When Enoch was called to prophesy to the people, he objected.
And when Enoch had heard these words, he bowed himself to the earth, before the Lord, and spake before the Lord, saying: Why is it that I have found favor in thy sight, and am but a lad, and all the people hate me; for I am slow of speech; wherefore am I thy servant? (Moses 6:31)
When God called Moses to be His messenger, Moses offered at least five excuses. Excuse 1: I’m not good enough (See Exodus 3:11). Excuse 2: I don’t have all the answers (See Exodus 3:13).
Excuse 3: People won’t believe me (See Exodus 4:1). Excuse 4: I’m a terrible public speaker (See Exodus 4:10). Excuse 5: I’m not qualified (See Exodus 4:13). (See https://www.voiceofprophecy.com/articles/blog/moses-five-excuses)
Immersed in our self-confidence culture, we assume that God took self-doubting souls and fortified their confidence. Our cultural mandate is to build our confidence! We believe self-confidence is necessary for success! Unfortunately, we are imposing failed human assumptions on a perfect God.
But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; (1 Corinthians 1:27)
It isn’t trust in ourselves but trust in God that qualifies us for service. In fact, trust in ourselves may prevent us from calling on God, trusting His wisdom, and doing His will. God doesn’t just tolerate weakness and self-doubt; He actually chooses those who feel their inadequacy. Those are people who are more likely to be open to His counsel than those who are confident in their own insight and ability.
Notice the unique kind of confidence God offers the faithful.
Then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven. (D&C 121:45)
God is not describing self-confidence but God confidence which is essential to do His work. Of course, those with God confidence may seem bold. Remember Ammon.
But Ammon said unto him: I do not boast in my own strength, nor in my own wisdom; but behold, my joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God.
Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever. (Alma 26:11-12)
I have written many times of the need for us to cry out for mercy from God. Inherent in a sincere cry for mercy is the recognition that He has the power and that our work will always be better when it is inspired and directed by Him.
Therefore may God grant unto you, my brethren, that ye may begin to exercise your faith unto repentance, that ye begin to call upon his holy name, that he would have mercy upon you; Yea, cry unto him for mercy; for he is mighty to save. Yea, humble yourselves, and continue in prayer unto him. Al ma 34:17-19)
Amulek further directs us to cry for mercy when in our fields, over our flocks, in our houses, over our household, against our enemies, over our crops, and for our welfare and the welfare of those around us. In other words, pray for mercy over everything that matters. Everything.
Fundamental to spiritual power is the recognition that all good things come from God. We are far more powerful when we recognize our dependence and call on Him than when we lean on our own arm of flesh. As Nephi observed,
O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm. 2 Nephi 4:34
There is a potential danger. Waiting for direction from God could cause paralysis. We could wait endlessly for His direction fearing to make a move without His specific counsel. God has suggested:
Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed. D&C 123:17
In other words, we pray for His mercy and then gladly go about doing the things that make sense. We continue to listen (and feel) for His guidance as we do His work, and we trust Him with the outcome.
Trusting in God and leaning on His mercy empowers us to accept callings even if we question whether we are adequate for the role. Trusting God even when we feel inadequate enables us to share the gospel with someone He has placed in our path. Trusting God enables us to repair relationships even when we aren’t certain we can. When we are inspired to take a new direction in our life, trusting God allows us to take that leap even if we aren’t sure we are ready. And instead of comparing our strengths and gifts with others and feeling we fall short, trusting in God and leaning on His mercy focuses us on using our strengths and gifts to serve others.
A sweet serenity settles on us as we forget ourselves, trust God, and go about doing His work. God chooses and uses those who know how much they depend on Him. It is therefore a glorious blessing to be inadequate—and know it—as long as we turn to God.
Invitation: This article is one example of the way our human thinking falls short of the heavenly standard. For examples of many ways that our human thinking leads us astray in relationships, get a copy of Discoveries: Essential Truths for Relationships from Deseret Book or Amazon.
Thanks to Barbara Keil for her wise and helpful additions to this article.