It was 2am and darkness blanketed more than just the empty hotel room. As sleep teased my exhausted heart, the light from my phone illuminated the moment. The message was as long as it was heavy, making the tears difficult to push back.
“My greatest struggle is I don’t feel like I’m enough. My track record proves the truth; I’m not successful enough, not a good enough parent, not attractive enough… I’m not enough to ever be loved”
I’ve thought about those words for weeks now. Crafting a response to my friend that night was difficult because every one of those fears was a lie in my eyes, and yet every one of those fears was true in the world’s eyes. The measure of success, attractiveness, and parenting ability was something my friend had indeed failed at… if we are letting the culture decide.
And to be honest, I’ve tried the relationship thing, too. People put standards of “lovable” on each other that most of us truly never could live up to.
As I fumbled for a response, the text message stirred up something in me I had worked so hard to conquer, and that night I too gave in to the lie. Together we wallowed in a sea of “not enoughs.” Maybe you have felt some too…
Not pretty enough…
Not tall enough…
Not thin enough…
Not smart enough…
Not successful enough…
Not patient enough…
Not creative enough…
Not a good enough parent…
Not educated enough…
Not talented enough…
Not organized enough…
The reality was heavy on my heart that night. In this cookie cutter world, all of those things might be true about my friend. About me. And maybe even about you. We’re not enough to compete with airbrushed bodies, Martha Stewart kitchens, or even the mom next door. Given the list, we will always fall short somewhere.
But what if God never wanted us to live in a cookie cutter world? What if God has a completely different set of standards for His “list”?
Ok, it’s not so much a “what if” question. Do you realize that? God has absolutely NO INTENTION of us living in a cookie cutter world where the “enoughs” are defined by a culture that has little desire for the things of heaven. Have you ever thought about that? Have you ever considered how we look at ourselves and create a list of requirements that doesn’t even line up with what God wants for us?
Usually we rehearse a few verses to remind ourselves that God says we are enough and then we go to bed feeling only a tiny bit less defeated. I’m not saying it’s a bad idea to quote verses or to remind ourselves that God says we’re enough. Both are important, but it’s only a temporary band-aid. If we want to stay out of the gutter of “not-enoughs” we have to change the way we think about what it means to “be enough.”
What the Bible says about “being enough”
1. You’re not enough. (That’s the hard truth.)
First we need to clear up something super important. WE AREN’T ENOUGH. We never will be and we weren’t created to be. God created us to depend on Him for everything. Alone, we are sinful, wretched people, capable of nothing good. Even our best attempts are filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). We can’t do anything of value without Christ.
So, we’re not enough.
This might sound horrible to you, but it’s actually a blessing. It’s a relief. We don’t have to even try to be “enough” because God already has that covered for us. It’s His job. It’s not our job to be perfect parents or the answer to our spouse’s deepest struggle. We need to leave that stuff up to God. We are simply vessels for His use, not the answer to people’s problems.
2. God uses both our successes and failures.
Nearly every single person mentioned in the Bible was a tragic failure. Have you ever considered that? David murdered and cheated. Jonah ran. Elijah couldn’t hold himself together. Peter denied Jesus. Paul persecuted Christians.
The list goes on and on. The trouble is, we focus on the good stuff these people did. We focus on their successes and their victories. Know why? Because the Bible is written to help us do just that. It’s the perfect reflection of exactly how God sees us… not as the summary of life’s failures, but as the success of His mercy and grace.
Psalm 145:14 reminds us that God upholds us when we fall. Like He did with each of the people in the Bible, He uses our mistakes and failures to teach us more about Him, to show His mercy, and to encourage others as they find themselves unable to measure up.
No one in the Bible was “enough” by our culture’s standards. Their list would have been much longer than the one I made above. Moses wasn’t a good enough speaker. Gideon wasn’t a good enough soldier. Eve wasn’t a good enough wife or mother. And it’s a good thing, too. Because if any of these people had “been enough” we would likely be tempted to look to them instead of looking to the cross.
That’s why it’s important that we as Christians never fall victim to the push to be enough. The people around us will always find disappointment in what we can offer them, but they will find God to be enough for their every need, want, and desire. If we attempt to be enough for them, we rob them of the blessing of finding God to be enough.
3. God uses both strengths and weaknesses to show His glory in our lives.
If there is one lesson I’ve realized as I’ve gotten older, it’s the beauty of both our strengths and weaknesses. I know we think we were all created the same, but it’s not true. We are all of the same value to God, but that doesn’t mean we all look, feel, think, act, or are gifted in the same ways. As a Christian, this is truly a huge relief. Why? Well, we don’t have to do it all or be everything to everyone.
God makes it clear we all have different roles in the body of Christ. Some are better teachers and some are better at coming alongside you with support. I’m sure you’ve noticed this. I’m one of those people who is much better at teaching or leading than I am at supporting someone in a compassionate way. For years I fought this and felt guilty about it.
I used to pray God would make me into one of those compassionate types. You know, the ones who always remember your granny is in the hospital and are the first to reach out to help when you need it. I knew people around me who were so good at this and felt sure I needed to grow because clearly I was awful at it.
But over the years, I began to see God didn’t gift me that way. It’s not that I don’t care. OH, I DO CARE. I just don’t see the hurts and needs the same way others do. I have to work very hard to remember even my close friends and ask about their problems because my natural bent, the things God created me to be good at, don’t include that “caregiving” type compassion others are blessed with.
I’m not saying I shouldn’t try my best, only that I shouldn’t try to be what God created someone else to be. It’s ok if I’m not as compassionate as someone else. It’s taken me most of 40 years to come to a place where I can say (in my right mind anyway) that I am still enough. Even though compassion isn’t my top quality, God gave me other things and I’ve learned to appreciate those things and use them for HIS glory.
My friend, that’s what life is about. It’s not about being like your friend, neighbor, or that person who seems to have everything right. We aren’t cookies made to live on display. We are creations of a Holy God who intends to get His glory by using both the strengths and weaknesses in our lives to show Himself faithful to others.
It’s where our own abilities and efforts end that God can truly shine through us in a way that impacts those around us.
I love this truth. I also love the freedom it brings us. Instead of beating ourselves up over what we never will be, we can focus on what we are naturally good at and ask God (and others) to help us in those places we are not as strong in.
This isn’t a sign of weakness, failure, or a good reason not to have a relationship with another person. It’s the beauty of the body of Christ. When we LEAN on the people around us who are gifted in those areas where we are tempted to fall back into the “not-enough syndrome,” we allow their gift to bless us and every one has a secure and needed part in the family of God.
What to do when you feel like you’re not enough
The first thing you can do when you struggle with not feeling like you’re enough is to go back up and remind yourself of the 3 truths I stated above. Write them down in your journal or on a notecard.
Do whatever it takes to remind yourself that you don’t have to be enough. You don’t want to please the world’s standards anyway, and your weaknesses/failures are the very thing God uses to show Himself faithful to others around you.
Reprogramming this way of thinking takes time, so go over those truths often. Every time you start to go down the wrong path, pull them out and speak them out loud several times.
Yes, I really want you to speak them out loud. When we proclaim God’s truth out loud, the enemy shudders. The strongholds he wants to claim over our mind can’t stand up to our verbal declaration that those things are lies, so keep at it until it’s no longer something you struggle with.
The second thing you absolutely have to do is guard your heart against “band-aids” that won’t fix the problem. I’m reminded of an old country song I listened to in my teens. The lyrics claim, “One good love erases all.” Ha. What a crazy lie. You can’t cover up your past hurts or failures with other people, better situations, money, drugs, sex, chocolate ice cream, or anything else you might medicate with.
Only God erases all. Everything else is a band-aid that will fall off, leaving you exposed once again.
I wish I could tell you the whole story here, but let me promise you I’ve bought these lies and know first hand that no man will make you “pretty enough.” No amount of money will make you “successful enough.” All of those things fail in time. God is the only thing that will never EVER fail you.
Bible verses for when you feel like you’re not enough
Lastly, I would encourage you to bask in God’s truth–that’s the Bible. It’s not anything I’ve said here or anything friends, counselors, or pastors will share either. You have to personally know what God says and what He thinks concerning you. I’ve included some verses to start with below. Look them up and mark them in your Bible.
Write them out and replace the pronouns with your name. These promises are for you and they are 100% true. We’ve included a printable for you to hang somewhere where you will see it often and remember… through Christ’s love, you are more than enough.
Your turn—> Share your favorite verse or tip for others who feel like they’re not enough. Let’s build each other up!