I can’t help but write about Gideon again this week. There’s something about this man. It’s less the course of his story which is a familiar telling if you extrapolate it from the unique events (hero steps up, vanquishes the enemy, and saves the day), and far more how Gideon fits into it.
I’ve talked about God’s conversation with Gideon just before battle wherein the greater part of his armed forces were sent home so no one could deny that God had achieved the victory on the field. Yet, Gideon’s character wasn’t always so ready to blindly trust, and we see in the instance of him first being called to action just how little he thought of himself and his abilities.
When we meet Gideon in the book of Judges, Israel is in complete disarray. Unable to learn the lessons of past generations, they have once again forgotten exactly who it was who saved them from the perils of their wanderings and their slavery in Egypt. Humans have short memories, and in this instance, the Israelites have some of the shortest. Within a generation, they embrace the false, useless gods of the surrounding areas, and are genuinely surprised when their world comes crumbling down around them. Taking advantage of the straying nation, the Midianites strike with terrifying swiftness and decimate the land.
So it is that Gideon is found working outside when God gives him the calling to deliver Israel from their torment. Gideon, working in an agricultural capacity, is immediately addressed as a mighty warrior and charged to deliver his fellow countrymen from their torment and terror. But Gideon is hesitant, and his disbelief that he could be capable echoes a great deal of our own personal struggles.
“The Lord turned to him and said, ‘Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?’ ‘Pardon me, my lord,’ Gideon replied, ‘but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.’” ( Judges 6: 14-15)
Gideon’s objection is based not on an unwillingness to serve, but a belief that he is unequal, unworthy, and unprepared for the task at hand. It’s a hard sentiment to wrestle with considering how relatable it is to just about anyone anywhere. More often than not, our reluctance to take up a task is not because we feel too big and important to be bothered by it and far more often that we feel we are too small to accomplish it.
It’s hardly a surprise considering what the world teaches us on the subject. The world tells us time and time again that you are in the driver’s seat and unless you are working day and night to make yourself a creature of strength and capability you will never be able to be or do anything greater than you are now.
Humans are absolutely desperate to be strong enough to stand on their own two feet and rely on their own capability, and that capability is most frequently judged by strength. How long can you last in a trial by yourself? How much work can you get done without any help? We may say that we don’t believe this about ourselves and point to how readily we offer help to others as evidence that we support the notion that it’s ok to rely on others in weakness. But consider how you react when you’re the one being offered help. How quickly do you reject it on the grounds that you should be able to do this yourself or you don’t want to be a burden to the ones you love?
Being weak and needing help is all fine and good until we’re the ones feeling weak and in need of help.
And the moments when we are the one in need of help or are lacking ability are simply crushing. We want to be strong. We want to be strong enough more than anything. The idea being that if we’re strong enough we can say “I did it. This was my doing. I did this myself.” and while that is an intoxicatingly rewarding feeling it is neither our point nor our purpose. We were never built to do things all by ourselves.
God’s course is a stark contrast to the world’s methodology. It wasn’t a mistake that he chose Gideon, from the weakest of clans and the least of his family. Often, God does the most with what the world deems the least. It’s thoroughly unsurprising that God would choose a simple man like Gideon without fear of his capability. He didn’t say, “Go on, do your best, we’ll see how this turns out.” On the contrary, his response to Gideon is a testament to his nature. “The Lord answered, ‘I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.’” (Judges 6:16)
Even in calling Gideon far beyond what he feels capable of doing, God doesn’t leave him alone to attempt it. Might the same be true of us? We serve an unchanging God, after all, so it stands to reason that the God who called Gideon to victory beyond his own means of doing is the same God who is calling you.
It’s no accident that God very often uses us the most when we’re at our weakest.
We so often think that offering God our strength is something great, forgetting that human strength doesn’t sing his praise across the universe. Human strength in our hands is a whisper compared to human weakness in God’s hands. Weakness and pain, however unendurable in the moment, are in God’s hands a loudspeaker at full volume blasting the truth of the gospel. I wonder which method he will use more?
And believe me, I understand how abhorrent the feeling of weakness is. I spent years waiting for the moment when God would make me stronger than the limitations of my brain injury only to heartstoppingly come to terms with the fact one day that those limitations were never going away. It hurt, but I truly believe that God can do far more with my scrambled brain than I could alone with a whole one. Why? Because each time I overcome and make it through another trial, it is obvious not just to me, but to others that I could not have and did not do it alone. My weakness serves as a testimony without me even opening my mouth. My weakness shows God’s glory independent of my shortcomings. I’m simply along for the ride.
So I beg you, Christian, consider your fight to be strong and how much purpose it’s actually yielding. Are you actually being strong? Or are you just exhausting yourself further? It hurts more to embrace pain and weakness as a lifelong companion, but the road it takes you down is well marked with God’s love and purpose. What more could we hope for? We may be the least of our family from the weakest clan, but we shouldn’t believe for a moment that that means we are useless to what God’s preparing to do. Your weakness is ready to sing praise to the rafters of your world.
Let’s find some joy,