It’s been a dozen years since I spoke at the women’s retreat mentioned in the devotional where God asked me to change my illustration and share about my depression. I didn’t want to be so vulnerable but chose to obey. Later I thought, What would have happened if I hadn’t obeyed? That one woman who needed to hear she wasn’t alone in her struggles would likely have left that weekend retreat without the knowledge that God could also answer her cries for help and send someone to walk alongside her.
Those little words—I can’t—still want to pop out of my mouth too often. When God asks me to try something new and out of my comfort zone, I feel like Moses as he stood at the burning bush in Exodus 3–4. God asked Moses to leave his life as a shepherd and lead the people of Israel out of Egypt, and his first response was I can’t speak. Then he used other similar excuses like no one will listen to me; I can’t do it; send someone else.
This was the first retreat I ever spoke at, and I had accepted it with a lot of fear that I would not be able to do a good job. I thought of other speakers I had heard in the past and felt like I would never measure up. Those two things—comparison and fear—often go along with “I can’t.” When I spoke at another ladies’ event, the pastor’s wife asked me if I had ever thought of speaking at kids’ Bible camps. I hadn’t. Everything I had read and all the courses I listened to emphasized the importance of finding your niche—your audience—and sticking with that. If God called me to speak at ladies’ events, I couldn’t change or add something else, could I?
But God let me know that if God has asked me to do something, I shouldn’t worry about the venue or the age of the audience. I should obey and trust God to provide the words I need and the ability to adapt. That next summer, I spoke at my first Bible camp to campers aged nine to twelve. I was only able to overcome the “I can’t” and my fear by trusting God.
Since then, I have spoken at other ladies’ retreats and events as well as to children at camp, church services, and outreach events. I can’t do it on my own, but with God’s help I can obey. When the discouragement comes and I feel that I’m not good enough, God sends affirmations in the form of notes or words of encouragement from unexpected places. Or I see how God speaks through me to impact someone when they need it most. Still other times I have no idea what God is doing in the hearts of those listening.
Fear and comparing myself to others go hand in hand with “I can’t.” But God says to trust and obey. I need to put my stubbornness aside and trust that God can do all things. God used imperfect Moses to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt. And God can use me to speak or write the words God gives me as long as I am willing to be available and obedient.
What calling do you fear and respond to with “I can’t”? Whatever it might be, remember the promise in Philippians 4:13 which says, “I can endure all these things through the power of the one who gives me strength” (CEB). I can’t, but God can.
The Upper Room lifts the spirits of residents I serve as a correctional chaplain. Christians and non-Christians read the devotions, reminding them of an alternative path to a loving God that will walk alongside them through the good and ugly of life.”
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