Often, I am guilty of looking at people in Scripture as some kind of out-of-this-world picture of perfection. I look at the folks in the Bible as heroes. Super-human. Yet, when I take the time to really read their stories, I see something different…I see genuine people like you and me. They struggled. They failed. They were human…flesh and blood folks with emotions and skin and feelings. In those moments of truth, I am encouraged. It doesn’t matter how much my life seems like a disaster, or that my struggles in this world are giant-sized…He is able to use me in my weakness. And He can use you in yours too.
Take Gideon for instance. This guy had real fear issues! In all practical senses of the word, Gideon was a wimp! Chicken-hearted. The kids on the playground probably called him a sissy. He was a coward. He buckled to the pressure of the day.
Somehow I viewed him differently…like a war hero or something. Or was he?
When I read Scripture, I like to paraphase and imagine what it would be like to be there…in the middle of the story. I love to pretend that I am watching it all unfold. You can read the story of Gideon in Judges 6-7. But for a minute, imagine with me.
The stage for Gideon’s story is sad and depressing. The Children of Israel were being oppressed by the Midianites because of their disobedience to God. (They were doing wicked things that were against His laws…so He used a foreign country to discipline them and bring them back to Himself.) The Midianites were ruthless. They would go behind the Israelites when they planted their crops and destroy everything. They killed their animals. The Israelites were so afraid of the Midianites that they hid in caves. They were completely impoverished and frightened out of their wits.
This is where we find Gideon…threshing his wheat in hiding. He is afraid to do it in the open lest the Midianites take it or destroy it. I just imagine him…jumping at the slightest noise and totally freaked out at the smallest twig snap. He’s trying to make a living and put food in his family’s mouths…and he is completely scared to death in the process. I imagine him there, looking this way and that…trying to be quiet and calm his shaking hands.
Then the Angel of the Lord comes to him. Now this is just speculation…but if a guy is hiding to work, an angel is probably going to scare you worse than a man! What do you think his response is? Does he think about running away? What goes through Gideon’s wimpy heart?
Check this out…the Angel’s greeting cracks me up! He says, “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!” Ok. I’m not a rocket scientist, but I’m pretty sure this message was given to the wrong guy! Gideon is hiding, for goodness sake. It’s not like he’s picketing for better rights or bucking against the system. What does Gideon say to this? Does he laugh? Does he look behind him and wonder if the Angel is talking to someone else?
Listen to Gideon’s response…again, not a tough-guy type of answer. I imagine a quiver in his voice as he says… “Oh, my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ but now the Lord has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.” Even Gideon’s response is full-to-the-brim with fear. Somehow, the Angel completely ignores Gideon’s knocking-knees and says, “Go in this might of yours” (exuse me, what might?) “and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have not I sent you?”
Whenever I read this story, I find myself laughing at this point. What on earth does God see in Gideon? He stands there…white as a ghost, trembling, and making exuses and God says…”Yep, he’s the one.” Why Gideon? Why a wimp?
Gideon is still not convinced. He starts making excuses about his family tree and his weaknesses. He tells all his mess-ups and bad traits. Gideon tries to convince God that He chose the wrong guy! To be honest, I’m with Gideon…he’s not a mighty man of valor. He’s a fear-filled wimp. Weak. Afraid.
Aren’t we glad we don’t write the story of life? God sees past the fear, the knocking-knees, the quivering chin…and He notices strength that no one else can see. He sees a man with potiential. A man, who with the right tools and the right God can be a warrior. I think God saw Gideon as an opportunity to show the world His power…because Gideon was nothing special. He was an ordinary man with wimpy fears. He was the littlest, the last, the least.
So, God promises to be with Gideon and to defeat the Midianites through him. Gideon sacrifices to the Lord there. He’s willing at this point…but he’s not all in. Watch this…God tells him to destroy the false gods of Midian, tear down their altars, and to build an altar to the Lord and sacrifice to Him there. We can imagine Gideon wrestling at this point. He wants to obey God, but his faith and fear are colliding. So Gideon does what he knows how to do well…he hides. He does what God says…but under the cover of darkness. The men of the city wake up and come storming to Gideon’s family’s house to kill him.
You got to love this next part. Gideon’s dad comes out to meet the men and pleads for his son. I don’t know where Gideon was…maybe hiding?
Then it happens. A change of direction. A strengthening of his heart. Judges 6:34 says “the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon.” Big difference! Welcome to the new Gideon! This warrior-Gideon is the one we all seem to remember. We are but empty vessels without the power and might of God’s Spirit. Here is Gideon…trying to obey in his own flesh and God fills him up. Holy Spirit-living equals powerful living. Gideon begins to change. Instantly. On the spot.
He still has his fearful moments. Times he wants to test God…like with the fleeces in the next chapter. Twice. But God isn’t intimidated by Gideon’s fears or concerns or worry-level. He’s concerned with his heart. Gideon’s heart is pure. Gideon had a warrior heart…he just needed backing. He needed a General worthy of his devotion. He needed a Captain who could handle the outcome. This is where Gideon is ready to give it his all. This is where he turns from wimp to warrior.
I sit sometimes and think about Gideon. What would it be like to sit and talk with him about the battles he fought? Defeating the entire Midian army with 300 men? Wonder what that was like. With clay pots, swords, and torches, no less! I find it interesting to note that when they did defeat them, the battle cry was this… “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!” Wow.
I wonder…could I be a warrior? Are my wimpy fears holding me back from winning victories that will be spoke of for centuries? I love the story of Gideon, because it speaks to me…that normal, fearful, human, weak people can be used of God to be warriors. The change? His Spirit. And where His Spirit is there is victory and peace. Where His Spirit is there are wimps turned warriors.
Which one are you?
(This post originally written for the Polished Cornerstones blog February 19th, 2015)
“What are you most afraid of?” The question kind of took me back a little. I was sitting across the table from my friend, Liza, who had listened to me pour out my heart. My emotions were raw. Tears welled up in my eyes and my heart felt like it was bursting. There was a lot going on and I was overwhelmed by life. She listened intently and then she gently asked the question that rocked me…
What are you most afraid of?
I guess I should clarify…the biggest ministry season was straight ahead, I was having best friend issues, relationship struggles, and I had just lost a close friend to cancer. I was weary. Broken. Life was shaking my faith. It seemed like on every side there was some major change or shift. What was I supposed to do? Where was I supposed to spend my energy? Why was everything coming so hard and all of life falling apart? I had a million questions for God.
In the middle of all of the chaos, God had asked me to open my heart up. To say yes to a relationship that was way outside anything I wanted at the moment. I felt so raw and broken and helpless at the time and starting a relationship with someone seemed…strange. Wrong, actually. I could barely survive each day without an emotional volcano and I was pretty sure that meant I was a bad representation of the real Faith Walker.
I was digging my heels in. Of course, God has the blueprint…but this time? This time I knew better. Or so I thought. I wanted to trust His plan, but I was so spent emotionally. I can’t do this! Don’t ask me to jump into something that will make me give of myself…not now. Not yet.
What are you most afraid of?
There I sat at Liza’s kitchen table, tears rolling down my cheeks and mascara ruined. It was becoming the ugly cry. The question echoed in my ears like a thundering voice. It rattled my insides. It awakened my spirit. This demanded an answer. A heart-search. It was a gauge of my trust level.
I needed that question. To verbalize what was going on inside of me. I had to stop and think. It hung in the air. And the silence was almost palpable. I sighed and bit my lip.
“I’m afraid of heartbreak.” My voice warbled. I felt the knot tightening in my throat. I was truly afraid that in the end, there would be another broken piece of me…and I felt too messy to invite something new into the mix. Why sign up for failure?
My friend, Liza, is an excellent listener. She is wise and gentle and caring. So she sat there and heard my heart. She saw my tears and cried a little with me. She validated my concerns…and then she quoted Charles Spurgeon: “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.” That sunk in for a moment.
“Faith, God isn’t gonna lead you anywhere that He isn’t going with you. He is good and He has good plans for you.” I cried some more. I knew she was right and I was scared.
I could feel the white-knuckled grip of my soul trying to hang on to anything that would prevent me from what was ahead. I wanted to just curl up and shut out the new…I just wanted everything to go back to what was “normal”. Whatever that was. I hurt deep. The pain affected everything…my eating, my sleep patterns, my attitudes, and my sanity. The world around me was swirling in craziness and I didn’t know how to get it all to stop. Depression hung over me like a cloud.
What are you most afraid of?
For days, the question gripped my heart. I heard it over and over. It haunted me in a totally holy and righteous, God-pursuing way. I needed to answer it again and again. I needed to face my fears. Acknowledge them so I could deal with them.
Somehow, that question became a balm of sorts. A way to face my realities and speak truth to my heart. If I knew what I was afraid of and could verbalize it…then I could counter-attack with the truth of His Word. The solid rock certainty is that even in my toughest times, most grueling moments and hardest circumstances, HE IS WITH ME. Liza is right: He won’t leave me to flounder in the pain alone. He won’t lead me astray.
Despite the unknowns and uncertainties of life, the Word is never changing. When everything else in the world is crumbling around you, count on it: Jesus is there. He will walk with you. He with hold you.
My theme verse this year is Joshua 1:9, “Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (HCSB)
Isn’t that where the real answer lies? Here I am…broken, scared and confused. He will never leave me…and that is where my strength and courage really are: IN HIM. He is here with me in the middle of my mess and He says, “I’ve got this”. Answering that question at times of uncertainty has helped me breathe. It puts handles on how to counterattack. It gives me strength to speak truth into my fears and boosts my faith.
So…What are YOU most afraid of?
Perhaps you need to answer that question yourself. What is holding you back from full potential with Jesus? Maybe it’s what someone else thinks of you. It’s plaguing you. The need for approval. The quest for more Facebook likes and sappy comments about the way you’re dressed. You’re afraid that someone won’t like you, they’ll unfriend you, or talk about you behind your back.
Perhaps you’re afraid of failure. You are just sure that you’ll never get that job promotion or that A+ grade in school. Inside you’re always comparing your life to your friends. You aren’t measuring up to their grade-point-average. You don’t have the skill set that they do. You are afraid you won’t be able to make it in life and you’ll just be one huge failure after another.
Or maybe your biggest fear is fear itself. It stares at you every day in the mirror. You are fearful of getting in a car accident or saying something stupid in front of your friends. You are afraid of a storm taking your house or your purse getting stolen. If you can be afraid about something…you’ve already been there done that.
What are you most afraid of?
I’m with you, friend. Life can present a hundred opportunities to choose between fear and faith. Honestly, I enjoy the feeling of control (although it’s a mirage at best) and hate when I lose my grasp. When my world feels it’s crumbling around me, my soul can feel like it’s coming unglued. All the “what if” questions run through my brain. Before I know it, I have myself alone on an island, without a boat, eating canned tuna and without any rescue in sight.
Living in fear stinks. In fact, it’s not even living. At best, it’s only surviving. We were made to THRIVE, and fear will hold us back. Every. Single. Time.
What are you most afraid of? This question has rerouted my heart many times over the last few months. When I feel the fear mounting up, I often stop and think of my friend’s question. It brings me back to earth and reminds me of the truth: HE IS WITH ME.
Now this is what the Lord says— the One who created you, Jacob, and the One who formed you, Israel— “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. I will be with you when you pass through the waters, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. You will not be scorched when you walk through the fire, and the flame will not burn you.” Isaiah 43:1-2 (HCSB)
Fear break-necks it out of the way when we cling to Jesus in faith. So name it, friend…what is your fear? Then speak the truth of Scripture over your soul and let His Word heal the brokenness. Walk in the Light. Rehearse His promises: He is with you. He loves you. He sings over you and delights in you. He does all things well. He will never leave or forsake you.
Now let those truths seep into your heart and take root. Let them turn your fear into rocket fuel…FAITH…that will move mountains. Name your fear and then find the antidote for it in His Word.
You were made to thrive in the wonder of His love and care. Breathe it in. Then go live like you believe it.
It’s been a crazy year…to say the least. Courageous living isn’t my natural habitat. I don’t even like roller coasters. I’m just not the daring type. So when God pressed into my heart two words this past January that would be my life theme for the year 2017, I was a little nervous.
I cringed. “Savor the coffee and sunsets”, would have been more welcome. Bravery was not what I wanted to stare in the face for twelve whole months. I prefer the easy road. My comfort-zone is my safe place. It’s comfortable!
It would take a lot of paper to detail the last eleven months, but I can tell you this much: I wouldn’t trade them for the world.
I have never been so terrified…and loved. I’ve walked through unspeakable pain and found unbelievable healing. I’ve shook in my boots and felt the Spirit of God hovering over me. I’ve fought depression and felt incredible joy. I have seen Jesus in a beautiful way. I’ve been broken. Again and again and again. Broken and called to be brave anyway…that’s what He has asked of me.
This year has left me a completely different woman than I began. Courage isn’t what I thought it was. True bravery and courage is found when we know just how small we are and how BIG Jesus is. He is enough.
Yes, this blog is part of my brave living. Writing for Jesus. Out of obedience. If you would have told me five years ago that I’d be doing this…I would have laughed. God has a sense of humor. He really is an awesome God.
Writing is a part of me. Ever since I was a little girl, I loved paper and pencils and pens. I was actually a bit of a paper hoarder. Thanks to my wonderful mother, I navigated out of the selfish stock-piling stage…but I still love to type away on my laptop or handwrite a letter.
Writing is how I process what God is teaching me. Honestly, most of me would really like to not have all this out there for the world to see…but then there’s Jesus. He’s just so captivating that I can’t help not talk about Him!
Life is truly an adventure when you have a Guide as able and powerful as Him. So this is a small invitation to come along on a journey with me. I’m basically journaling here, and you’re welcome to join us. Jesus and me…as He leads me to Live Brave and Courageous.