Sometimes I believe the greatest ministry I have as a pastor is helping people grant themselves permission to be human—to be human tempered by faith, but human, nonetheless.
Permission to acknowledge the unvarnished, natural catalog of emotions and realities that come along with just . . . living:
- Permission to accept personal disappointments; embrace natural limitations; process normal stages of grief; and recognize the sting of pain, heartache, and frustration
- Permission to not have every answer but to have many questions, even questions of God
- Permission to be tired and fed up
- Permission to desire good things and struggle against bad ones
As I’ve sat with people for the last 13 years now, walking with them through the regular, everyday challenges of life, I am constantly reminded that we all need grace to be human in the practical, daily moments.
To be clear, acknowledging our humanity is not license to succumb to our base emotions and behaviors. Scripture is replete with admonitions against that. We are told to “put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). Indeed, our Christian striving to be a witness of Jesus and reflect the image of God in us will, at times, require us to rise above our natural inclinations. Permission to be human is not permission to be carnal. Instead, acknowledging our humanity is a constant awareness that life is bigger than us and because of that there will be seasons that catch us unprepared, ill-equipped, and off-balance. This reality does not mean we are unfaithful, it just means we are human.
Recognizing our humanity is necessary.
It is only in acknowledging our human limitations that we truly find the all-sufficient power of God. God uses the self-awareness of our human frailty and limitations to bring us to a place of greater reliance on Him. The Apostle Paul testified to this in 2 Corinthians 1:8-9; he recounted, “We were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead.” Even Paul acknowledged a moment when his human strength was insufficient such that the only response was trusting in God for deliverance.
Embracing our limitations is freeing.
Often the first step in trusting God is recognizing our own limitations. Acknowledging our humanity allows us to bring our need before God and receive His provision. When we hide our weakness or ignore our struggles, we communicate to the Lord a belief that we can handle things on our own. God challenged Israel for having that attitude saying, “For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn themselves cisterns—broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jer. 2:13). Israel, who had access to the full power of God, trusted in themselves and inadequate substitutes instead.
Releasing our burdens brings peace.
Acknowledging our humanity allows us to release ourselves from the emotional, spiritual, and, even, physical burden of bearing the weight of life alone. The psalmist wrote, “Cast your burden on the Lord, And He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved” (Ps. 55:22). The Lord is willing to bear our burdens, but He is likely to do it only after we have been honest about our own limitations. We may begin by naming the places in our lives we feel stressed, confused, frustrated, anxious, fearful, unsure. The Scriptures suggest this kind of confession unlocks a promise of God’s peace. The Word instructs us to “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6).
Both the Old and New Testaments command the people of God to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Deut. 6:5; Matt. 22:37). To do this, we must present all of ourselves to the Lord, even our doubts, struggles, and disappointments. As we bring those parts to the Lord, we invite Him into the process, making room for His presence and His power. It’s okay to be human.