Perhaps you are just perfect or have it all together, but I have certain hang-ups that continue to pick at me. I’ll think I’ve conquered it only to see it rear its ugly head again.
At my core, I have always struggled with never feeling “good enough.” When I mess up I am quick to criticize and tear myself down with not being enough. That struggle finds its way into my relationship with God. The dreamer in me wants to do great things for Him, to move mountains for His glory, but at every mistake I find myself whispering that I’m not good enough to be used by God. And suddenly I’m doubting my purpose once again.
I was recently studying Acts and for the first time noticed all the qualities that were unique to Paul. Both good and bad traits. They allowed him to spread the Good News of Jesus in a way no one else could.
1.) Paul was a Jew, a Pharisee, and part of the Sanhedrin (the Jewish Supreme Court).
This meant he was exceptionally educated in the scriptures and understood first-hand how the Jewish government body operated. This proved useful both in teaching Jewish-Christians how to act out their new faith and in saving his tail from the Jewish leaders who wanted him killed.
2.) Paul imprisoned and persecuted Christians before his encounter with Christ.
Paul wasn’t someone who grew up in the Christian faith, indoctrinated in these “Jesus beliefs.” No. He not only thought Christians were crazy, he actually took action in tracking them down, imprisoning them, and torturing them. Remember when they stoned Stephen to death? Paul (referred to as Saul at the time) was there! This would seem like a tragic defect in his character. How dare he participate in such atrocities! But rather, God takes it and uses it for His glory. Paul’s testimony and message about Christ is even more powerful because of his beginnings. Was this not the same man persecuting the Christians? And now he’s risking his own life to preach about Jesus?
3.) Not only was Paul Jewish by heritage, he was also Roman by citizenship.
With that, he had certain rights only Roman citizens could claim. You see, the Jewish leaders (called the Sanhedrin) wanted to have Paul murdered. When their conspiracy to kill Paul is leaked, he is moved to Caesarea during the night and put under Roman leaders who have to decide if they should hand Paul back to the Sanhedrin or not. Paul sits in jail for years under the Roman governor Felix. When there’s a change in leadership, Paul is almost sent back to the Jewish authorities who want him killed. But Paul appeals to Caesar, something only Roman citizens have the right to do! So Paul is sent to Rome to await Caesar’s decision. While in prison in Rome for at least two years, Paul is able to have visitors and continues to preach the message of Christ. Because of Paul and his unique position in a Roman prison, the message of Jesus reaches as far as the imperial palace, to Caesar’s household!
Philippians 4:22 “All the saints send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household.”
God used all the details of Paul’s life to spread the Gospel to all parts of the known world at that time. Nevertheless, Paul was the first to admit he wasn’t perfect. He understood it wasn’t some attained perfection that qualified him for God’s work, but rather God’s grace and power on his life. In Philippians 3:12-14 he wrote, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Ironically, as I wrestled with my own doubt and feeling of not being enough, I sat across from a friend who echoed the same haunting thoughts. She felt shame about her past and unworthy of the calling God was moving her towards. Suddenly, when I could look at the situation from the outside instead of being muddled with my own emotion, I could see God’s truth and see how, just like Paul, every piece of her story was being used in a powerful way; nothing was wasted.
In 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 Paul, our same Jewish Roman Paul from above, wrote:
“Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.”
I will continue to fail or make mistakes on this journey. I will continue to look a fool at times. It will continue to baffle me that God invites me to be his ambassador. I will never be quite “good enough.” None of us are. That’s the whole point of the cross. That’s why God sent Jesus as the rescuer. We’re only made enough by Christ’s sacrifice for us.
In contrasting my friend’s life with mine, we have vastly different stories. Yet it’s those very differences that effect our circle of influence and allow God to use us in a specific way. Already, I can see how God has used my encounter with postpartum depression, my oh so spirited child, my struggles with anxiety, the pull-your-hair-out moments of motherhood, my hobbies, my passions, and even my introverted quietness to connect with, uplift, and encourage those around me.
God has a beautiful way of using the weak and foolish things to bring him glory.
All of these things are a part of me. For better or worse. But nothing is wasted.
So I will take my broken mess of a person, my personality flaws, my unique up-bringing and way of coming to faith, and remember that God has a beautiful way of using the weak and the foolish things to bring him glory. I will keep pressing on. And whenever I’m tempted to doubt God’s ability to use my foolish self, I will force myself to read this as a reminder!