“I'm not sweet. I should be, but I'm not.” That's what I thought to myself as I pulled into the garage and closed it behind me, safe from the opinions of others in the cocoon of my home. I'd been thinking of someone who is sweet and how much I love her and how I wish I were sweet like her. And, although I was ensconced in the comfort of home, the familiar bombardment began, and I couldn't find a way to hide from all the thoughts, all the thoughts of everything I'm not.
I’ve been through this before, when the thoughts speak so loud that they seem real and true. Thoughts like:
I’m not good enough.
I can’t possibly step out in ways God has gifted me, because everyone will see my failures and weaknesses and take aim.
I’m not enough for my friends and my husband. I should be doing more.
I’m not mom enough.
I’m too much of all the “wrong” things and not enough of the “right” things.
I’m not a good enough Christian for God to use.
I’ve talked to enough women to know I’m not the only one that gets stuck in the mire of “not enough”. We are hard on ourselves, quick to point an accusatory finger inward, and prone to believe our condemning thoughts are directed by God Himself.
So what do we do when the low-grade guilt that’s been lurking around our mothering all day becomes loud and insistent? What do we do when comparison sneaks in suddenly and we find ourselves wishing we were something we’re not? What do we do when we’re overcome with feeling “not good enough”?
We must make it a habit, first of all, to actually think about what we’re thinking about, and refuse to believe every last thought we think. One of the most helpful and soul-breathing truths in battling the “not enoughs” is that the Holy Spirit convicts; we don’t have to convict ourselves. There is a vast difference between self-conviction and Holy-Spirit conviction.
When God convicts, He gets specific with us about our sin (“You were wrong to withhold forgiveness when your friend asked for it.”), He uses specific scriptures, and His kindness toward us leads to a hopeful conclusion-- repentance and dependence. But when I convict myself or the enemy accuses, it is wide-ranging (“I’m a failure as a mother.”) and immediately defeatist. This line of thought only leads back to self: try harder and do better. In other words, I can make lists of action points, write sticky notes to remind myself of those action points, and vow to change myself, but I’ll only end up right back where I started--in guilt and condemnation.
If, after thinking about the types of thoughts we’re having, we discover accusation and not Holy Spirit conviction, how do we put off self-condemnation and put on biblical truth?
Our tendency is to prop ourselves up with self-esteem platitudes or turn to those who offer them. The trouble with this is that, if we’re honest with ourselves, we aren’t good enough. Have you read in Scripture what Jesus asks of us? Be joyful always? Count trials as blessings? Love enemies? Put the needs of others always above our own? I actually can’t do it. I truly am not good enough. It seems counter-intuitive to battle the “not good enoughs” by agreeing that we’re not good enough, but in reality it is the first step toward joy. The Christian life is impossible, as long as we’re attempting self-sanctification. However, we aren’t meant to live the Christian life by ourselves; we are meant to recognize our need and then--there must always be the then--receive the help offered.
What is this help and how do we receive it? To put off wrong thoughts and put on biblical truth, instead of cycling back to vows and self-effort, we add (and believe by faith) two words: But God.
I was spiritually dead in my sin, but God has made me spiritually alive.
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4).
I am called to keep God’s righteous commandments, which I fail to fulfill, but God has given me the Holy Spirit to help me. I have all the help I need and will call upon that help. I can trust Him because He always leads me to righteousness.
“If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper. . .I will not leave you orphans: I will come to you” (John 14:15,16,18).
I am not good enough, but Christ in me makes me not just good enough, but justified and righteous before God. Because of Christ, I am never condemned.
“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
I cannot live the Christian life by self-effort, but Christ gladly lives it in me. I live by faith, not by self-effort.
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
There are things I will not be good at, but God has created me to joyfully serve Him in specific ways.
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).
What peace to rest in the work of Christ rather than parsing, evaluating, and defending (even to ourselves) our own abilities! What joy to know that God has made provision not just for our salvation but for our everyday lives! And these are the exact fruits--peace and joy--to watch for as we “but God” our “not good enoughs.”
As I pulled into the garage that day and sat prayerfully in the silence, I chose to release my fears borne from condemnation. I chose to turn my mind from everything I'm not on to everything that I am because of God. I chose to look at my roles, responsibilities, and opportunities through eyes of faith and to trust Him as I pursue those. I chose to believe that I have absolutely no reason to fear, especially other people and their opinions of me.
I chose to believe the “but God” instead of my “not good enough”.