Now may I speak, not to the slackers in the Kingdom, but to those who carry their own load and more; not to those lulled into false security, but to those buffeted by false insecurity, who, though laboring devotedly in the Kingdom, have recurring feelings of falling forever short.
Earlier disciples who heard Jesus preach some exacting doctrines were also anxious and said, “Who then can be saved?” (Mark 10:26)
The first thing to be said of this feeling of inadequacy is that it is normal. There is no way the Church can honestly describe where we must yet go and what we must yet do without creating a sense of immense distance. Following celestial road sings while in telestial traffic jams is not easy, especially when we are not just moving next door – or even across town. . . .
Thus the feelings of inadequacy are common. So are the feelings of fatigue; hence, the needed warning about our becoming weary of well-doing. (See D&C 64:33.)
The scriptural advice, “do not run faster or labor more than you have strength” (D&C 10:4) suggests paced progress, much as God used seven creative periods in preparing man and this earth. There is a difference, therefore, between being “anxiously engaged” and being over-anxious and thus underengaged.
Some of us who would not chastise a neighbor for his frailties have a field day with our own. Some of us stand before no more harsh a judge than ourselves, a judge who stubbornly refused to admit much happy evidence and who cares nothing for due process. Fortunately, the Lord loves us more than we love ourselves. (Neal A. Maxwell, Ensign, November 1976, pp. 12-13) — BYU Book of Mormon Conference, 14-16 August 2001, p. 46
We see our near-perfect parents, Adam and Eve, coping with challenges in the first family, for their children, too, came trailing traits from their formative first estate.
We see a legalistic Paul, but later read his matchless sermon on charity. (See 1 Cor. 13.) We see a jailed John the Baptist – and there had been “no greater prophet” (Matt. 11:11) – needing reassurance (see Matt. 11:2-4). We see Peter walking briefly on water but requiring rescue from Jesus’ outstretched hand (see Matt. 14:25-31); later we see Peter stretching his strong hand to Tabitha after helping to restore her to life (see Acts 9:36-46).
Moroni was not the first underinformed leader to conclude that another leader was not doing enough. (See Alma 60.) Nor was Pahoran’s sweet, generous response to his “beloved brother” Moroni the last such that will be needed. (Alma 61)
What can we do to manage these vexing feelings of inadequacy? Here are but a few suggestions: . . .
In the economy of heaven, God does not send thunder if a still, small voice is enough, or a prophet if a priest can do the job. . . .
We can allow for the agency of others (including our children) before we assess our adequacy. Often our deliberate best is less effectual because of someone else’s worst.
We can admit that if we were to die today, we would be genuinely and deeply missed. Perhaps parliaments would not praise us, but no human circle is so small that it does not touch another, and another. . . .
The historian Moroni felt inadequate as a writer beside the mighty Mahonri Moriancumer, who wrote overpoweringly. We all have at least one gift and an open invitation to seek “earnestly the best gifts.” (D&C 46:8.) . . .
He who was thrust down in the first estate delights to have us put ourselves down. Self-contempt is of Satan; there is none of it in heaven. We should, of course, learn from our mistakes, but without forever studying the instant replays as if these were the game of life itself. . . .
We can also keep moving. Only the Lord can compare crosses, but all crosses are easier to carry when we keep moving. Men finally climbed Mount Everest, not by standing at its base in consuming awe, but by shouldering their packs and by placing one foot in front of another. Feet are made to move forward – not backward!
We can know that when we have truly given what we have, it is like paying a full tithe; it is, in that respect, all that was asked. The widow who cast in her two mites was neither self-conscious nor searching for mortal approval. . . .
We can learn that at the center of our agency is our freedom to form a healthy attitude toward whatever circumstances we are placed in! Those, for instance, who stretch themselves in service – though laced with limiting diseases – are often the healthiest among us! The Spirit can drive the flesh beyond where the body first agrees to go!
Finally, we can accept this stunning, irrevocable truth: Our Lord can lift us from deep despair and cradle us midst any care. We cannot tell Him anything about aloneness or nearness!
Discouragement is not the absence of adequacy but the absence of courage, and our personal progress should be yet another way we witness to the wonder of it all!
True, there are no instant Christians, but there are constant Christians! — Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “Not Withstanding My Weakness,” Ensign, November 1976