I began this week with 1p in my bank account.
I knew this day would come eventually, having had no regular income since I quit my job in Scotland in March. But, I was also confident that God is a God who provides, therefore I had no reason to worry when it did arrive.
However, despite endeavouring to steward my money well, that day came a little sooner than expected due to a number of circumstances out with my control. Last week the tenant in my property in Aberdeen moved out with just 3 weeks notice, despite his contract not due to end until February 2018. Although I have applied for a number of jobs here in Germany, every door has closed so far, not least due to my still limited language skills. And unexpected expenses including insurances and bank fees crippled my finances further.
At first, I thought that surely God would come through for me by the time my current tenant had moved out of the apartment… but that day came and went.
Then I knew He would definitely have to provide for me before my mortgage payment was taken a couple days later… then He missed that deadline too.
Hours ticked by as I refreshed my mobile banking app more than regularly, just in case I had ‘missed’ the miracle. My increasingly insistent prayers and positive declarations of faith appeared to be bouncing off the ceiling and going no further. Last week I had assured my church home group that I would have a miracle to report by this weekend. How could I tell them that I had been sorely mistaken?
Very quickly, the strong, resilient faith that I had been holding firmly in place since I arrived on the continent began to fall apart.
In the days that followed, I experienced all the emotions. It began with anticipation and excitement at the expected miracle, which soon turned to doubt, that spiralled into fear and anxiety like I have never experienced before. I became so anxious that I spent several days fighting the physical manifestations of it.
But where was God in the midst of this? I had trusted Him, had I not? I had given up everything to follow His call, so why had He not come through yet? Would He really leave me with nothing?
Gideon was a man who lived his life in fear. He was busy beating wheat in a wine press and hiding from the Midianites when God paid him a visit.
“The Lord is with you, O brave man,” God said to Gideon. Brave? Really? This was a man who beat wheat in a wine press for fear of what the Midianites would do to him; he obeyed God’s commands under the protection of darkness afraid of what his own family and friends would think; he repeatedly asked for signs of confirmation from God, just to be sure of what God had asked him to do. But what I love here is that God spoke life and strength over this man who was yet timid and afraid.
God had chosen Gideon to lead Israel into victory against the Midianites. But Gideon begins to ask the same questions I have been asking myself this week: “if the Lord is with me, why has this happened to me?”, “Why haven’t You come through for me yet?”, “Show me a sign you are really with me.”
“Go in this strength of yours…” was God’s response. Um, what strength? Gideon does not appear to demonstrate much strength here! But throughout Judges 6 and 7, God graciously encourages Gideon and takes Him through the plan one step at a time. Gideon may not appear to be up to the task, but he was God’s chosen man. God had created Gideon and knew him intricately and, despite his sensitive disposition, Gideon was the right man for the job.
Gideon’s fear did not disqualify him from the very purpose he was created for. The Spirit of the Lord was with him (Judges 6:34) and empowered him to do what God had asked him to do.
Gideon now had a huge army at his disposal but God knew that if the entire army entered into the battle, they would claim the victory for themselves and not have the ability to see God’s hand in it. Therefore, God began to whittle down the crowd…
Using a series of seemingly insignificant details, God began to instruct Gideon to send men home (I can only imagine how Gideon must have felt about this!). Those who were afraid were the first to go. A detail as small as how they chose to drink their water was also used to sift out who would stay and who would leave. The army was streamlined from 32,000, all the way down to just 300 men.
Then God once again reassured Gideon and strengthened him by leading him into the enemy camp where Gideon heard chat amongst the Midianites that God had already revealed the impending victory to some of them in a dream.
Only now was Gideon ready to do what God had called him to do; what he had been created and purposed for. Now Gideon would lead the Israelites to victory.
At Gideon’s word, the 300 men surrounded the enemy camp, blew their horns, smashed pots and shouted victory to the Lord, the Midianites panicked and God caused them to turn on one another, killing many. Some fled, but Gideon and his men pursued them, despite their exhaustion (Judges 8:4), and eventually subdued the Midianite army, bringing peace to the land once again.
Gideon was no perfect specimen – none of God’s chosen instruments ever are – but this Biblical account shows us that God can use us despite our fear, as long as we are willing to take steps to obey Him. God is gracious and will reassure us, strengthen us and help us overcome our fears. The more we obey God and see His provision, the more fearless we will become.
Sometimes God will whittle us down and intentionally weaken us (illness, redundancy, financial crisis, isolation) so that His victory can be all the more greater. But we must be careful not to panic in these moments (like I did!), thinking God has abandoned us. He works all things for His glory, not ours.
Gideon surrendered to God’s way and God won him the fight. Though Gideon did not feel equipped for the task, God called him so he responded in obedience, and God provided all that he needed.
It is true for us too. When we surrender to God and allow Him to work, past our fears, doubts and inabilities, He will act. We can trust God’s capability, His willingness and His timing.
Gideon and his army lifted their voices to God and the battle was won. We, too, are victorious when we lift our voices in prayer and praise instead of being overwhelmed by the circumstances around us. God is mighty to save, whatever the situation. When nothing is certain, anything is possible.
This week has felt long, and exhausting. But I have learnt three valuable lessons:
- God provides one day at a time. Even though it felt like God had abandoned me, or not provided for me like He promises in His Word, I began to realise that I had what I needed for that day. He had provided enough food for me for that day. He had provided grace for me to cope with what I faced that day. There was no point dwelling on tomorrow, or next week, for God promises that that provision will come when I need it. I was looking for a miracle that would meet my needs for the coming weeks or months, but Oswald Chambers said, “you cannot hoard things for a rainy day if you are truly trusting Christ.”
- God’s timing is perfect. I see now that I began to panic, not because I doubted that God would come through, but because I felt like God was late. Yet that was according to a timeline that I had concocted, not Him. Trusting His provision also means trusting His timing – this is never a fun lesson, no matter what we are waiting for! But His timing is wrapped up in grace, protection, and glory too. God is never in a hurry, but He is never late.
- God weakens us to reveal His glory. Just like Gideon’s army, God will sometimes strip back the worldly provision we come to depend on so that our focus returns to Him. We can become blinded to His goodness when we only see provision in pay cheques, pension schemes, or a clean bill of health from medical staff. But when those things fail us, God lovingly draws our attention back onto Him, to witness His miraculous provision, so we no longer wrongly accredit it to perishable things.
I am reassured that God is faithful, He loves me, He cares for me, He has heard my prayers, He knows what I need, He is capable of providing, He is a good Father. I know my Dad would go to any length to provide for me, so how much more will our Heavenly Father do so to meet our every need. When we trust Him, we do not need to do anything to earn His love or provision, it brings Him joy to give us His best.
So my miracle is still on the way, but I am grateful for the fresh perspective God has given me this week. He has not abandoned me or forgotten me, He is working behind the scenes and His provision will come, right on schedule.