“Mama, you got this. You are enough.” My heart sank when I read the last lines in an article on a leading website for Christian mothers. My heart sank, because it was my article.
The article was intended to encourage moms in the trenches of raising little ones and overwhelmed by trying to do it all. When I saw the article online, though, I noticed that the last lines had been altered. The original, unedited version read, “Mama, you got this, because he has got you. You are enough, because he who is in you is enough.” The published article had left out God.
One message women, including Christian women, have heard on repeat is these three words: “You are enough.” Christian authors and speakers have been incorporating this phrase in sermons meant to encourage women, especially moms, who are bogged down by guilt and plagued by self-doubt. The words often seem perfectly acceptable and, perhaps, empowering. At worst, it appears trite, but harmless.
But what does the seemingly innocuous phrase really mean?
Am I Ever Enough?
“You are enough” is a well-intentioned way of saying, “Life is hard, but you got a handle on it, because you’re a fierce, independent woman.” When you forget your child’s kindergarten orientation (true story!) or lose it when your toddler throws a tantrum before you’ve even brewed your coffee, don’t beat yourself up, because being a mom is undeniably challenging. And don’t give up, because you are strong enough for motherhood — you can do this.
While that seems uplifting, as Christian women, we’re hearing less than the full truth. The message is slowly diluting the gospel. This may sound disenfranchising to women, but you and I are not enough. No one is. The calling of motherhood — and of the Christian life — is a high and overwhelming calling for anyone. None of us is good enough, kind enough, right enough, or strong enough. And that’s why each of us so desperately need Jesus in the trenches every single day.
The idea of being inadequate is unpopular in our earn-your-way-up culture. We would rather lap up nice-to-hear platitudes than grapple with what God says in Scripture. The Bible is not undermining our worth. It is simply pointing out that we find our true worth in Christ alone. With him, we are free to acknowledge that we are flawed.
When you’ve finally tucked the kids into bed and still have to load the dishwasher, it’s okay to recognize that you are not always gracious enough to respond kindly to a little voice that hollers, “I need water.” That’s when you and I have the beautifully freeing option of confessing, “Father, I just don’t have what it takes. I need you.” That may be all it comes down to: acknowledging our never-enoughness, so God has the chance to pour out from his endless reserves of grace.
God often lets us walk in paths that are far beyond our ability to endure. When you’ve been awake every night for a week, toggling between a nursing baby and a toddler with the flu, you understand what “beyond your ability” means. But in the midst of our exhaustion, when we whisper, “I can’t — God please take over,” that’s when we can build our dependence on the one who won’t ever let us down. When Paul and Timothy faced situations that were beyond their ability to endure, they learned to “rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:9).
Rejoicing in Weakness
Later in Corinthians, Paul speaks of his weakness. He doesn’t just mention it in passing. He seems to advertise it, revel in it, even boasts in it. He tells his readers that he rejoices in his weakness. Why? Because in Paul’s weakness, Christ’s strength is made perfect (2 Corinthians 12:9).