By Belinda Bullard
…Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)
Let’s face it. As women, we struggle with things. We struggle with who we are. More specifically, we struggle with who we are versus who God says we are, who we are versus who we would like to be, and who we are versus whom everyone else expects us to be. Often our struggles stem from hurts, and sometimes from our fears.
Personally, the fear of failure has taken many forms over the years, and that same fear has absolutely affected my travel through this life. In my twenties, fresh out of college, my fears were based on my job. Would I be good at what I did for a living? Would I be known as intelligent and innovative, or bumbling and incompetent? In my thirties, as a fairly new wife and new mom, I obsessed over being supermom. I stressed over looking like I’d never had a baby, even though I wasn’t exactly lean and mean as a newlywed. I wanted everything perfect–the perfect family, the perfect wife, the perfect life. Now, I can see my fear almost as clearly as I can see the words I type: I fear not fulfilling my purpose. As crazy as it might sound, I sometimes wonder if the Lord would say, “well done, good and faithful servant,” or am I the person with the one talent?
It constantly occurs to me all the times I don’t get it right—even in seemingly small things, like being distracted at church, or the times when I have grown weary in well doing. There are also the number of decisions I’ve made—critical decisions—without praying first. As just one example, were we supposed to stop at three children, or did my decision that I was “old and tired” cause us to miss a blessing? Should our budget be set differently so I could give more to missions? Am I teaching my children things that will propel them spiritually and academically, or are my own issues clouding their growth.
As I write, I have no clear answers. But I grow increasingly comfortable that the answers are not as important as the ability to look to God for answers. In fact, looking back to solve my own puzzles as to where my life, my family, and my lay ministry should have/could have/ would have been is distracting; that activity is a thorn in my flesh. Focusing in on my fears, my past hurts, and the many places of questioning keeps me from living here and now. Not only do I get increasingly frustrated looking back, but I also become fearful at the thought of moving forward. The enemy loves it; doubtful and in despair, I am not as effectively useful to anyone, including myself.
So I have a decision to make. I can wait for the Lord to remove my thorn. Once I get all of those places “right,” I will be ready to be used. Does that thinking sound familiar? Here is the bad news: I never will get it “right,” and neither will you. Similarly, here is the good news: I never will get it right, and since you won’t either, we can help each other walk through it. It’s called ministry, dear friends: telling someone what Christ did for you, even if He’s still in the midst of doing it. This brings me to the alternative decision: I can repent for the fact that I did not trust Him for my past, and I can step forward—with Him—into my future. As I write, I acknowledge that He died for every sin, every bit of doubt and mistrust, and every place of wrongful anxiety that I have had, and that I will have. I can thank Him every chance I get, and I can use my breath to tell another woman that about the One who is making things new in my life. I can put one foot in front of the other, even with a thorn in my flesh. Thank Him for His sufficient grace.
Question: What are your deepest hurts and fears, and how have they kept you from your God-given assignment?
Belinda Bullard is a wife to her best friend and a home educating mother of three. Belinda is an author and the owner of A Blessed Heritage Educational Resources, a literature-based history curriculum featuring African-American presence in history, as well as the contributions of other races to American history. A chemical engineer by formal education, she also serves as adjunct faculty for college programs specializing in adult learning. She is a regular contributor to Heart of the Matter Online and Home Educating Family. Belinda blogs at Simply Belinda and Chronicles of a Blessed Heritage