Gideon is one of the great heroes of the Bible; a man who, in cooperation with God, leads an “army” of 300 men to incredible victory over an overwhelming army of 135,000 soldiers. It is an awesome story that ends in an unbelievable way! However, you might be surprised to know that it did not start as gloriously as it ended.
When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” “But sir,” Gideon replied, “If the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian.” (Judges 6:12-13)
“But Lord,” Gideon asked, “how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh and I am the least in my family.” (Judges 6:15)
Before the victory, the great man of God asks two familiar questions:
- If God is with me, why is this happening?
- How will I possibly survive this?
This short article is not a treatise on “why bad things happen to good people” — that is a discussion that delves into the reality of sin, its devastating affects, and the impact of living in a sin-polluted world. Instead, I simply want to share some observations from ministry regarding the oft-asked question, “Why is this happening?”
Sometimes “this” is happening:
- As a result of my choices. Everyone tells me not to put a paperclip in an electrical outlet. But those folks seem overprotective and the outlet looks totally harmless so I make the choice to test the system – and learn a shocking lesson.
- To expose my attitude and heart. God does not want us to live in deception, including self-deception. It is pretty easy to be the Lord’s greatest and most outspoken friend and cheerleader – as long as things are going well. However, let life circumstances take a turn and suddenly it seems impossible to even trust Him. Sometimes, because God loves me, He allows things to happen to reveal the true nature of my relationship with Him so I can establish (reestablish) a vibrant relationship.
- To influence the direction I am going. While it may be hard to embrace this, the most loving thing a father can do when he sees his child headed into traffic and about to step in front of an oncoming car is tackle him and knock him to the ground. Bruises are better than intensive care or a funeral.
- Help me access His grace and power. To some degree this is similar to the point above. When I am off doing life in my own strength and intellect, not relying on God, I am totally disconnected from the wonder of His grace and left to do life in the absence of His power. I think the Lord loves me too much to leave me to my own devices.
What about the second question – “How will I possibly survive this?”
Please don’t think me trite or simplistic; the answer today is the same as it was for Gideon: “The Lord answered, ‘I will be with you…’” (Judges 6:16)
Read all of chapters 6 and 7 of Judges and you will discover that Gideon still had his challenges, even after the Lord had declared His intentions and faithfulness. But ultimately Gideon chose to believe God, even as God was asking him to do ridiculous things; he chose faith. We, too, must choose faith. Not just the faith to put my trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior at one moment in time, perhaps decades ago; but also a faith that demonstrates itself as it plays out in daily life.