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Stuck in Shame and Self-doubt

Stuck in Shame and Self-doubt

When I was 6 years old, a woman serving in the Central African Republic visited my church and told stories of her life as a cross-cultural worker. After that point, I proclaimed I wanted to be a missionary. And, for decades, I’ve felt stuck between this urge to serve God in cross-cultural ministry and uncertainty regarding whether or not what I have done “counts” in fulfilling this dream.

It’s a strange way to live.

I believe that, as a kid, I was stating a passion for God and for other cultures. At the time, the word I knew was “missionary.” Now, decades later, I’m still not always sure if I know what I am or what I am supposed to do with my life.

Honestly, it’s been a point of shame for me over the years. Have I just not been bold enough to go? Is all the stuff I am doing for God just covering up a “real” call to do the hard work of going overseas to serve?

I suspect that I’m not the only one who hasn’t been able to match grand proclamations to do great things for God with the actual opportunities He has given. It’s kept me unsure of whether I’ve been living my life well enough. Self-doubt and shame are so quick to sneak in and offer a false perspective.

As a connoisseur of feeling stuck, I can intimately relate to the sense of fear that is attached to dreams. I am a dreamer. I toss my dreams at the wall to see which ones will stick. In the meantime—even with the aspirations I’ve chosen to pursue—I perpetually worry whether or not I’ve made the right choice. Does any of this sound familiar? What’s your big dream? What if you don’t accomplish it? What if you fail?

Is it possible that self-doubt and shame are clouding your thoughts and preventing you from serving God in a thousand small ways because you are too focused on accomplishing one big thing? It is easy to get caught up in dreaming grand dreams and miss the significance of faithful obedience. There is value even in the seemingly mundane. You will always find meaning and purpose as you faithfully obey the Lord’s leading in your life.

You are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are unique and loved deeply by the God who made the universe. Through the grace of Christ, He has called you to salvation and service to Him. Do not let fear, shame or self-doubt hinder you from heeding the truths of Scripture and the Holy Spirit’s leading in your life.

You’ll likely never be famous for your service. If you minister among the least-reached, you may in fact be required to remain anonymous for your safety. But God will lead you on a good path if you trust Him.

I’ve been able to look back on my life so far and trust in God’s plan for my future. I’ve leaned into the belief that my days are a series of following God’s leads. It’s been a strange journey so far, but I can see how my steps have written a rather mundane but perfectly good story of my simple service to God, and I am confident of His grace in my life.

Maybe, like me, you tend to focus so much on a loud dream of grand ministry that you are missing the quiet service the Lord is calling you to. Don’t let self-doubt cloud your appreciation for the privilege of serving a God who calls us to serve Him in ways that are perfectly designed for each of us. And don’t forget that He—the Lord of the big and small things—walks with us.

Laura lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where she freelances in various capacities, leads worship at her church and hangs with her adorably photogenic dog named Kimchi. She’s well acquainted with the chaos of trying to determine what to do in life.

Laura went to Bible college, where she explored cross-cultural ministry through classes, conferences and lots of practical application. After college she went to grad school, taught, went to South Korea for a year, worked for Christar, then spent a good chunk of the last decade working with international students in high school and college in the U.S.

She would love to journey with you as you consider missions—because she’s been there. Because reaching the nations is going to look different than it did in centuries past. And she wants you to be a part of it.

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