples to feed all 5,000 people, but they knew they didn’t have the resources for such a task. They had no food and they were emotionally spent.
We weren’t meant to be self-sustaining and independent creatures. God created us to be dependent on him, and he created us in a way that our fullness of joy is found when we live a life of dependence on him. Spiritual death came when we decided that we could do this in our own way apart from God.
To recognize your inadequacy is a good thing. I think this is why Jesus says that we must have a childlike faith. Children cling to their parents without shame and know they are dependent on them for many things.
2. Being paralyzed by feelings of inadequacy is not a good thing.
Pride can often look like humility. When a humble person recognizes their inadequacy, they seek help. They run to God and find their strength in him. They know that he is strong when they are weak. They look to God and live obediently with what they’ve been given. They are satisfied even in the areas where they are lacking because they are not comparing themselves to everyone else.
When a prideful person recognizes their inadequacy, they compare themselves to everyone around them. They compare their spiritual gifts and the effectiveness of their ministry efforts to everyone else around them. They fear failure and may feel that there is no point in trying. They may beat themselves up for not measuring up to what everyone else wants. They aren’t concerned with obedience; they are concerned with appearance and effectiveness.
When Jesus asked the disciples to feed the people, they were shown up by a child. The disciples were concerned about success rather than obedience. The boy humbly gave what he had.
3. Jesus multiplies, provides, and sustains.
After John’s account of Jesus feeding 5,000 people, Jesus reminds the people of the manna that God provided for his people as they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, and he then tells the people that he is the true bread from heaven. As we journey through this wilderness of life on our way to the promised land, Jesus is the one who sustains.
All that we have been given is a gift of God’s grace, and our job is to be obedient with whatever we have and wherever we are. Jesus is the one who takes what little we have to offer and multiplies it into something much larger than we could have ever imagined. That is not our responsibility. Our responsibility is to depend on Jesus with humble obedience, understanding our inadequacy without him.