Everyone goes through times of insecurity and anxiety over their place in the world. We fail and see our limitations and worry that we are not enough and never will be enough. The popular Christian culture’s response to this has generally been to come back and assure us that we are, indeed, enough. In fact, the phrase “you are enough” has become a quintessential one-liner for Christian talks, podcasts, blogs, and even movies. And it sure seems like a nice idea, doesn’t it?
But is it true? Are you actually enough?
Of all the catchphrases in the Christian world, I am most baffled by “you are enough.” I understand the sentiment and good intentions behind saying it. Heck, I used to say it. But I must respectfully acknowledge that I no longer find truth to this phrase, or at least I find it too vague to understand what its truth is supposed to be.
Yes, we are made in the image of God with inherent dignity and worth, and God’s love for each one of us is beyond what we could ever imagine. But how does that make us “enough,” and even if it does, then enough for what?
Let’s come back to the point that, in most cases, “you are enough” is used to encourage someone struggling with their limitations. They feel they are not enough, and we think the answer to this is to tell them that they are.
But the limitations we experience are real; if left to our own devices, we are not enough to fulfill the people around us, not strong enough to overcome sin, not powerful enough to save our loved ones from harm, not enough for a lot of things. The phrase “you are enough,” while it might be applicable to occasional moments in our life, does not and cannot deal with the sum of our human experience and especially with the struggles toward which it is most often addressed.
So what answer can we give for such daily trials and this yearning to have something that can fill the void that our human limitations and weaknesses leave wide open? It’s not as though anyone in the Bible ever dealt with this and got a viable answer and…
Do you remember what God said to St. Paul when he was struggling with “a thorn in the flesh,” a thorn that he specifically describes as being given to him to remind him of his limited-ness?
It wasn’t “Hey, Paul. You’re enough, buckaroo!”
No, what God actually said was, “My grace is sufficient for you,” and “my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:6-10).
Rather than denying Paul’s experience of weakness and leaving Paul to his own devices by saying that Paul is enough, the Lord affirmed Paul’s experience and drew his attention to the one who is enough to face those limitations: God.
If we were enough, there would be no need for grace, no need for a savior, no need for God at all. The entire Gospel message is that we’re not even supposed to be enough.
So the next time your weaknesses and limitations start getting you down, by all means, remember your God-given dignity and beauty and worth. Do not equate your weakness with worthlessness: you are fearfully and wonderfully made by God, you are loved by God, and God’s plan for you is one of hope. (And if you struggle with feelings of worthlessness consistently, please do not be afraid to ask for help).
But you may want to avoid telling yourself, “I am enough,” as though you will somehow muster through this while God just looks on and applauds. Instead, rest in knowing that God and His grace can abound where you feel the weakest, if only you are willing to let Him be enough for you and for the people around you. He wants to be enough, and He is the only one who can be enough.
This article is not intended to be or to replace professional counseling or medical advice.
A version of this post was originally written by Brittany for Catholicmom.com and can be found there as well.
Image credit: St. Paul, Rembrandt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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