When We Fear We're Not Good Enough
Bibianna asks if we are covering ourselves with fig leaves and points us to Christ, whose robe of righteousness we can rest secure in.
The term “imposter syndrome” has crept into popular culture, and according to the dictionary definition, it refers to a persistent doubt regarding one’s abilities or accomplishments and a fear of being exposed as a fraud.
But this is not unique to the current generation. We may now just be able to give a name to what many, if not all, of us struggle with. We all struggle with some form of self-doubt and fear of being found out throughout our lives. Some worry about it at appraisal when performance review rolls around. Others wonder about whether they qualified for a new task or phase in life—a new job, marriage, parenthood, retirement etc. And even the best of us, when we are quiet and left alone with our thoughts, are afraid of our sins being found out.
Covering Ourselves With Fig Leaves
Since the fall, we’ve all been trying to cover ourselves with fig leaves. In a social media age, a technological savvy generation has the option to curate our lives and choose to present only our best selves online. But behind that shiny veneer lies many insecurities and fears. Timothy Keller, in his book titled Forgive, has a chapter on our need for forgiveness. He explains man's inherent need for forgiveness: “We cannot bear to have people get an unfiltered, out-of-control look at who we really are. We are not proud of who we are 'in the raw,' and so we desperately look for ways to cover up and to curate a flawless image. But instagram is not enough!”
He goes on, “Nakedness is a deep sense that there’s something wrong with me, something imperfect about me. There’s something inadequate about me—I’m not what I ought to be. That’s the reason we cannot bear to let somebody see us as we really are… We spend all our lives finding ways to cover up that deep, radical sense of inadequacy.”
Indeed, this is a relatable struggle for all of us, regardless of age, gender, race, nationality etc. It has been the struggle of all humankind since the beginning of time, since sin entered the world with Adam and Eve, and we won’t be the last generation wrestling with this. We know we are not good enough, and devote our time, energies and effort to try to quell this unease and squash it. Perhaps, this is why some of us work so hard and find it hard to rest? Perhaps this is why some of us are unable to say no to people and find ourselves stretched? Perhaps this is why others are afraid of friendships and relationships—because people may be disappointed by what they find when they know us? Maybe some think that you can't be a Christian because you’re not good enough?Our worse fears come true if our assessment of ourselves are correct, and we are all we have. Keller concludes on the flimsiness of these fig leaves, writing, “These are fig leaves. Your perfectionism is a fig leaf. Your work is a fig leaf. Your holding on to your youth is a fig leaf. Your desperate need for approval is a fig leaf… There are desperate efforts to deal with the sense of unacceptability—of unlovability—we all have. But fig leaves don’t work. Imagine for a moment trying to make do with an actual garment of fig leaves for clothing. Such a garment would be always falling apart. And so it does.”
Clothed with Jesus' Righteouness
The gospel is good news, because, our salvation is not dependent on our fig leaves of goodness but is wholly anchored on the goodness of another—the perfect Saviour, Jesus Christ. We don’t have to be clothed in rags but can rest secure in the robe of righteousness purchased by our perfect sacrifice.
This frees us to admit that we will never be good enough on our own, and this fact does not surprise us. In fact, God knew and always intended for salvation to come through another—“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe." (Rom 3:21–22a)
Our current series in Exodus is a wonderful reminder of this fact. Coupled with our Genesis series last year, we see that God uses some pretty unlikely and relatable people. Genesis showed us the flaws of the patriarchs, and it has highlighted God’s grace and faithfulness through the generations. They, like us, need to learn how to “prove Him o’er and o’er”, as the hymn goes, by exercising faith and trust in Him. They fail and turn back to Him in repentance and faith, but through it, God remains faithful.
This thread has continued in Exodus. We’ve only been a month in, but Moses is really not the man we might have thought he is. If this was a movie, we’d have expected him to save the people while he was in Egypt, in the highest echelons of power. Instead, as Pastor Eugene reminded us recently, God’s plans and ways are different from ours. Moses needed to know that salvation of God’s people would come not by man’s power but by His power. God called Moses when he was not in a position of power, but when he was a shepherd in the wilderness. Moses spoke with God and yet, he wrestled with his calling. How relatable it is, isn’t it? We may think that if God spoke to us so clearly we’d obey Him without hesitation but Moses shows us that it is not the case.
This continues as we read through the Old Testament and see how God works through flawed kings and prophets. In the New Testament, the disciples whom He picked continued to get it wrong and trusted again and again in their own abilities or inabilities.
The Bible is full of flawed characters who are not good enough. Through their flawed lives, they continue to testify to God's goodness and how in Him, we have all we need to carry out His plans and purposes. They needed to learn it then, and so do we today. Salvation comes not because we are good enough, but because He is good enough. The gospel frees us to admit our need, and turn to One who doesn’t reject us. After all, Jesus Himself said that He came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance (Lk 5:32).
These verses in the hymn, "Come Ye Sinners", capture the heart of Jesus well:
Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,
weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you,
full of pity, love, and power.
Come, ye weary, heavy laden,
Lost and ruined by the fall;
If you tarry till you’re better,
You will never come at all.
What are you struggling with today? Is there a sin that you're hiding from God? Or are you afraid that you're not "good enough"? This sense of insecurity, and even guilt and shame could ebb and flow. But regardless of what we feel, the truths of the gospel can serve as a sure and steady anchor. We can, as the hymn goes, turn to Jesus:
I will arise and go to Jesus;
He will embrace me in His arms.
In the arms of my dear Savior,
Oh, there are ten thousand charms.
Hallelujah, what a Saviour!