If you’ve ever read the comic strip Peanuts by Charles Schulz or watched Peanuts movies, you probably understand that the famous main character, Charlie Brown, struggles with feelings of inadequacy and other anxieties. To give you a picture, Charlie Brown fails in nearly everything he does, seems to encounter bad luck everywhere he goes, and is often taken advantage of by his friends. For example:
- Charlie Brown’s friend, Lucy, always tries to convince him to kick a football so that, at the last moment, she can pull it away to send him flying in the air and onto the ground. What a friend…more like a bully!
- Charlie Brown works hard to finish a book report before a New Year’s Eve party in order to dance with the Little Red-Haired Girl at midnight. But Charlie is met with disappointment when he discovers Linus (his best friend) dancing with her!
- What about the famous A Charlie Brown Christmas special that plays on TV every year? When Charlie picks out a small and not-so-great Christmas tree for the school play, he is ridiculed by his friends.
- There are more examples, such as his failure to win any baseball games or even fly a kite.
What’s fascinating about the character of Charlie Brown is that, regardless of the knocks to his self-worth, he is resilient and kind despite it often causing him humiliation in some way or another. Charlie Brown is the “lovable loser” of the comic strip. I think he is a character we can relate to. I think a lot of us, like Charlie Brown, have struggled with the feeling of inadequacy at one point or another.
“I think a lot of us, like Charlie Brown, have struggled with the feeling of inadequacy at one point or another.”
Have you ever felt inadequate in your job or your ministry? Have you felt like you don’t measure up? Do you feel like you don’t have the skills or abilities to lead well? Do you feel like your sermons or lessons just don’t measure up to others?
Have you ever felt inadequate in your athletic ability? Feeling like your hard work isn’t paying off? Watching your teammates, friends, or professional athletes and wishing you were as quick, strong, flexible, or slim as they are?
Perhaps you’ve felt inadequate in your marriage or as a parent. You want to love your significant other, but sometimes you just find it difficult. You’ve wanted to quit the screw-ups, the miscommunication, the short temper, or the secret addiction. Or as a parent, new or seasoned, you want your children to know that you love and care for them. Yet, maybe for you it has been difficult being a parent. Have you found yourself inadequate as a parent when you face stress and need to work more? When you’ve forgotten to pick them up from school or practice? When you can’t afford basic necessities? When they begin to wander into lifestyles that are far from God?
Maybe you feel inadequate with life in general. No matter what area or where in life you are, you feel like you never measure up or are good enough to achieve goals, dreams, or confidence.
“God isn’t surprised or upset when we feel inadequate or weak.”
But can I let you in on some good news? God isn’t surprised or upset when we feel inadequate or weak. In fact, in the Bible, we find this strange sense of comfort, strength, and confidence for those who feel “poor in spirit.” We find comfort in hardship and trying times. We find strength when we feel weak. We find confidence when we feel inadequate.
Moses, the man who confronted Pharaoh, demanding he let God’s people go from slavery in the land of Egypt, felt inadequate. We know because we read about Moses’ encounter with God at a burning bush in Exodus 3-4. During this encounter, God called Moses to deliver his people out of Egypt, but Moses gave 5 reasons why he couldn’t do what God called him to do:
- “Who am I?” (Ex. 3:11). “Who am I?” Moses asked God, feeling completely unqualified to do what God had called him to do. Moses couldn’t do it, but God could. So God answers and promises Moses help and guidance. God says, “ I will be with you” (Ex. 3:12a).
- “What shall I tell them?” (Ex. 3:13-14). God’s people would be asking Moses who had sent him, and Moses wasn’t prepared to answer. God answered him, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” Moses would be God’s ambassador to speak on His behalf to the people of Israel.
When I am weak, then I am strong: “This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.'”
- “What if they do not believe me or listen to me?” (Ex. 4:1). Moses’ next worry was what if the people didn’t believe him. A very reasonable excuse. However, God would use ordinary things as signs to accomplish His purposes. An ordinary staff becomes a serpent. Moses’ hand becomes leprous when putting it inside his cloak. God would empower Moses to turn the Nile water into blood on dry ground. God’s power would be enough to convince God’s people that God was truly with Moses.
- “I have never been eloquent. . . I am slow of speech and tongue” (Ex. 4:10). Moses has another excuse in his ineloquence as a speaker. But God would use this weakness to showcase His power. He told Moses, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak” (Ex. 4:11-12).
- “Please send somebody else” (Ex. 4:13). Moses tried one last attempt by asking God to send somebody else. God’s solution was simple: God would tell Moses what to say, Moses would tell Aaron, and Aaron would do the public speaking. So, Moses and Aaron would speak for God.
Moses felt inadequate and weak, but in due time, he came to be a hero of the faith. Despite Moses’ inadequacies and excuses, God used him to deliver His people out of slavery in the land of Egypt.
When I am weak, then I am strong: “Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.”
What about the prophet Jeremiah? When the Lord appointed Jeremiah to be a prophet, we discover that Jeremiah also faced a sense of inadequacy, but the Lord would give him constant support as he began a ministry to a rebellious nation that was straying further and further away from God. We see this play out in Jeremiah 1:4-10:
Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord.” Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”
Jeremiah needed this support from God as he began his prophetic ministry, and as the book unfolds, we find Jeremiah to be bold and upfront as he proclaims the words of God.
When I am weak, then I am strong: “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you.”
Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh
Let’s also take a quick look at the life of the apostle Paul and see what he had to say about these things. In his lifetime, Paul had what he called a “thorn in the flesh.” Although we don’t know what it was, it seemed to cause him trouble and frustration and made him feel weak, so he asked God to take it away. Yet Paul’s thorn in the flesh is not the main point of the passage. Look at what Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10:
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.
His focus is on God’s grace and power that is most evident in our weaknesses. Here’s the truth: as humans, we are weak. But we need to allow our weaknesses to point us and others toward Christ and the saving power of the gospel. The direction we need to go is toward greater trust and reliance on Christ for strength. God can use our weaknesses to serve His purposes. When you feel inadequate or weak, use those moments to rely on Christ for strength and encouragement.
When I am weak, then I am strong: “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.”
Charlie Brown & Us
In the comic strip adaptation The Peanuts Movie, we experience a sweet conversation between Charlie Brown and the Little Red-Haired Girl, whom he has a crush on. Charlie Brown, throughout the entire movie, has struggled with the idea that his friends may not like him and as a result, tries to earn a sense of self-worth in various ways. In the finale, Charlie Brown is struggling with why the Little Red-Haired Girl has asked to be summer pen-pal partners with him. Here’s a piece of that conversation:
Charlie Brown: Before you leave, there’s something I really need to know. Why, out of all the kids in our class, would you want to be partners with me?
Little Red-Haired Girl: That’s easy. Because I’ve seen the type of person you are.
Charlie: An insecure, wishy-washy failure?
Little Red-Haired Girl: That’s not who you are at all! I like the compassion you showed for your sister at the talent show. The honesty you had at the assembly. And at the dance, you were brave and funny. And what you did for me during the book report when I was away was so sweet of you. So when I look at you, I don’t see a failure at all. You have all the qualities that I admire.
“Why, out of all the kids in our class, would you want to be partners with me?” “That’s easy. Because I’ve seen the type of person you are.”
Charlie Brown suffered with the feeling of inadequacy and it took the words of the Little Red-Haired Girl to change his perspective. In the same way, it would help us to remember how God sees us in order to change our perspective. From our human perspective, we may view God in a few different ways:
- You may view God as an angry deity. One whose main feelings about us are disgust toward our sin and delight at the thought of punishing us for it.
- You may view God as distant and not involved. That He doesn’t care about the details of our lives or intervene in any situation of the world.
- You may view God as a Father. One who is Creator of the world and universe, merciful, redemptive, all-powerful, all-knowing, everywhere, and both loving and just!
I don’t know how you might view God, but can I tell you how he views us? God has proven over and over that He desires to be in relationship with us. God truly cares and loves us and that is revealed through His Son, Jesus. God sent His one and only Son to die on a wooden cross for you and for me so that we might be forgiven of our sins and be reconciled (mending a broken relationship) to God once again. God longs to have a relationship with us, that we might love Him, glorify Him, and enjoy Him forever (and ever)!
“I don’t know how you might view God, but can I tell you how he views us?”
When I Feel Inadequate
I want to push one more idea further. Can God use you even when you feel inadequate and weak?
There’s no doubt about it; we’ve all felt inadequate at one point in our lives. But we shouldn’t dwell on our inadequacies when Scripture tells us that our weaknesses and inadequacies can be used by God to accomplish His purposes. Moses, Jeremiah, Paul, and countless more testify to this fact and we can be at ease knowing that God can use our weaknesses and inadequacies for His glorious purposes. You may feel inadequate, but let me assure you, God is not.
When I am weak, then I am strong: “We shouldn’t dwell on our inadequacies when Scripture tells us that our weaknesses and inadequacies can be used by God to accomplish His purposes.”
When you feel inadequate, lean on Him during those times, and you will find comfort, strength, and confidence. Charlie Brown, you, and I all need to realize this freeing truth—that sufficiency doesn’t come from ourselves but from our all-sufficient, all-wise God. Let’s shift our focus from moping about our own inadequacies to hoping in God.