We all want to feel like we have control over our lives. We want clean houses, completed to-do lists, and structured relationships. We want to always have the answers, have a plan, and even a back-up plan. But the truth is, we don't have control. And our plan is not "the" plan. These truths can lead us to feel unworthy and less than. But sometimes less is truly more.
Let's take a moment to talk about John the Baptist and his relationship with the Lord. People did not always know what to make of Jesus and His disciples. John often had to mediate arguments about baptisms, and he had to explain that he was not the Messiah but that Jesus was. Something he said struck me as so profound and powerful: "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30 ESV). It sounds so simple, but what a truly challenging practice–one going against our nature, and yet it is one of the most beautiful ways we can honor Jesus. We decrease. He increases. It got me thinking about how we can that apply to our lives.
We live in a culture of never-enough. The media and culture as a whole tell us we need more success, more money, and more influence. Each increase counts toward our perceived worthiness. However, there is no winner here as no greater amount of anything this world has to offer will ever secure our identities.
So, even though it goes against what popular culture may have us believe, is it possible that the opposite is true–that becoming less results in so much more than we could ever imagine? John seemed to understand this concept very well. He knew his call was to "prepare the way" (Matthew 3:3) for Jesus. He wasn't minimizing Jesus' accomplishments to put the spotlight back on himself. In fact, he never sought a spotlight at all. He simply wanted to direct others to the light of Jesus.
He decreased himself in every way to increase the Lord as He lit the way. And he did not do this begrudgingly. He was joyful! Is that truly possible for us? I would say that it absolutely is. But it is a process requiring trust and humility. We have to be ready to give our less to the One who perfects our weaknesses through His own strength (2 Corinthians 12:9). Then, through prayer and His guidance, His ways will increase, and our ways will decrease.
When we become less patient, we can depend on Jesus to renew our resolve instead of ourselves. When we become less in control of our circumstances, we can turn to Him to take the lead and guide us through the mess. When we become less energetic from the demands of our days, He becomes our greatest source of renewal and refreshment. When we decrease–when our weakness is on display–it will increase our recognition of the Lord in truly remarkable ways. And it allows us to trade in our less-than for His more-than-enough.
Practically, this can be particularly challenging. When we feel decreased in our capacity or productivity, we don't often think of how it can increase the reality of God's goodness. But it is precisely in these situations that we are set free from the trap of setting our identity in self-sufficiency or our abilities to do more and be more. There is so much freedom in realizing that we must become less. Our God is capable of so much more, and He is working all of it out for our good (Romans 8:28). When we allow ourselves to look past our shortcomings and look up to the infinite capabilities of Christ, we can find comfort and courage to face whatever the day has for us.
And, sometimes, our weaknesses open our hearts more for the Lord. When we become less fearful by coming to Him in prayer, He reveals his faithfulness to us more and more. When we become less focused on ourselves, He becomes the center of our thoughts and actions.
There are so many ways that we can strive to be less of something–less doubtful, less judgmental, less envious, and the list could go on. In turn, His strength and influence are reflected through us in more faithfulness, more graciousness, more gratefulness. He produces more in us when we come to Him in our weakness and ask Him for the strength and guidance that only He can provide.
Like John, we must strive to spotlight Jesus in our everyday lives. He must increase. We must be willing to decrease. But, in doing so, we are given a front-row seat to witness the miraculous and transformative power of a world with more of Christ. With humble hearts, we can allow Him to be greater than anything else. We can praise Him for who He is in our mess, in our stress, and in our less-than state.