#6: When You Don't Feel Like You're Enough, August 2017 (repost)

[Reposted from August 5, 2017.  I had my panic attack the summer of 2016.  I remember it took me about six months to not feel absolute panic every morning, to be able to wake up without feeling terror at the thought that I had to face another day, another chance for something bad to happen.  And it took me even longer to be able to really smile again, to feel a little lightness in my spirit, to be able to breathe again.  I mean, of course, I smiled before that.  I acted like I was okay.  But I didn't feel like smiling or being happy for the longest time.  I was just too afraid of life - too discouraged by life - to be able to smile.  This post was written as I was still working towards being "normal," as I worked on protecting my faith after the previous summer.  The way I see it, my life has been marked by that panic attack.  It's now "BPA" (Before Panic Attack) or "APA" (After Panic Attack).  That summer was just such a life- and heart-changer for me.  And while I feel mostly normal now - the new normal, I still get afraid of going back there, back to the feelings, the mentality, the fear of that 2016 summer.  And so I keep working on my faith - reading my Bible, praying, reading godly things from others who have struggled, and reposting things I've written during the hard times.  Like this post.  Because I need it.]

2 Chronicles 13:18:  “… and the men of Judah were victorious because they relied on the Lord …”

The men of Judah were victorious because they relied on the Lord!

Oh, how I needed to hear that this morning!  Oh, how I needed to be reminded that my efforts don’t matter nearly as much as my willingness to rely on the Lord!

In this Bible passage, Abijah (king of Judah) had gone into battle against Jeroboam (king of Israel and an adversary of Solomon, Abijah’s grandfather).  Abijah had 400,000 men and Jeroboam had 800,000 men.  It seemed pretty hopeless.  And to make matters worse, while Abijah was giving a speech to Jeroboam at the battle line about how Jeroboam has forsaken the Lord and how Judah has not, Jeroboam’s men snuck around the back to hem in Abijah’s troops from both sides.

When Abijah’s men realized that they were trapped, what was the first thing they did?

Did they draw up a battle plan?  Did they start attacking indiscriminately?  Did they run away, throw up the white flag, or curl up in a ball and start crying?  Did they panic?

1 Chronicles 13:14:  “Judah turned and saw that they were being attacked at both front and rear.  Then they cried out to the Lord.”

They cried out to the Lord … And the men of Judah were victorious because they relied on the Lord!

I have been dealing with anxiety for a long time now over many things.  I fear that none of my best efforts will be good enough … that I won’t accomplish anything worthwhile … that I will let my kids down … that I will let the Lord down … that life will fall apart ... that I will fail miserably at the jobs He has given me. 

I wear this weight on my shoulders every day.  I feel the anxiety it creates the moment I wake up.  I feel it every time I notice all the things I can’t accomplish.  I feel it every time I compare the little that I am doing to the [perceived] much that others are doing.  I feel it every time I doubt that I am going to be enough.  And it makes me want to cry and panic and give up, all at the same time.

But you know what?

God doesn’t ask us to be enough. 

Abijah’s success didn’t rest on the size of his troops, for he had half as many men as his enemy.  It didn’t rest on his military strategies, for he had no great plans for dealing with the unexpected front-and-rear attack.  It didn’t rest on his bravery, for his men were afraid enough to cry out.  Nor did it rest on his morality or “religiousness” - as though he could “earn” victory by being such a “good Christian” - for although Judah still technically served the Lord through the priestly rituals, in 1 Kings 15:3 we read that Abijah “… committed all the sins his father had done before him; his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his god…”

No!  Abijah’s success depended on one thing …

He cried out to the Lord! 

The Lord gave him victory not because of anything related to Abijah’s skills or the size of his troops or the way he previously lived [or didn’t live] his faith.  The Lord gave him victory simply because he relied on the Him.  Abijah humbly threw himself upon the Lord and let the Lord fight for him. 

He didn’t know how the Lord would help.  Maybe he didn’t even know for sure that the Lord would help him in the way he wanted. 

But he knew enough to know when he himself wasn’t enough … and he cried out to the Lord.

And because of his willingness to do this, the Lord did the impossible; He caused the enemy to flee and He helped Abijah destroy 500,000 of them.  And Jeroboam never regained power during Abijah’s reign.

What am I relying on to help me accomplish the things I think I need to accomplish?  To help me be “enough” for the jobs I have, for raising my children, for being the person I believe I should be?

Sadly, most of my anxiety comes because I am trying to be enough in and of myself.  Because I feel like I should always know the right thing to do, that I should have a perfect plan, that I should have all my ducks in a row and all these nice, little boxes that I can check off as I go.

But that’s not life.  Life is messy and unpredictable and it has twists and turns and ups and downs.  And the older I get, the more overwhelmed I get.  And the more weak and unsure and scared I feel.  And the less confidence I have in myself to know what to do, to succeed, to make things work out right.

But honestly … I think that’s right where we need to be. 

We need to learn that we are not enough.

Because that’s when God can step in and take over.

If we operate according to the belief that we are enough and that we can make it happen in our own wisdom and strength and that we can carry all the burdens by ourselves … then we don’t lean on the Lord like we should.  We don’t listen to Him or wait for Him or follow Him or trust Him … because we are too busy listening to our own self-glorifying fantasies and running ahead of Him in our own wisdom and trying to lead Him down the path we want to take and trusting in ourselves to make it all happen, carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders.

But the way to true success is to know when we cannot do it on our own anymore and when we are weak and beaten down and not enough … and to cry out to the Lord, relying on Him to fight for us, to be enough for us, and to make something good out of our shortcomings and weaknesses.

We don’t have to be enough because He is!  

And I thank Him for the reminder that as long as I am leaning fully on Him and relying on Him, He can make something beautiful out of the ugly.  He can turn the messes into successes.  He is enough for any concern I have! 

Do I trust Him enough to let Him carry my burdens?    

Or do I believe that I can do better?    

[Update 3/22/19:  I'll be honest... I don't know if I even know how to lean fully on Him.  I mean, faith is not a checklist, a collection of things that we just do in order to prove we are faithful:

"1. Read you bible - check.  2. Pray - check.  3.  Practice thankfulness - check ...etc. ... And then life will go as you want it to go and your prayers will be answered the way you want them to be answered."

We can fully lean on Him, and things can still go horribly wrong.  So what does "leaning on Him" look like?  How do we do it?  Is "leaning on Him" simply trusting Him to handle things while we give up and stop trying to do anything on our own?  Is it continuing to do things on our own, to make things happen, but trusting that He will work it into something good?  Is it waiting in quiet submission for Him to tell us what to do, refusing to do anything until and unless He gives us specific directions?  And what can we expect from "leaning fully on Him"?

The older I get, the less I know - about life, about myself, about faith, about how to do things, about everything.

But I do know this: Our God is a good God.  He is a real God.  He cares deeply for us and He is watching over us.  He is always there, ready to step in and help ... if we will let Him, if we will call on Him, if we will obey.

We don't have to always know what to do or how to do it or how things will work out.  We don't have to be strong enough.

Because He is!

There is more to life than what we can see.  The most real things - the most meaningful and the most lasting things - are not even visible anyway.  And the best is yet to come; it's all working towards a glorious ending for those who believe.

There's so very much that I don't know about life and faith and everything.  But the things I do know are enough to carry me through.  Because the God I know is enough!

And that's good enough for me!

So even if I don't know how to lean fully on Him or how to cry out to Him or how to pray anymore or what will happen when I pray or what's the best thing to do in any situation or how to make things work out ... that's okay.  I will just do my best to do my best, trusting that God knows my heart and that He can handle things far better than I can and will work it all out for good, as long as I remain vitally connected to Him.

I might not know much.

But I don't have to know much.

Because I know God.

And God knows it all.

And I know I can trust Him far more than I can trust myself.

And honestly ... that's all I really need to know.

And an update on my mom: I met with her yesterday, and she seems really good.  The circumstances that led her to drink herself silly have basically been resolved, and she's basically back to normal.  And - a big step - she admitted to losing it, to turning to alcohol and pills to get away from the horrible stress.  That's a good step for her, to be able to accept responsibility for it.  We had a good visit and were able to share some laughs.  And that was nice.

But while I hope that things go well for her, I have decided to have no expectations about where things go from here.  I do not necessarily expect her to stay good, to stay away from alcohol.  But I do not expect her to go back to drinking either.  What's going to happen is going to happen.  And all I can do is pray and leave her in God's hands and be a "safe spot" for her - extending grace and compassion to her, listening to her without judgment, loving her without condemnation, knowing that she hurts herself enough and doesn't need us to cause her any more pain.

It's not my responsibility to "fix" her or to "punish" her or to expect anything out of her.  (My brothers are upset with her and not speaking to her right now.)  But it's just my job to be there for her.  After all, I know how it feels to be broken.  And sometimes the best thing that can come from our own brokenness is that we learn to treat other broken people gently, that we can empathize and be compassionate and be understanding and forgive and stand alongside them when they hurt.

Learning to let God love us in our brokenness helps us to love others in theirs.

All I can do is take everything one day at a time, praying that God holds it all in His hands, trusting Him to guide us all through this crazy, unpredictable life, humbly crying out to Him in my brokenness and need, leaning fully on Him.  Whatever that means.  Wherever it leads.]

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