When You Feel Inadequate | Excerpt from "Journey Through Genesis"
October 24, 2018
Since we live in an imperfect world, we struggle with the imperfections we see around us...and inside of us.
Sometimes it feels like we see the worst imperfections in the mirror.
It is especially easy to feel inadequate when our imperfections disappoint the people around us. This has been true since the earliest days of humanity.
In the story of Cain and Abel told in Genesis 4, Cain came face to face with his imperfections. Both he and his brother Abel brought God an offering. Abel brought God an animal from his herd, while Cain brought God some of his crop. But when they came before God, God rejected Cain's offering, while he praised his brother's offering!
I often wonder why one offering was better than another. Did God simply prefer animals? No!
The truth is that God saw through Cain’s offering. God saw that Cain wasn't giving God his best--he was giving God his leftovers. It says that Abel gave God the FIRST of his crop. But Cain didn't give God the first of anything he had.
God called out the heart issues that laid behind giving God his “leftovers.” And Cain wasn’t happy with God’s response--“Cain grew angry and his face fell.” (v. 5)
When Cain’s imperfections were laid bare before God, he had to make a decision about how he would move forward. Would he learn from his brother’s offering and grow closer to God?
Free will grants us the opportunity to decide. And we don’t just make decisions about our external circumstances. In fact, the most important decisions we make are about our internal world, determining how we will deal with our emotions, our thoughts, and spirit.
God knew that Cain was at a crossroads--he could confront the inadequacies of his own heart and grow, or he could cultivate bitterness and anger. In verse 6, God reminds Cain of the decision in front of him--to grow and do better, or to allow anger to turn to sin:
“Why are you angry? If you do well, won’t you be accepted? And if you don’t do well, sin is lying in wait for you, ready to pounce; it’s out to get you, you’ve got to master it.” (V. 6-7).
Unfortunately, we know what C
ain chose. Instead of examining his own heart, he lashed out at his brother’s. Anger turned to sin, and sin, inevitably, led to death. Failure to face his imperfections led to his own destruction.
We also have a choice in how we deal with our imperfections. We can let them lead us closer to God as we ask Him to change our hearts. Or we can let them separate us from God and from the people around us.
How does this passage point to Jesus?
Jesus was the perfect human, free from flaws and imperfections. Yet he died on a cross, taking the place of a law-breaker so that we could be free to be born again--to start over. Allegiance to Jesus means that when God looks at us, He doesn’t see our imperfections. Instead, He sees Jesus! Jesus’ sacrifice means we are now capable of righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21) As Christians, we are completely new creations. We have a brand new identity--imperishable and impervious to spiritual death. We can have confidence as we grow in righteousness that we are conforming to our true selves, not trying to shake off the old!
What does this reveal about God?
Psalm 103:4 says that God “knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.” In other words, God knows that though we try our best, we often fail to live according to His righteous ways.
But that’s where grace comes in. Grace is defined as: “the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.” (Merriam Webster).
In other words, we can’t earn God’s love or favor due to our imperfections. But God chooses to love us and give us favor anyway. God’s grace empowers us to live righteously a little more every day. God’s grace keeps us from stumbling (Jude 1:24). He isn’t offended by our weaknesses. In fact, scripture teaches that in our weakness, God is able to show himself strong. In our imperfection, God shows Himself perfect. His power is fully displayed, and made perfect, through our weaknesses. When He comes through again and again for his imperfect people, He is glorified (2 Cor. 12:19).
“But he 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.” -2 Corinthians 12:19
1. We are all fail to measure up in some way. How does this truth affect your life? Do you often feel inadequate? In what areas?
We are all fail to measure up in some way. Do you often feel inadequate? In what areas?
When faced with your imperfections, how do you react? Are you tempted to get defensive, or blame others, like Cain? How can you make a different choice? Pray that the Holy Spirit would empower you to turn to God and rely on His perfect strength in these tough moments.
Sometimes we feel most inadequate when we are comparing ourselves to others or using a standard that God simply never asked us to use. Do you often compare yourself to others? What standard do you use to judge your “performance” on any given day? Pray that God would set you free from comparison: God, please help me shake off the bondage of comparison and self-judgement. Help me to live out my unique identity and assignment in You!
God, You are the perfect and eternal Lord. Thank you for coming to rescue sinners. Thank you for perfectly embodying grace. Your love and favor for me is totally unmerited. God, I don’t want to live constantly feeling inadequate. Instead, I want to keep becoming more like You through the power of your grace. As I walk with you each day, make me more like You. Let your power be made perfect in my weaknesses. Help me deal with my imperfections in emotionally healthy ways. I lay down comparison with others now. I lay down unhealthy standards for my life now. I ask that you would help me thrive in my unique identity and purpose in You. Jesus, thank you for your sacrifice that shows just how amazing God’s grace truly is. Amen.