When You Feel Inadequate
8 In those days when there was again a great crowd without anything to eat, Jesus called his disciples and said to them, 2 “I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. 3 If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way—and some of them have come from a great distance.” 4 His disciples replied, “How can one feed these people with bread here in the desert?” 5 Jesus asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.” 6 Then he ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground; and he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute; and they distributed them to the crowd. 7 They had also a few small fish; and after blessing them, Jesus ordered that these too should be distributed. 8 They ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. 9 Now there were about four thousand people. Then Jesus sent them away.
THE WORD OF THE LORD.
God has more confidence in us than we have in ourselves.
This theme I wish to impress upon you this morning. God has more confidence in us than we often have in ourselves.
Why do we not have more confidence? Because people have terrible feelings of inadequacy. People fear they are unable to deal with the situations they face.
Where do these feelings come from? They can come from outside ourselves.
Around us we often hear, see, or read about someone denigrating another person, making them feel deficient. It is like some sport to see if you can make someone feel bad by telling them they are not good enough because of the way they look, where they come from, or the ideas they express. When someone berates or demeans any of us, such words make a person lose confidence in themselves.
Sometimes these feelings of inadequacy come from within. It is sad that many people torture themselves by feeling that they are lacking.
When I was a senior in college, I was a RA – a Resident Assistant – in my dormitory. My charge were the freshman on the first floor of the dormitory – an area we aptly called “the catacombs.” My job was to ensure the freshmen abided by the rules.
I also had a more important duty – to see how the freshmen were adapting to life away from home. Were they stressed by demanding studies? Were they depressed?
One freshmen I often talked with lived in the room across the hall. He had graduated as valedictorian at his high school. He was used to getting all “A’s”. That was what he expected of himself. It was a shock when he realized college was not high school; the expectations and the work were more demanding. The freshmen studied hard. However, he did not always get an A in class.
Talking to him one day, the freshmen told me he felt bad about himself. He tried to feel better by out-achieving other students. Yet, after he won, he felt his achievements were like cotton candy. They lasted a moment; then perished. He said: “The better I do, the more inadequate I feel. I worry I will never do that good again, and if I do, someone is going to discover I don't deserve what I've achieved.”
As his freshman year passed he still struggled with feelings of inadequacy. As RA, I tried to tell him and others there is a better way to treat yourself than berating yourself.
That leads us to the theme I stated earlier: God has more confidence in us than we have in ourselves. What enables us to make this bold statement?
It comes from our Scripture story – the feeding of the 4,000 people. In particular, it comes from the image of God this story conveys.
The image conveyed here is that of God as Host. Jesus hosts the people in the desert.
The story is simple. A crowd follows Jesus into the desert. The people become hungry; so Jesus ask his disciples what they have. They reply – Seven loaves and a few fish. They bring this meager amount to Jesus who gives thanks; and then the disciples pass out the loaves and fishes. They discover all 4,000 people were satisfied. There were even a few crumbs left over.
Then the story ends. After the people ate, Jesus sent them away.
How does this story help us with feelings of inadequacy? How does this story’s image of God as Host show God’s confidence in us, and inspires confidence in ourselves?
For one thing, this image of God as Host tells us that what we bring to the table God says is enough to satisfy our needs. In this story, Jesus – as Host - did not bring anything to feed the people. Rather, Jesus used the little the people brought and that little amount was enough. The people thought they did not have enough, but it was.
God used the little they brought to satisfy them, and he does the same for us. God says to us - You may think you are inadequate and cannot meet the challenges you face in your life, but God says – the small acts you do, the words you say, the little you bring to the table are enough to affect change and to show you are capable.
Today, you may think you are one person, and your talents and strength are not enough to meet your situation. God says to you – I have nourished you. You have enough strength within yourself to do what you need to do. You do not have to bring much to the task before you – just do what you can, little or much, and you will find it is enough to get through any problem you face in your personal or family life.
To the problems facing us in society you may feel inadequate. God also says the small things you do, bring, or say are enough. For example, bringing a can of food, a boxed fan, helping another church, saying a simple word of no to racism, or saying no to sexual violence, or making a simple mark on a ballot in a voting booth changes occur.
God uses what we have, because he has great confidence in our abilities.
Then there is one other thing this story tells us. At the end of the story after the people were fed, it says simply - “he sent them away.” Jesus sent them away. There was no afterglow. He fed them, with what they had brought; then he sent them on their way. The party was over. Now it was back to the office, the housekeeping, taking care of the children, and the problems of their families, towns, and villages.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor and theologian during the Second World War, acted against the Third Reich because he felt someone had to do something to overcome the Nazi reign of terror. In prison, he wrote these words to a friend. He said reflecting on his actions -“We must learn to act as if God wants us to live without him.”
Bonhoeffer did not mean God was meaningless, for he was spiritual and full of faith. He did mean God wants us to have enough confidence in ourselves that we will solve our problems – for the world’s problems are ours to fix.
And Jesus sent them away. Four thousand people were fed and nourished, Now, the people were to get on with it. The problems in their lives, in their towns and cities were their problems; and the joys and delights were theirs as well.
God has compassion on us, but God’s compassion is to enable us to have confidence in ourselves.
One of the things God does is that God refuses to talk us to death. God does not micro-manage our lives. God leads with a light rein giving us our heads.
Sometimes we resist that. We want to retreat from life. We long to walk hand in hand with Jesus. However, God never lets us over depend on God. Jesus called his disciples friends, not children; thus, he treated them as adults confident they could do what he called them to do. Jesus treats us as adults too. God is confident in our ability, in what we do, in the decisions we make, and in the problems we solve
God has more confidence in us than we often have in ourselves.
I read, hear, and see many people in the world bobbing like a cork in the choppy waves of life, trying to keep afloat, and not sink into a sea of inadequacy.
To all who feel this way, I say, let God’s grace be the basis on how you feel about yourself. As devout people, we are to receive God’s compassion; then, we are to go into our lives, using the brains and talents God has given to us. That is God’s great endorsement of us. We may lack the confidence for the jobs we face. However, God says otherwise. God sets us on our feet. He gives a blind man sight, a lame man a good pair of legs, and then expects us to take it from there. “He sent them away.”
I know that despite all that we have said, for some people that feeling of inadequacy, may sometimes come back or linger, or never fully go away. When you feel this way, you just have to trudge ahead in the rain, regardless. Trusting God and who you are.
In a few minutes, we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper. There God will nourish and encourage.us. We will sing a hymn. Then God will send us back to face our lives, having full confidence in us.
Feelings of inadequacy can be overcome. After all, God has fed you, taught you, and now God sends you on your way – God having more confidence in you and me than we have in ourselves. Amen!