I've been lolling around most nights over the past week, numbing my brain with Facebook, email, and real estate listings, with a little Pinterest thrown in for good measure. But the time 11 o'clock rolls around and I pull myself out from under my cat, I feel like I have made an incredible waste of yet another evening. Even though I can list the chores I've accomplished during the previous sixteen hours, I feel generally unfocused and unproductive.
Whenever I get that feeling about my days, ten times out of ten I can trace it to the fact that I haven't cracked my Bible in over a week. I still read verses and devotions with my girls, and I still pray throughout the day with them and on my own, but spending time reading the Bible--even if I don't do any kind of formal study--makes a complete difference in my entire attitude toward life.
You would think I would learn my lesson and, you know, read it religiously or something.
So last night, I opened the Bible to Hebrews 13 (because that chapter was referenced in a magazine article I had been reading, and I didn't have any other plan to go by). I noticed right away that verses 20 and 21 sounded like a prayer, so in the margin of my Bible I restated them like this:
Lord, God of peace, equip me with everything good for doing Your will; work in me what is pleasing to you, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.After I did a little more reading, I went up for a shower, thinking how remarkable it is that a little Bible reading can make me feel so much better--like a vitamin or a shot of caffeine, if you'll forgive the poor comparison. And that line: "Equip me with everything good for doing Your will," replayed in my mind. I stood there under the streaming water just beginning to form the prayer: "I love that verse, Lord. I pray that You would equip me..." And just like that, across my brain flashed the thought, "I already have."
I already have equipped you with everything good for doing My will.
I feel thoroughly convinced that God cut me off mid-prayer to remind me that what I was asking Him for, He has already done. After those three God-breathed words, my own mind took over again, and I thought about how I:
- have strong convictions related to people treating each other with the kindness, decency, and justice that Jesus displayed during his earthly ministry, but I have yet to take a leadership role in effecting change when I see those values threatened,
- have finished writing 3/4 of a book about Christian parenting based on what I've learned from experience and extensive research, but it sits in a tote bag with one section left unwritten and no plans in place for getting it to a publisher,
- have a deep and long-standing love for writing and a desire to encourage people in their faith, but I have only a tiny platform on this blog for bringing these two things together,
- have a craft room full of supplies and a head full of ideas, but I haven't brought them together to use my art for worship or to inspire others in their faith.
In each case, I see where God has equipped me with everything good for doing His will, but I haven't joined the effort with the ambition or stamina to put those gifts to use.
As I reflected on all of this, my first feelings were guilt and inadequacy--oh, how I am squandering my gifts and my advantages! How lazy I have been!
But there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus; we are set free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:1-2). I am set free from feeling like a failure for what I cannot accomplish on my own. God didn't equip me with everything good for doing His will, and then send me off to figure out how to make it happen.
Instead, God supplies us out of His great sufficiency. As Paul reminds us, we are not competent (or sufficient) in ourselves, but our competence (or sufficiency) comes from God (2 Corinthians 3:5). His grace is sufficient for us, because our power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). It is in these moments--like the ones I was experiencing last night, when I feel weak--that I am actually strong (2 Corinthians 12:10) because I remember to turn to God and His power. Paul has so much to say about this gift to the church in Corinth. "God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work...you will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion (2 Corinthians 9:8, 11). Every time I pull away from God's Word, I lose my hold on this truth for my life.
I love how God is tough and loving at the same time. He interrupts my prayer--"Lord, equip me with everything good for doing Your will"--to deliver a truth that brings me humbly back to His grace. And out of that humility, He raises me up on wings like an eagle, renewing my strength to run and not grow weary and to walk and not be faint (Isaiah 40:31).
Today I thank God that He has already equipped me with everything good for doing His will, and that He doesn't send me out into the world with my gifts and talents and tasks and ideas and dreams and duties alone. Instead, He sends me with a Heavenly Father, a gracious Savior, and a guiding and holy Spirit to help bring His kingdom to earth as it is in Heaven.
This is not a truth just for me, of course. The same is true for you.