Sometimes we’re not sure we can handle life. We understand the big battles and the somber sufferings will be difficult, but sometimes even the daily tasks mount to overwhelming.
We have that massive assignment to finish, and studying has to be balanced with work. We have customers yelling at us over something outside of our control, and it takes everything in us to just be kind. We have only an hour and half of rest while the baby naps, we have two days to pack, we have to finish homework, finish housework, and somehow look presentable for church. And sometimes, we’re not sure we can do it all.
This is such a common fear, such a common need, that we don’t have to go far to find encouragement. “You are enough” is spoken over us like a benediction, coming from the mouths of women’s ministries and coffee mugs at Hobby Lobby. In beautiful swirling fonts, over prints of flowers or oceans, on sharable photos and reposted articles we are assured–we can do it. We are enough.
I appreciate the heart behind these words. They want to calm our FOMO, assure our panic, and affirm our worth. They want to enable us to wash our face, stop complaining, and accomplish our goals. But “you are enough” isn’t enough to do any of those things. It can’t–because it’s wrong.
We need to stop telling people they are enough–because we’re damning them when we do.
Life Without God is Condemned
Just like the phrase, “God helps those who help themselves,” our sister-phrase of “You are enough” is nowhere to be found in the Bible. There are only two places that even come close to the sentiment; in one of them Jesus says it’s enough that the servant be like his master–not in the sense that the servant is competent like his master was, but that he’s called the devil for preaching the truth. (Matthew 10:25) Yet just because this idea isn’t in the Bible, does it really warrant the title damning?
Yes. When you tell me I’m enough, you tell me I can do this on my own. That I myself am sufficient for my life. I don’t need anyone’s help, and I don’t need anyone’s input. I can conquer my tasks on my own, I can fulfill my works on my own, I can earn my way on my own, I can overcome my sins on my own.
If I am enough, then I don’t need anyone else. I am self-sufficient, self-sustaining, and can live my life apart and separate from everyone–including God.
And the only life separated from God is quite literally hell.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)
When we declare that we are enough, we are trying to convince ourselves we are self-sufficient, but really we are self-deceiving, for we are spreading the lie from the Garden–we don’t really need God.
God is the only one who can accomplish Anything
Yet this doesn’t negate the fact that we still can feel overwhelmed by all we have to do. So how can we accomplish it? That other verse that comes close to the sentiment of “you are enough” holds a clue. In Philemon 1:8, Paul describes himself as “bold enough in Christ.”
In Christ. That little phrase, so innocuous, such a small prepositional phrase, is one of Paul’s favorites. He uses it over 77 times. And while that phrase has implications for many things in theology, it is the key for us here as well.
We are not enough. But Christ is. In him is all the fullness of God (Colossians 2:9), all power, all wisdom, all ability and activity. He is head over all things (Ephesians 1:22), he has the authority and ability to deal with any task or questions. He can handle any situation, understand any quandary, enact whatever he wishes and accomplish all he wills. He is enough.
Enough for the chaos of this life, enough for the mishaps and temptations and confusions. He is more than enough, he is full to overflowing, he is a rushing river that overfloods our tasks. Christ is overly aboundingly-enough.
And we are in Christ.
In Him is enough
We aren’t and can’t be enough on our own. But “in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God”(Galatians 3:26), children of him who can do anything. We are “created in Christ Jesus for good works”(Ephesians 2:10), and he enables us to do what we are created for. In Christ, we can be steadfast (Colossians 2:5). In Christ, we are holy and without blame (Ephesians 1:4). In Christ we are complete (Colossians 2:10), in Christ, God causes us to triumph (2 Corinthians 2:14). In Christ, we have wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30). In Christ we can bear much fruit–but without him we can do nothing (John 15:5).
Trying to live the Christian life without Christ is an oxymoron, an impossibility. In him, we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:26). We’re not enough to keep our hearts pumping, much less hold the atoms of reality together. Why then do we think we can hold our own lives together?
We can’t, but Christ’s aboundingly-enough can–and he offers it to us and imbues us with it.
This gift so undeserved, this power so unearned–it is grace. Jesus came with grace, that we might have life, and have it abundantly (John 10:10).
In Him We Have Ability
We can’t win our own battles. If we did, we could say that Christ’s aboundingly-enoughness is unnecessary (Romans 4). No, we are not enough, but his “grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9). We never can be enough. But his grace is.
Does that then give us a pass from accomplishing things, from being competent? If we can’t wash our faces on our own, can’t we just leave them dirty? “By no means!” (Romans 15:6) We on our own cannot do it, but we are not on our own anymore. We are Christ’s, and in him, we are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). The very thing that shows that we have no power is what empowers us. God’s grace, Christ’s enoughness living in us, enables us to truly be enough.
We can finish that paper, because we are in the Living Word, who is our wisdom. We can be kind to rude customers, because we are in the Lamb who we mocked and despised, yet still came to serve and love us. We can get work done, we can overcome temptation, we can make it through rough seasons, because we are in the King who has overcome the world, who has the power to do anything and moves the scenes of history to accomplish his will. And we can give ourselves grace when we don’t succeed, when we aren’t enough–because we are in him who already did it, who already lived the perfect life, and doesn’t need us to accomplish things for him.
He is aboundingly-enough. And because Christ is aboundingly-enough, he can enable us to do things that we in our own enoughness never could have dreamed. He is able to do abundantly more than all we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). And he will, if we rest in him.
The True Danger of “You Are Enough”
That’s why the phrase “you are enough” is so perniciously dangerous–because it’s so very close to the truth. We have been given all that we need to live righteous lives, but the best lies are the ones that are almost true, and this modern encouragement leaves off the most important part: in Christ.
In Christ you are enough. Because he is enough. When we lose that little prepositional phrase, we lose so much.
When we focus on “you are enough,” we focus on what we do, what we can do, and what we have to do–and that will ultimately send us spiraling into vanity or hopelessness, depending on how honestly we assess ourselves.
But with that little phrase, “in Christ,” the spotlight is moved. The image has flipped. The emphasis has changed. The focus is now on Christ, and his work. What he has done, what he can do, and what he will do. And he has, is, and will do everything. This leads us to humbleness, joy, and true encouragement. Our God is with us, and we are in him; who can be against us?
We are enough in Christ. There’s no need for FOMO, for we are in him who orchestrates all of time, and has fullness of joy waiting at the end of time for us. We are enough in Christ–there’s no need for panic, for the Almighty is our sword and shield, it is God who performs all things for us (Psalm 57:2). We are enough in Christ–we have worth not because of our actions, but his, because the blood of the Divine poured out for us. We can be washed clean, stop complaining, and live holy, righteous lives without spot, because we are in Christ, and the same power that raised Jesus from the grave now lives in us.
We, on our own, are not enough. Don’t tell me that I am, for that lie will destroy me.
Instead, tell me about my gracious Savior, mighty Lord, and empowering Jesus. In him, I have aboundingly-enough flowing through me.
I am not enough. But Christ is.