Are You Strong Enough to Admit You are Weak?

What is weakness?

Dictionary.com defines weakness as…

“Lack of strength, firmness, vigor or the like; feebleness.”

“An inadequate or defective quality, as in a person’s character; slight fault or defect.”

While I understand these official definitions, I better connect with the following one:

“Any limitation you can’t change by yourself.” (Pastor Steve Miller)

I like the third definition of weakness because it gives hope. For me, the official definitions give too much of a discarded sense to the idea of weakness. Sure, weaknesses limit, but they also afford the possibility for improvement.

Improving Through Weaknesses

The best way to improve through weaknesses is by admitting they existConsidering my own weaknesses, while not pleasant to acknowledge within and then admit outwardly, takes me down a path of self-evaluation. This path, one we all must take if we expect to grow, also requires that we recognize how automatic our weaknesses seem to operate in our lives until we directly address them.

Walking With a Limp

Jacob walked with a limp, and it served as a reminder of His encounter with God (Genesis 32:22-32). Paul had a “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7) that served to keep him humble.

Both Jacob and Paul moved forward in spite of their weaknesses. They did so by depending on God for strength, which Paul helps us better understand with these words…

“Each time He said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So, now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

As with Jacob and Paul, our weaknesses can remind us of our dependence on God and can counteract the dangerous state of independence. In fact, the power of God will increasingly dominate your life the more you acknowledge your weaknesses and let Him be glorified as you limp through life.

Weaknesses Provide Opportunity

Our weaknesses can motivate us to keep in daily contact with God as we learn to rely on Him to overcome our limitations. Ministry opportunities also increase when we become aware of our weaknesses and allow God to use them. Weaknesses connect us with others who have similar weaknesses, and together we get to learn to let God use our weaknesses for His glory.

Weaknesses Promote Fellowship

As we become more aware of our weaknesses, we also become more aware of those who can partner with us. God works through others in amazing ways, including through balancing each other through strengths and weaknesses.

Being strong enough to admit you are weak means admitting the existence of your weaknesses. It means understanding that these weaknesses will not go away, that we really don’t want them to, and that only the power of God can turn them into great triumphs.

3 Ways to Reduce Busyness & Discover Simplicity

busyToo busy?

Recently, I overheard a friend say, “I am done with holidays.” She explained that holidays were just too stressful and gave her too much to do along with having to deal with the drama that often accompanies family gatherings.

Since I know this person well, I also know that these words really characterize her whole life. She always has too much to do, and she’s always stressed. Which basically means that the holiday (Thanksgiving in this case) undeservedly received the blame for her stress.

Why are you so busy?busyness

Our culture is one of busyness, and I truly feel burdened for those I know and love who are simply too busy. This burden comes from living in that reality, being broken by it, and rebuilding a simple life without the weight of busyness. In other words, I’ve been there and know the way out. More importantly, I know that there IS a way out.

Much of this busyness comes from the seasons of life. Kids need attention, loved ones are sick, work is overloaded and ministry calls. This busyness, to a large extent, is simply the inevitable busyness of life itself.

But busyness reaches toxic levels when we, by deliberate choice, choose to do more than we are capable of doing. These are the things we say “yes” to because we “should” or because “someone has to do it.” They are the things born out of perfectionism and long-standing habits. This toxic level reaches epic proportions when we pile on “things to do” as a way to avoid doing the hard work of creating a balanced life focused on true priorities. Instead, we get lost in the multitude of activities, obligations and commitments.

When we’re too busy, we don’t have time for deepening relationships. We don’t have time to work through issues that created rifts. We don’t have time to read that which would deepen our character. We don’t have time to get the rest we need. We don’t have time to make healthy choices. And, worst of all, we don’t have time to spend one-on-one with God.

But my friend who said, “I am done with holidays” actually got at a very important point. Busyness and overload seem amplified during the holidays. We may casually notice at other times, but busyness suddenly jumps out as out of control during the holidays. The time between Thanksgiving and New Years seems to magnify the need to slow down and enjoy friends and family. It emphasizes the crucial need to worship God made flesh, which has a way of making us realize our desperate need for a simpler life.

Trapped in busyness?

Many people feel trapped in busyness. They realize that busyness creates an inner conflict that seems impossible to reconcile. This becomes amplified during the holidays and is really why my friend meant when she said, “I am done with holidays.” With that in mind, let’s explore three ways to reduce busyness and discover simplicity no matter the time of year.

busy 2Reduce Busyness and Discover Simplicity

1.) Make small changes. Small changes done consistently over time add up to make a huge difference. Becoming instantly un-busy won’t happen, but making small adjustments will slowly reduce busyness. Taking your time with this process rather than trying to “quit cold turkey” increases its staying power.

2.) Accept the painful truth. You will have to say “no” to some good things. You will have to let things you really want to do go in order to do the things that are truly important.

3.) Commit busyness to prayer. Ask God to show you how to become less busy. Ask Him to show you how to simplify. And most importantly, ask Him to change your heart towards busyness and to help you realize that obedience to Him does not mean saying “yes” to every opportunity that passes through your awareness.

Transforming a busy life is really hard. It requires brokenness. It requires letting go of attachment to accomplishments. It means admitting that under our own strength, we try to do too much. And it means admitting that without some help and without deliberate choice, we will continue feeling the increasing weight of busyness.

Pursuing Perfection, Part III

Path to PerfectionPursuing Perfection, Part I defined perfectionism and helped us view it through God’s eyes. Pursuing Perfection, Part II showed how we are already perfect in God’s eyes because we receive the instantaneous perfection occurring at salvation. This third part in the series takes the idea of perfection further as we look at how perfection is a process (aka progressive sanctification).

We do have a part to play…

Perfectionists have one thing right, we are supposed to pursue perfection. But they go about it completely wrong by relying on their own efforts to achieve the objective.

Those with a “good enough” mindset have it partially right too in that the goal is impossible. Because our efforts don’t get us to the objective, we sometimes just don’t bother to try very hard. But, the “why bother” approach does not match up with God’s desires for us either.

(Note: See Pursuing Perfection, Part I to better understand the definition of perfectionism and perfectionists as well as what a “good enough” mindset entails.)

Fortunately, scripture clearly tells us what our role is in this process. And this role involves the activity of the Holy Spirit working in our lives toward perfection. The following are all a part of the process of being perfected:

  1. Endurance/Patience (James 1:4) – Never giving up. Reaching the end of the race. Crossing the finish line.
  2. Love (Colossians 3:14) – Binds us together in perfect harmony. The glue for unity.
  3. Holiness (2 Corinthians 7:1) – Get rid of the bad stuff that draws us  away and distracts us from God.
  4. Praise (Psalm 8:2) – Silences our enemies.
  5. Faith (1 Thessalonians 3:10) – Growing in faith takes us toward perfection.
  6. Good Works (Hebrews 13:21) – God equips and gives the desire to do them. They illustrate our faith.
  7. Unity (John 17:23) – We are more powerful as one, strong body than individual parts working separately.
  8. Strength/Power (2 Corinthians 12:9) Our imperfection (weaknesses) allows His power to show. When we try to be perfect in our own efforts, His power is no longer the focus.

If we focus on these attributes, which God enables in us through His grace, we can know we are moving toward perfection. They provide a gauge by which we can assess our progress. The specifics of how these are carried out through the work we do, ministry, our hobbies & interests, etc., are unique to each individual. This eliminates the need for comparisons or competition with regard to sanctification.

The Struggle with Perfection

The struggle with perfection comes because we live in an imperfect world, we are imperfect people, and perfection really is impossible for us. But that doesn’t mean we should give up on the goal of perfection. We can’t go to the other extreme and put forth little to no effort just because we know perfection isn’t possible.

A huge part of my spiritual growth has been the renewal of my mind in the area of perfectionism. But that doesn’t mean that mindset has completely disappeared. For me, it means that I choose not to let the perfectionist in me direct my life. Yes, I’ve learned not to let perfectionism rule and reign and instead to allow a perfect God to rule and reign.

  • I’ve learned that the perfect shoes, bag & hairstyle don’t exist.
  • I’ve learned that I don’t have to correct people’s grammar constantly.
  • I’ve learned that most people don’t notice when commas or periods are missing.
  • I’ve learned that my own efforts to be perfect lead to a muddy and miry pit.
  • I’ve learned that God perfects others, not me.
  • I’ve learned that compassion, flexibility & forgiveness require accepting imperfections.
  • I’ve learned that walking the road to sanctification (holiness) makes my friendships, marriage and kids want to strive for perfection too.
  • I’ve learned that imperfection allows God to be more fully present in my life as I admit my need for Him to perfect me.

At the same time, I want to encourage those who are discouraged to the point of not wanting to try because they know perfection is impossible. God wants us to pursue perfection but to do so depending on Him. He wants us to play the role He has given us to play and to always strive for our best. And, He’s given us a way to accomplish perfection, both now and in the progressive sanctification that is our lives.

So taking this to heart, we need to remember…

  • We cannot become perfect through our own efforts.
  • “Good enough” thinking leads to lukewarm Christians.
  • God, in His grace, has already made us perfect through Jesus.
  • We do have a role to play in the process of being perfected.

DISCUSSION: How does the process of pursuing perfection – also called progressive sanctification – exist in your life today?

Pursuing Perfection, Part II

As we established in Pursuing Perfection, Part I, God wants us to be perfect. He knows that won’t happen through our own efforts, though, so He made a way for us to be perfect. Our own efforts won’t bring perfection. The world’s path won’t either. Only God’s way provides a way for perfection to become a reality.

You’re Already Perfect!Path to Perfection

Consider the following people’s lives. If you read the scripture reference, you’ll actually see these individuals described as “perfect” “mature,” having “wisdom,” “blameless” “righteous” and even “without blemish.” All of these get at the idea of perfection in the eyes of God.

If these individuals and groups of people – with their human frailties and significant mistakes – are seen as perfect (without fault) to God, why can’t we, even on this side of heaven, be considered “perfect” too?

How do we reach perfection?

“People throw away what they could have by insisting on perfection, which they cannot have, and looking for it where they will never find it.” (Edith Shaeffer)

If perfection is impossible, why bother? Why not coast through life with a “good enough” mentality? For two reasons. First, God tells us to strive for perfection. Second, He has provided a way for us to be perfect.

We can be perfect through…

  1. God – His grace perfects, confirms, strengthens and establishes us (1 Peter 5:10).
  2. Christ – He has already achieved perfection for us (Hebrews 10:14).
  3. The Holy Spirit – Our human effort blinds us to the process of perfection the Holy Spirit leads us through (Galatians 3:3).
  4. God’s Word – Imperfect hands + the perfect tool (His Word) = adequately equipped (2 Timothy 3:16, 17).
  5. Ministry – Matures the body of Christ to perfection (Ephesians 4:11-13).
  6. Sufferings – Jesus, the author (perfector) of our salvation, was the perfect leader because of His sufferings (Hebrews 2:10).
  7. Love – Drives out our fear, including the fear of not being perfect (1 John 4:18).

The Pressure is Off!

“Grace is God acting in our lives to do what we cannot do on our own.” (Dallas Willard)

God perfected us through Christ, and nothing we do can reach the goal of perfection. But, that doesn’t mean we just give up and coast through life.

Scripture clearly says that perfection comes through Christ; it’s instantaneous at salvation. But, it also say that it’s at the same time a progressive work in our lives. Pursuing Perfection, Part III gets at how that progression exists based on scripture.

DISCUSSION: How does your life change knowing that the pressure is off to be perfect because, through Christ, you already are perfect?

Pursuing Perfection, Part I

Defining Perfectionism

This topic pulls at strings deep inside my heart and mind. Not only does it represent a personal struggle, it also reflects a struggle I see in those I love too. Perfectionism creates a focus on self, and many – myself included – find this mindset difficult to shake. For this reason, this series will address this widespread challenge and look at the path to freedom from its dictatorship.

7-16-13 perfectAre you a perfectionist?

Consider the following definitions:

Perfect = complete or to complete thoroughly

Perfection = the state of being entirely without fault

Perfectionist = a person who is displeased by anything that does not meet very high standards

Perfectionism = a personal standard, attitude or philosophy that demands perfection and rejects anything else

Still not sure? Read through the following signs to help clarify whether or not you’re a perfectionist:

  1. All or nothing thinking
  2. Critical eye (worse on self than others)
  3. Pushed toward goals by fear of not reaching then
  4. Unrealistic standards
  5. Focused on results instead of the process
  6. Depressed by unmet goals
  7. Fear of failure
  8. Procrastination
  9. Defensiveness
  10. Low self-esteem

Confession time: I said “yes” to all 10 of these. Clearly, a perfectionist mindset securely grasps my thinking. While this is a more widespread issue for me, many people are perfectionists only in certain areas of life. For example, my oldest son is a perfectionist with grades in school but not in other areas of life.

My Perfectionist Story

When I was a child & through high school, I lived life without much guidance or any focused plan. In college, I became a perfectionist. Why? Maybe I wanted control over my life, or perhaps I wanted to finally feel good about myself, or it could be I wanted others to acknowledge my accomplishments. Most likely it was a combination of these and other reasons.

Regardless of why it started, my battle with perfectionism eventually found its way into virtually every area of my life.

  • Perfect shoes – Guys don’t understand, but shoes matter.
  • Perfect purse/bag – So glad I have not kept count…
  • Perfect hair – A lifelong struggle still without resolution.
  • Perfect work – A missing comma is good reason to reprint & recopy.
  • Perfect friendship – Expectations of perfection resulted in lacking any longstanding friendships.
  • Perfect marriage – Being depressed over imperfection almost cost me my marriage.
  • Perfect kids – Always focusing on how to improve and forgetting to focus on progress.

I wanted perfection but at the same time knew perfection was impossible. I created a heavy burden for myself and others. I was not a fun person to be around.

The “Good Enough” Approach

At the other end of the spectrum are those with a “good enough” approach. They don’t even try because they know that perfection is impossible. So, instead of doing their best, they do enough to get by.

“So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot or cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:16)

Doesn’t sound like just getting by really works well either.

The Impact of Culture

Perhaps you’ve seen the slogan, “The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection” in a Lexus advertisement. I want a perfect car, don’t you? For me, that means never having to buy another car or fuel it up again.

For sure you’ve heard the sayings, “Practice makes perfect,” and “Nobody’s perfect.” So, we practice to achieve something we can never achieve? Why bother?

Probably the best example of how our culture impacts perfection lies in the beauty industry. Products to make us perfect and then more products that made the old perfect no longer good enough.

Without a doubt, our culture pushes us to the extremes telling us to be perfect but at the same time keeping it well out of our reach. We are set up for failure. Unfortunately, Our own expectations plus the mixed message of our culture bring us only to frustration. Perfection remains painfully illusive.

God is a PerfectionistPath to Perfection

Both approaches – perfectionism and “good enough” – focus on our own efforts, and that’s not what God had in mind when he told us to be perfect.

“Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

That’s right, God wants us to be perfect. He is a perfectionist, but He can be BECAUSE HE IS PERFECT. But here’s the difference… God provides a way for us to become perfect. Our culture and our own efforts do not.

Pursuing Perfection, Part II looks at the only way to obtain perfection… God’s way.

DISCUSSION: Anyone else have any perfectionist confessions?

 

Too Overwhelmed to Become Less Overwhelmed

So often, people fail to work on developing a time management and goal-setting system simply because they feel overwhelmed. They feel like they are so far off track and have too many changes needing made that they just don’t know where to start. As a result, they don’t start anywhere and simply maintain the same dysfunctional system that got them to their current state of frustration.

Where to Start3-14-13 Where to start

Often, the answer is to simply just start. Just take a step forward. Yet, too often, the weight of perfectionism, too many choices or both prevents even that first step. Sometimes, setting big goals and getting your life organized simply seems insurmountable. When you feel this way, start the process of change by focusing on small changes that added together will make a huge difference over time.

The following tips can help you to start this small change process.

  1. Consider the extremes. Ask yourself what’s working well and what’s not working at all. Then look for ways to tweak what’s already working and to change with what is absolutely not working. Don’t worry about what falls in between.
  2. Get and stay teachable. This point has far reaching implications. Being teachable, or having the willingness to always learn and grow, is essential to a productive life. Within the context of goal setting and time management, being teachable involves a willingness to try different things. It means knowing that you can tweak what works and toss what doesn’t.
  3. Stick with what works. Or, at least with what kind of works. Really, something has to be working at least partly, or you’d be dead. You’ve got to be doing at least one thing right. When you’re already overwhelmed, trying to change everything at once just makes matters worse. Some changes can wait.
  4. Take the plunge. This means diving in with a new approach or method and being willing to experience failures. It means taking chances and continuing to do so until you find what works. Failure can be the greatest teacher, but we never know what will or won’t work until we give it a shot.
  5. Struggle through. Life will never be free from struggle. Not giving in, not being apathetic or complacent, not settling… that’s where the value in continuing to struggle exists.

If you make no other commitment today, commit to making your life a process of small change. Some days may involve huge leaps, while others will simply be successful when you don’t go backwards. Simply committing to lifting up your foot and taking a step starts the process of change.

When to Start

3-14-13 Start

Some people struggle with starting something new until every condition is perfect. Experience tells me this results in never starting. So, the perfect time to start is right now. Just one small step forward. Something. Anything. In order for small things to add up over time to make a huge difference, you have to be doing some small things. Choose one and start right now!

A Final Note

Know that person who seems to have it all together? She’s organized, in shape, and eats healthy. Her kids and husband seem content. You want to be just like her, right? Well, first realize that rarely are things as they appear. Secondly, know that being like her is impossible simply because you’re not her.

In other words, be you. Figure out the systems and approaches that work for you. Yes, they’ll be a combination of the approaches of others, but no two people have the exact same system for managing time and reaching goals.

For more on this, check out my guest post entitled The Big Picture: My Own Life Plan Method and its sequel Living in the Details: My Daily Plan at Christian Faith at Work. Then, check out Chris Patton’s articles entitled 3 Keys to Creating New Habits and The Daily Game Plan: A Must Use Tool! Not only will these give you some very different perspectives on goal setting and time management, they’ll help you more fully understand how we truly are all unique in our approaches to life.

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