What Should I Do When I Feel Inadequate?

Nephi wrote poignantly about his failure to live up to his own expectations. “O wretched man that I am!” he said. “I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me” (2 Nephi 4:17-18). He tried to overcome his failings by willpower alone, but in the end, it was his trust in God that gave him hope (2 Nephi 4:28-35).

Alma wished that he could be a more effective missionary. He wanted to speak with the convincing power of an angel. But he quickly corrected himself, calling this desire a sin and asking, “Why should I desire more than to perform the work to which I have been called?” (Alma 29:6).

God gives us weaknesses to make us humble, and as we grow closer to Him we become more aware of those weaknesses. This is how the gospel works in our lives. We humble ourselves as we recognize how far we fall short, and then we receive the assistance we need. “My grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me,” the Lord told Moroni, “for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:27).

The apostle Paul learned this principle by experience. He said that he was given “a thorn in the flesh,” some physical or spiritual infirmity which kept him humble. He prayed three times for God to take it away, but that was not to be. Instead, God taught Paul that this weakness played a vital role in his discipleship: “My grace is sufficient for thee,” He said, “for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” Paul learned to be grateful for his shortcomings:

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

Elder Neal A. Maxwell once spoke to those who “have recurring feelings of falling forever short.” He reminded us to be fair to ourselves and to trust the Lord:

Some of us who would not chastise a neighbor for his frailties have a field day with our own. Some of us stand before no more harsh a judge than ourselves, a judge who stubbornly refuses to admit much happy evidence and who cares nothing for due process. Fortunately, the Lord loves us more than we love ourselves….
This is a gospel of grand expectations, but God’s grace is sufficient for each of us. Discouragement is not the absence of adequacy but the absence of courage (“Notwithstanding My Weakness,” General Conference, October 1976).

Today, I will remember the sufficiency of God’s grace. I will pay attention to my weaknesses, but I will not let them demoralize me or slow me down. I will trust that God can help me fulfill my missions in life in spite of my weaknesses, or perhaps even because of them: those weaknesses will keep me humble and remind me to seek His grace.

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