Have you ever suffered from “I’m-a-failure syndrome”?
I do. I know the symptoms well: everything makes me feel like a failure. This is how my thought process ends up going—
- I lost patience with my younger sibling. I must be a failure.
- My room is a mess. I must be a failure.
- I can never seem to get ahead in school. I must be a failure.
- I wasted too much time today. I must be a failure.
- I’m not as pretty/thin/smart as everyone else. I must be a failure.
- I’m not as good of a friend as I should be. I must be a failure.
- I’m not as good of a Christian as everyone else. I must be a failure.
And the list goes on and on and on. Sometimes it’s the bigger things that make me feel that way, and sometimes it’s something as small as my cookies burning. The result, however, is always the same: I end up feeling like a failure.
Maybe you’ve felt the same way. I think a lot of us do, and it’s a lousy way to live.
Take, for example, my Christian walk. The longer I’m around, the more I see that I’m pretty messed up. As soon as God is finished working on one area of my heart, another one pops up that is even worse, even uglier, and I sigh as I realize that this one is going to take a lot of work to overcome. Sometimes, I try and try to change and it just doesn’t happen. Sometimes, I feel like a failure.
Or take my schoolwork as an example. We’ve all been there: that one week (or month, or year) where you just can’t seem to get ahead (read: get it all done). “Doing homework” gets reduced to a coping mechanism… “If I don’t do some homework, it’s going to become even more unbearable.” And, if you’re like me, you feel like a failure.
I’m not going to address in detail the rest of those, except to say that we’ve all struggled with them. We’ve all looked in the mirror and wished we looked different. We’ve all said something to a friend and then turned around and wished we could take it back. We’ve all wasted time, made mistakes, or just made the wrong choice and then beat ourselves up over it later. I know I’ve done all of those, many times.
It all boils down to one question. The question ties into the one from the other day’s post (which was “Is God good?”). The question is simple:
Am I good enough?
It’s the question that lies behind all our insecurities. Am I good enough? We ask it every day. And we try to find the answers in things like, oh, I don’t know… how we look, how we act, how we feel.
And when we look to those things, our answer is automatically: “I must be a failure.”
It really doesn’t matter how good the things we look at are. I’ve seen very good-looking people look at photos of themselves and gag. I’ve seen really smart people groan over a “bad grade” (like a 90%) on a test. I’ve seen amazingly talented people look at their work and shake their heads. The truth is, whatever we look to to give us security, it won’t help us defeat this awful “I’m-a-failure” syndrome.
I’ve seen insecurity put this way: “I want to be great and I’m not.” (I took that from this post by Jon Bloom on DesiringGod.) In essence, our insecurities, our “I’m-a-failure” syndrome, is us asking ourselves the question “Am I good enough?” and getting the answer, “No.”
We’re not good enough. We’ll never be good enough. We want to be great and we’re not. And so we go around feeling like failures.
This is a problem.
A big, big problem.
But what ought we to do about it?
We ought to stop looking to ourselves. We may be failures, but God is not.
As long as I look to myself, I will feel like a failure. But God is always faithful. The truth is, God doesn’t want me to be secure in myself. He wants to show Himself faithful as I fail.
Go back and read that again, will you?
Looking at yourself = “I’m-a-failure” syndrome. Looking at God = total security.
This is what I need to hear. Over and over, I need to hear this. And more than that, I need to put it into practice. If I did, I know my life would change. As is, even my struggles in finding security in God sometimes give me “I’m-a-failure” syndrome. But I need to keep coming back to the Truth of what I know:
- I know that my Redeemer lives (Job 19:25).
- I know that even when I am not faithful—even when I fail—my God is faithful (2 Timothy 2:13).
- I know that He needs to become greater and I need to become less (John 3:30).
- I know that I need to seek God and His kingdom first, and everything else will be added to me (Matthew 6:33).
There’s a really comforting truth that I want to leave you with as I wrap up this post: God never, ever fails. Never ever. No matter how messed up our lives are or how lousy and pitiful we may feel. God still won’t fail.
And that’s what we need to rest in.
Even when I fail, God is faithful.
In answer to the question of insecurity, “Am I good enough?” we ought to answer, “I’m not, but my God is.”