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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “Hurricane Fluttershy”

If you’re lucky enough to be the kind of person who has a “can-do” attitude, who isn’t ever scared or uncertain about anything, and has total confidence in their ability to succeed no matter what is thrown your way, I commend you. For everyone else, myself included, one of the biggest obstacles to success is chronic insecurity and fear.

I’m highly insecure when it comes to new situations. From an early age, I was often filled with doubt. It probably had to do with the fact I wasn’t the most social due to my Asperger’s…and overweight. Often when I tried to join in with the other kids, I was awkward and stuck out like a sore thumb. On sports I was terrible because I wasn’t athletic, and I usually came in last in everything. I was always more scared of newer things, and when I did try them, naturally, I was terrible at first, but as I seemed to be the last person to try anything I got the idea in my head I wasn’t good at anything. Any big PE or fitness event was an embarrassment because I was always the first to get tired, the slowest, and the least fit…which kind of encouraged me to try less at physical activity (but that’s another story about school fitness plans). I’m not sure if all of that directly sculpted me into my current mentality, but it couldn’t have helped. I’m still highly socially awkward and I’m still terrible at most physical activity.

Yet I think what plagued me the most, what plagues other people with the same problem the most, and what certainly plagued Fluttershy in regards to helping out in generating the tornado, was a defeatist, pessimistic attitude. Growing up I constantly expected the worst from myself. I constantly felt I’d be last at everything. I constantly felt I’d fail at anything new I tried. I constantly thought of myself as lazy and useless. I never expected anything good out of myself because I felt everything was too hard and I was naturally inferior to it. I didn’t believe in my ability to succeed at anything, and if I failed that only confirmed to me how worthless I was. If I succeeded, well…that was just luck or the task was too easy. It never reflected on me being good at anything. Hence, I was caught in a dual-loss situation and I always expected mediocre from myself.

But in my Junior Year in High School, I received some good advice that I’ve kept in mind ever since.

I had this one class where my teacher, who was also a tennis coach for the school and an athlete himself, gave us a course syllabus to sign that included an “expected grade”. I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t want to put down a C even if I only felt I could guarantee that would be what I would get, but I didn’t want to put down an A even if that’s what I really wanted because I wasn’t sure if I could get it.

Before anyone could put anything on it, the teacher shared a story about how when he was around our age he was a tennis player and the school had a special distinction for the tennis players that were in the top five. These were the super-pros, state champions, all-stars, you name it. He said he set for himself the goal that he was going to be the best of the best and the number one position of the top five. So he trained as hard as he could, practiced as hard as he could, and worked and worked…and in the end he made the third position of the top five.

Yet he said that was perfectly fine, because he knew that if he hadn’t aimed for the top spot, he never would have even made it into the top five because he would have expected too little out of himself. He then ordered the entire class to put down an expected grade of an A.

I did and I received an A in the course.

Napoleon Hill once said: “Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” What the above example and this quote illustrates is that we become what we allow ourselves to dwell on. For a Biblical example I’ll pick on the Israelites who left Egypt during the Exodus. Right before they were set to begin the conquest of Canaan, they sent spies up ahead to reconnoiter the land. Most of those who went over only focused on the size of the enemy nations, the stature of the opposing warriors, and the thickness of the walled cities. Although God had delivered them from the nation of Egypt without a single act of violence necessary on their part, all they focused on was the hardships ahead of them. Not only in the Promised Land, but also along the journey, whether it had been lack of water, lack of food, lack of meat, or even a long time waiting for Moses to come off of a mountain. In spite of how many times God had delivered them and led them, they always focused on the difficulty ahead until that was all they could think about. They concluded the conquest was impossible and wanted to revolt and return to Egypt.

However, two of those who went over, Joshua and Caleb, didn’t join with the others. “And Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes and said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.”” (Numbers 14:6-9) Unlike the others, Joshua and Caleb didn’t focus on the monumental task ahead of them, but rather on the power of God and on the promise he had given them. All they concentrated on was that God had vowed to give them the land and to remove everyone who opposed them and they had faith that it would be so. They didn’t continuously tell themselves how inadequate they were or how they were doomed to fail, but that they were going to succeed and triumph. And as a result, only those two out of that generation of Israel ever set foot on the Promised Land.

The ability to believe that you can and will do something, or even will excel at something, is integral to maximizing your potential. Psychologists refer to it as self-efficacy; belief in yourself to be capable of success. And the Bible makes it clear the ultimate reason to have a healthy sense of self-efficacy is when one bases their trust in God and his Purpose. “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Phillipians 4:13). “So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”” (Hebrews 13:6). “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9) “Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.” (Psalm 27:3)

When God has given us a purpose for our lives or declared a promise over us, he does not necessarily promise that getting there will be easy or won’t involve any work on our part, but he does promise us “final victory”, and he would never call us to have success in something we were not capable of being successful in. The question now is if we believe enough in the promise of God to override our own doubt and fear and be all that we can be; to shut out all the voices saying we’re too weak or too incompetent and instead listen to the Voice of God telling us he will not abandon or forsake us.

Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you that you never leave any promise unfulfilled and that you are faithful in all things. When we receive your call to action, please help us to remember that you are greater than the world; including our own doubts, insecurities, and fears. Help us to focus on your ultimate victory rather than our own human weakness and aspire to the same. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”