As we wrap up the series on self-judgment, it would be amiss to not also talk about the physical battles that many of us face, illness, depression, anxiety, and other disabilities that interfere with our daily life.
For example, I suffer from a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) from a car accident a few years ago. While the accident was not my fault, it is easy for me to judge myself for all of my inadequacies and issues caused by the injury. I struggle with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, lack of energy, and diminished brain capacity that can affect my everyday functions. Giving up seems like a valid option.
Yet I believe that there is still more for me to do and accomplish in life. With that said, I understand (perhaps more than most) how easy it is to let physical limitations define us. My brain is full of completely valid excuses as to why I am not worthy, capable, or qualified to move beyond simply surviving.
However, I also believe the Bible when Paul speaks in Philippians 4:13 that “I can do all things through him (Christ) who gives me strength.” Strength. That is a hard word to fathom when one feels so weak. But that is perhaps when we can be most used by God. When we are at the end of our rope. When we have nothing left to give. When pride and self-reliance can give way to our all-powerful God. Now we are ready!
You see, it is not about what we can do for God. It is about what God can do through us. He does not need us to be strong, perfect, or already have it all put together. He just needs us to be willing to allow Him to use us. We look at ourselves and judge us unworthy or incapable because we have it backward: we think that our worthiness comes from what we can do and accomplish. But through Christ, we are already worthy.
Peter reminds us that as Christ Followers we are “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:9. Peter is not telling us that we must first be worthy of this gift. We were not “chosen” because of our fitness, mental agility, or life’s accompaniments. We were chosen simply by accepting the Gospel because we saw that in our weakness, only Christ could save us. Only He can make us strong.
“But he (Christ) said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.
Among other things, Paul was referring to his own physical afflictions, an ailment that he never recovered from. Yet, God used Paul in his weakness to do amazing things. This does not mean that Paul was healed or given miraculous strength and fortitude to overcome his affliction. He was not always able to “power through.” No, he openly tells us that he suffered, that he had good days and bad. But this did not change God’s plans for Paul and it does not change his plans for us.
It is often easy for me to see my physical limitations as a reason to believe that God has called others who are stronger, healthier, and more capable to accomplish His work. It is easy for me to discount both myself and God’s plan by focusing on my bad days instead of realizing that God is almighty and always in control. What it really comes down to is a lack of understanding of God’s true compassion. I figure since I can’t always be on my “A-game” that God would not want or have use for me. I tend to think that God sees me as I often see myself: broken, diminished, and ineffective. That, like me, all he focuses on are my bad days where pain, depression, and anxiety can keep me barricaded in a dark room for hours or days on end.
“The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.” Psalm 116:5. While I focus on what I can’t do, God wants to focus on what I can do or, more importantly, what He can do through me. The Bible is full of examples of God using broken and hurting people for His glory. His compassion for us does not require us to be strong and at our best. It simply requires us to be willing. He understands that we will have both good days and bad. It is you and I who ultimately needs to come to terms with our reality, not God. We must be OK in our weakness while basking in God’s strength. We must learn to seek out His strength instead of fighting for our own. We must stop judging ourselves for our bad days and instead praise God for each and every day.
Most importantly, we must recognize that our limitations are not God’s limitations. We should allow Him to work through us, not how we think things should be done, but in the knowledge and peace that God knows exactly where we are and how to use us in all the glory of our limitations. Having a bad day and struggling in our weaknesses does not disqualify us the next day or the next. We may be disappointed by an unproductive day, week, or month, but our God is compassionate and understanding. He knows how and when to use us. Again, our job is to just be willing and ready. Sometimes this means He gives us the strength to overcome. Other times it means He gives us the grace to rest and recover. Through it all, God is with us. Let us remain in Him, free of self-judgment and full of anticipation and excitement for what is to come. Amen!