All of us, at some stage of our lives, feel inadequate. Whether starting a new job, serving in ministry, or parenting our children, we each face circumstances that leave us feeling deficient, unable to succeed.
Perhaps your pastor asked you to teach a Sunday school class or serve in an area that seems beyond your ability.
You want to step out in faith, but, aware of your limitations, you secretly wonder if you should. What if you embarrass yourself in front of your peers?
As uncomfortable as these situations might seem, they present opportunities for growth—both spiritually and emotionally. How do we overcome our feelings of inadequacy to move into all that God has for us?
The apostle Paul shows us how.
Paul understood feelings of inadequacy. When faced with the call of God, he asked, ‘Who is adequate for these things?” (2 Corinthians. 2:16, NASB). Although Paul felt that he was a ‘nobody” (2 Corinthians 12:11, NASB), he looked beyond his limitations to God’s sufficiency, declaring boldly, ‘I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13, NASB).
Our adequacy comes not from ourselves but from God.
Paul conceded, ‘Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God” (2 Corinthians 3:5, NASB).
Like the apostle Paul, we must recognize our adequacy comes not from ourselves but from God.
Experiencing God’s Sufficiency
Several years ago while teaching teen Sunday school, the head of the Potomac District Christian Education (CE) Department asked me to teach at a regional CE conference, despite the fact that I had little public speaking experience. The night before the conference, I experienced overwhelming feelings of fear and inferiority. What do I have to say that could possibly help other teachers? Who am I to train others how to teach effectively?
I opened my Bible and began to pray. As God’s peace stilled the unrest in my soul, my eyes fell to this verse:
‘Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
Morning dawned, and I headed to the church to teach my class. Nervous and anxious, I stumbled during my introduction. But about five minutes into my presentation, I noticed people leaning in, eager to hear what I had to say. Despite my overwhelming feelings of inadequacy, God proved himself faithful and sufficient. I was blessed, and so were those who came to hear me speak.
Moving Beyond Feelings of Inadequacy
When faced with circumstances and events that leave you feeling inadequate, it helps to ask yourself, ‘Will I be controlled by fear and feelings of inadequacy or by God’s Spirit?” ‘Am I willing to step out in faith, despite momentary discomfort, to obey God and glorify His name?” If you are ready to overcome your feelings of inadequacy, here are some practical steps to help.
- Admit your feelings of inadequacy to God in prayer and ask Him to strengthen and equip you for the task. You might pray something like this: Lord, I feel inadequate for the task before me. I believe You opened this door before me, and now I ask for Your sufficiency and strength as I walk forward in obedience.
- Share your feelings with one or two trusted friends who can affirm you in God’s Word and pray with you before the event, as well as for you during the event.
- If your feelings of inadequacy are rooted in traumatic experiences, seek God’s healing. If necessary, seek professional Christian counseling. Do not let past traumatic experiences rob you of God’s best. God can and will redeem your past and use it for His glory!
- Spend enough time in practical preparation. Do your homework. If you are asked to speak to a group, know your topic well. Rehearse before the event and ask friends for feedback. Adequate preparation is a wonderful tool to relieve anxiety and stress.
- Step out in faith. God will honor your obedience.
- Everyone experiences feelings of inadequacy at one time or another. Those successful in life recognize that although feelings of inadequacy may persist, victory comes when we move forward in obedience, despite our feelings! Our feelings of inadequacy are opportunities for spiritual growth, for dependence on God, and for God to display His power through us.
May we, like the apostle Paul, learn to say, ‘I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13, NASB).