I remember when I was a kid, I used to have this dream where I would be trying to fight someone, and no matter how hard I swung my arms, they moved so slow and so instead of punching the individual, it was like I was pushing them with my fists. As you can imagine, this wasn’t very effective, and the worst part was that I knew it was happening. I was aware of what was going on, and so I would try to swing harder and faster, but it didn’t matter. Nothing helped. I was giving it everything I had but accomplishing nothing, and couldn’t do anything about it.
There are times when my entire life feels this way. Nothing I try to make work does. Right now, my life is consumed with being a husband, a dad, a provider, a church planter and pastor, and as such, a leader, a Christian thinker, a servant, a preacher and teacher, a friend, an influence for Christ in day to day life and through various outlets such as social media, an author, a blogger, a healthy and fit person, a business owner, and the list could go on. All of these really do center upon and revolve around Christ, yet, despite a lot of doing, there are seasons where nothing seems to be happening. I’m swinging with everything I have but accomplishing nothing and can’t do anything about it. I’m totally aware of my situation and overwhelmed by things I know are ahead and hopelessly at the mercy of … well, everything! It’s during these times that I feel utterly and entirely useless, and he weight of my own futility becomes more than I can bear. I just want to quit. It’s not that I don’t want to try anymore… maybe sometimes it is, but more than that it’s the terrifying realization that, perhaps, I just can’t.
Then I look around at others who, I know, must be in the same boat as me. Yet, they seem to be doing all the things I have painfully concluded I can’t, only successfully and somewhat effortlessly and even naturally. They have their act together. Their finances seem to be in order. They are comfortably prepared for retirement or well on their way. They are pursuing various degrees. They appear to be pillars upon which their families securely rest. They’re running various side hustles, and posting crossfit pics. The churches they are planting or pastoring seem to be thriving. In ministry, they are innovating. They ooze with creativity. They are pumping out podcasts and blog posts. They travel around and preach. Again, the list could go on and does, and as it does, the pressure mounts and I sink further and further.
Then I wonder what others think when they see me. I wonder what they see. I wonder what their opinion of me is. I wonder what they think about our progress as a church plant. I wonder if they see success or failure. I wonder what they think about my philosophies as a pastor. I wonder if I have their approval. I wonder if my failures are as apparent to them as they are to me. I can’t live up to my own expectations. Have I lived up to theirs? How do I measure up? I drive myself crazy wondering about what others think of me, especially my peers, feeling inside that whatever their view of me is, I am fraud for leading them to have it.
So, here I am, swinging with everything I have, and at times accomplishing nothing for all my effort painfully aware of the fact that I am altogether incapable of being everything I am supposed to be, not even wanting to try. It’s about that time a friend sends me a song to consider having someone sing at church. This actually happened just recently. I was in a very dark place when I got a text from a close friend asking me what I thought about a song titled ‘What You Could Do With Me.’ Every single thing I have shared with you here pressed in on me like a massive spike with all the weight focused to a single point, and I began to listen to that song… The entire song is powerful, but the first two lines of the chorus smote my heart. “So I don’t have to be the strongest, Cause you are perfect in my weakness…” Those words were such a relief. All the weight and pressure completely melted away. I don’t have to be the strongest! It seems counter intuitive that such a statement would be empowering, yet it was and is both empowering and invigorating. I don’t have to be the strongest. I don’t have to measure up. Though I may be disappointed in myself, and others may be disappointed in me, God is not! God isn’t like others. He isn’t on the outside looking in, observing and monitoring with approval or disapproval as we meet or miss His standards or expectations. He isn’t passive with regard to our development. We are His workmanship. While we’re wrapped up with measuring up, God is doing His work and it’s through our weakness, regardless of how uncomfortable or humiliating it may be, that His strength is made perfect! There is just something comforting about the fact that God’s acceptance of us isn’t contingent upon anything. Again, He isn’t like us. We don’t have to impress Him. We are His work. You really need to let that sink in. If my entire world comes crashing down around me tomorrow, God doesn’t think less or more of me. What I see as failure is just another thing God is working through. That means it’s okay for me to fail. It’s okay that I don’t measure up. It’s okay because it’s not about me at all. I am God’s work, and He doesn’t fail.
This isn’t just for church planters or pastors, but that’s who I think of most regarding a post like this because of the pressure expectations and appearances can bring. Somewhere we got it in our heads that good Christians don’t struggle and pastors are supposed to be the best. The reality is good Christians struggle, and pastors are just as messed up as everyone else regardless of how things may seem. However, whoever you are and whatever you do, don’t forget that you are God’s child. You are His work. He’s is using all of life to shape you and mold you after the image of His Son, and everything is a part of that work. That’s His primary interest in you, and He won’t fail or give up. He won’t abandon you or discard you because you don’t measure up. He isn’t measuring you. He’s making you.
So, when you’re giving it everything you have but accomplishing nothing, and can’t seem to do anything about it. Don’t quit. No matter how much you may want to and no matter how defeated you may be, don’t quit. Instead, stop trying. Stop trying to measure up. Be who you are and trust God with what and who you are not. Trust Him with what you can’t do. Be who you are. You are His, and even when it seems like nothing is happening. Just remember. It is.