Out of Our Depth
Out of Our Depth

By Mandy Smith


What makes you feel out of your depth?

Starting a new job?

Taking an exam?

Having a child?

So many situations in life force us to face the size of our own limitations. And when we do, we deal with those feelings of fear and inadequacy in our own ways—by running away, by working extra hard, by becoming anxious. Sometimes it’s not until after we’ve tried all those options that we finally stop to ask for help. But asking for help isn’t the first choice, because it requires us to admit to someone else, “I can’t do this alone.”

Our culture doesn’t encourage us to say those words. Our culture says it’s shameful, or that there’s a product to fill or numb each fear or inadequacy so we never have to face it.

But what if being able to say, “I can’t do this alone,” is central to our spiritual growth?

Throughout Scripture, that seems to be what God longs to hear his people say—because people turn to God when they say it.

But I pray to you, Lord, in the time of your favor; in your great love, O God, answer me with your sure salvation. Rescue me from the mire, do not let me sink; deliver me from those who hate me, from the deep waters. Do not let the floodwaters engulf me or the depths swallow me up or the pit close its mouth over me. Answer me, Lord, out of the goodness of your love; in your great mercy turn to me. Do not hide your face from your servant; answer me quickly, for I am in trouble (Psalm 69:13-17).

When the bills are piling up, when there’s more work than energy, when our parenting efforts fall flat, when our best friend fails us, when everything is more than we can take, God is waiting for us to turn and say, “I need you!”

As we learn that skill, we’ll learn the depths of what it means to cry out to him for our spiritual needs. As inadequate as we may feel in our relationships and work, we are even less able to help ourselves out of the spiritual messes we’re in. And God is waiting for us to look up and say, “I need you!”

This is what we celebrate every time we take Communion—that the God who waits to hear those words is ready to respond with the power of resurrection.


Mandy Smith serves as pastor at University Christian Church, Cincinnati, Ohio. She is the author of Making a Mess and Meeting God: Unruly Ideas and Everyday Experiments for Worship (Standard Publishing) and The Vulnerable Pastor: How Human Limitations Empower Our Ministry (IVP Books).

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