I remember gently rocking my newborn son in the early morning hours as I gazed out the window into the dark, lifeless night. Panic washed over me. The responsibility I carried in regards to that tiny person in my arms was a gigantic burden on my heart. I had never felt so small and helpless. The world had never felt so large or broken or evil.
How would I ever protect him from such a big world with more dangers than I wanted to think about? How would I ever have enough answers for the longings of his soul or the questions in his mind? How would I ever understand him enough, encourage him enough, be wise enough, patient enough, brave enough, smart enough…the list goes on. How would I ever be enough? The task I had been given was bigger than me and the life I was holding was too precious to fail.
That newborn baby is now a teenager preparing to drive and launch out into that same big, dangerous world I feared as a new mother and maybe fear even more now as an experienced one. Still, I feel the burden to be enough.
There are marketing campaigns aimed at encouraging us we are enough. They tell us we are enough for our kids, for our spouses, for our friends, and even for ourselves, just the way we are. As I sat in that rocking chair years ago, though, holding my precious baby boy, I knew the truth: I’m not enough. I can’t possibly be enough.
I won’t always be with him to protect him, I won’t always have the answers, I won’t always know how to guide him, or exactly where to lead him. In addition, I won’t always have enough patience, enough wisdom, enough selflessness, or enough time to truly be enough for him or for anyone.
We all feel our inability to fully meet the needs of those we love and who depend on us. We desperately try to be enough and beat ourselves up for failing. Our anxiety runs high as we attempt to be it all and do it all. We lie awake worrying until the wee hours of the morning. We read article after article listening to expert after expert, most of whom disagree with each other, eventually becoming paralyzed with indecision because we don’t want to mess up. We don’t want to make a mistake.
Our struggle isn’t unwarranted. Life is complicated, confusing, and hard. It’s a scary world! School shootings, bullying, natural disasters, car accidents, health issues, diseases, terrorism, etc., threaten us physically and emotionally. How do we keep our families safe?
People we are supposed to look to for answers, including those with fancy degrees and in positions of authority, are fallible and many times corrupted by their desire for recognition, power, money, and maybe by their own struggles with fear. Who do we trust?
In an age of information you would think it would be easier to make an informed decision and, yet, so much of the information at our fingertips is tainted by subtle (or not so subtle) agendas, especially today where the existence of truth is doubted or outright denied and questions are discouraged. How do we know what to believe?
We also live in an era of mob mentality that is intensified by social media. Mistakes aren’t allowed. Questioning the socially accepted narrative and the subsequent path is vilified. You aren’t just parenting differently, you haven’t just made a mistake, you’re a bad parent and maybe even a bad person. Yikes! How do we handle the judgment?
Additionally, there are the expectations of friends and family and spouses to be enough for them, to meet their needs, and to fill their gaps. Not only are we under pressure to be enough, but we pressure others to be enough for us.
Talk about an anxiety-producing scenario! But, is this the reality and hopeless situation to which we have each been abandoned? Is it really all up to me? All up to you? Do we have to be enough?
Thankfully, God has something to say to us in our anxiety, confusion, and, generally, overwhelmed existence.
God doesn’t call us to be enough and He doesn’t pretend that we can be enough just the way we are. God says that you and I, like all of us, are sinners who fall short (Romans 3:23). Because of this truth, it would be foolish for us to trust in ourselves to be enough.
“Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.” Proverbs 28:26
He also warns against looking to other people to be enough.
“It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.” Psalm 118:8
“Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord.” Jeremiah 17:5
Broken, fallen, sinful people, myself included, will never be enough, at least not in the ultimate way we long for. We know this deep down, but it can be very hard to accept. We default to leaning on our own understanding or the understanding of the experts, but there is One who is enough. He made us and He loves us with a perfect love. To look to ourselves or others necessitates turning away from Him.
I have recognized that I am spending more time looking to myself and the experts than I am to God. What does that reveal about where my trust is anchored? No wonder I’m anxious and fearful and overwhelmed!
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6
Part of the problem is that I don’t want to relinquish control. On some level, I want to be a little god ruling over my life and the lives of those I care about. Control is a farce and as long as I fight for that position I will be anxious and overwhelmed and will most likely destroy all I hope to save. Who am I in my broken, fallen, sinful state to assume I would rule the world better than the Holy, righteous, one true God?
“God in His love always wills what is best for us. In His wisdom He always knows what is best, and in His sovereignty He has the power to bring it about.” Jerry Bridges, Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts
With God there is rest. I don’t have to be enough because He is. I don’t have to be in control because He is. Leaning on my own understanding, on my own strength, and my own righteousness will not save me from the valley of the shadow of death, but there is a big difference between a valley faced as a sheep with only the help of other sheep and a valley faced with the Good Shepherd.
Looking to myself and others to be enough doesn’t protect me from the storms of life, but in turning from God, I deny myself (and my family) the power, the peace, the joy, the purpose, and the love of God in the storms. Foolish, indeed!
In Mark 4:35-41, the disciples and Jesus take off in a boat having taught and ministered to a great multitude of people all day. Jesus was likely exhausted and it tells us He fell asleep in the stern. Suddenly, a great windstorm comes upon them as they travel across the water. Huge waves crash into the boat. The storm was violent enough that the disciples grew fearful for their lives and were probably growing weary in fighting against the wind and waves. They finally wake Jesus and ask for his help, insinuating that He didn’t care they were perishing. With three words, Jesus brings the storm into submission and there is a great calm: “Peace! Be still!”
How long had the disciples tried to be enough to meet that storm before they turned to Jesus? How long had they depended on their own strength and their own understanding before they cried out to him? They waited until they feared they would die.
Maybe the disciples knew Jesus was tired and didn’t want to disturb him, but their shocked response when the storm obeyed Jesus, and Jesus’ rebuke, tell us something else: they lacked faith.
They didn’t turn to Him earlier because they didn’t believe He was the answer. Maybe when they woke Him it was in the hope that He would grab a bucket and help them shovel out the water that was collecting in the boat? Maybe they thought He could help manage the situation? Maybe they were simply looking for another set of helping hands?
“Do you not care that we are perishing?” they ask. Perhaps there is an implied, “Grab a bucket and help! We’re doing all we can and you’re asleep!” Instead of grabbing a bucket, though, Jesus speaks directly to the storm, and the storm listens and obeys.
It seems the disciples were not prepared for that. Whatever they were expecting Jesus to do, taking charge of the storm wasn’t it. They went from fearing the storm to fearing Jesus: “And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’”
How long do I spend fighting the storms of life in my own strength, leaning on my own understanding, before I finally cry out to Jesus? Is it that I doubt He cares or that I think I can handle it better? Do I question His goodness or His power? Might Jesus say the same thing to me in my storms as He said to the disciples, “Do you still lack faith?”
How many years have I known Him and walked with Him? How often has He answered me, strengthened me, comforted me, saved me, and, yet, I still act as if something in me or in another is the answer I seek.
Like the disciples, I am humbled and in awe of the power and the love of the One who commands the wind and waves, the One who is faithful to me even when I lack faith.
Let me, instead, acknowledge Him in all things and trust Him to make straight my paths in His timing and in His way. Let me lay down my attempts to be enough, to lean on my own understanding, and rest in the One who is enough.
It’s not the storms I am to fear but the One the storms obey, and not with a doubting fear that questions the character of God, but with an awe-filled fear. There is One greater than the storms of this life: King Jesus! He is enough! Indeed, He is more than enough!
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7