Lord, I Just Can’t

Mark 6:37, NIV

Have you ever felt like God has given you a task that’s too big for you to handle? Teaching a Sunday school class maybe? Or trying to bring a loved one to Christ? Or raising your children to become God-fearing, God-loving adults? Or asking you to change jobs? Or…

I’ve felt that many times. Lord, you want me to what? Go to Africa? Develop an alphabet for an unwritten language? Homeschool my children? Write a book? Lead workshops?

It’s so easy to feel inadequate. And when I feel inadequate my tendency is to just quit—or to not start at all. What about you?

Well, God had something to say to me about this this morning. In fact, He took me from what I was writing for this week and led me to something quite different. Perhaps it’s something you need to hear as well.

I’m studying the gospel of John right now, and today’s reading section was John 6:1-15. I’m sure you’re familiar with the event described there: the feeding of the 5,000. Actually, John doesn’t mention the number, but the parallel passages in the other three gospels do. And as I studied this, I took advantage of my Bible’s linking of John’s account to those other three. It was enlightening and had a lot for me to put into action when God calls inadequate me to do a God-sized task. Here’s what I came to see:

  • Jesus calls his disciples to do something. Here it was calling the disciples to feed a huge crowd: 5000 men, plus an unknown number of women and children. Imagine being faced with that huge crowd! That’s about 1/5 of my town’s entire population all gathered together in one place. Then imagine Jesus tells you to feed them all: “You give them something to eat” (Mark 6:37). This is where it all starts: knowing that God is asking me to do something.
  • They realize they can’t possibly do it. Philip basically says, That’s impossible! “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have one bite!” (John 6:7) Ever been there? Feeling that you can’t possibly do what you believe God is asking you to do? I have. And, as I mentioned before, that feeling makes me want to give up. But that’s not what God wants us to do.
  • Jesus asks them what they do have available to meet the need. “How many loaves do you have? . . . Go and see” (Mark 6:38). Jesus didn’t just tell them, Okay, I’ll do it then. No, He asks them to take stock of what they do have available. And I think this is the step I tend to overlook. When I’m faced with what looks to me like an impossible task, I need to take a look at what God has given me that I can use.
    1. When we began learning that unwritten language, analyzing the sound system, and trying to develop an alphabet for them, God had already given me an interest in phonology. He’d given me training in that area. He’d given me examples to learn from and consultants to shepherd me through the task.
    2. When raising children—a monumental task in any circumstance—what did I have to start with? Perhaps the biggest thing was a love for Him and a love for my children. Plus I had the great asset of having a husband who loved and followed the Lord. But there was so much more I knew I needed: patience, wisdom . . .
    3. Now I need to take stock of what He’s given me for the task at hand.
  • They realize that even though they have found some resources, what they have is still inadequate: “but how far will they go among so many?” (John 6:9) They respond to Jesus’ call to figure out what they do have, but they realize that even that is not enough to fulfill the task at hand. We must realize that God wants us to look to Him for what we need to do the tasks He calls us to do.
  • Jesus takes what they have and blesses it. This is what we have to do with what we do have: we give it to Jesus. Even though it may not seem like enough, we give it to Jesus. Then note what He does with it.
  • Jesus gives it back to them to finish the task! Jesus could have miraculously given everyone food without involving the disciples at all. He could have done that even before He’d asked them to find food. But He didn’t. He chose to use them.
  • What at first seemed inadequate, now becomes more than enough. “They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over” (Matthew 14:20).

You see, God chooses to use us. And it’s actually good when we realize we can’t do a task on our own.

We can’t successfully use only human means to accomplish a God-sized work. But we can begin with those human resources He has given us. Just as Jesus challenged His disciples to consider what they did have, we can evaluate what God has given us. But we don’t move ahead relying just on those things.

We must give them to Him, knowing that what we have is inadequate in itself. When we give it all to Him though, He blesses it and then gives it back to us to use.

And guess what! It will be enough. It will be more than enough.

  • What task is God calling you to that you feel inadequate for? By world standards it may seem like something small, but it’s something important to you, something you know God wants you to do.
  • Do you feel like it’s impossible? Do you want to just give up and find something else to do? Are you afraid to even start to do the job, to answer the call, whatever it is?
  • Prayerfully consider what God has already given you to help you accomplish the task.
  • Hand those over to Him to use as He wills.
  • Then accept them back from Him and put them to use, knowing that with His blessing they will be enough. They will always be enough.

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