2 The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’ 3 Now announce to the army, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’” So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained.
4 But the Lord said to Gideon, “There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will thin them out for you there. If I say, ‘This one shall go with you,’ he shall go; but if I say, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ he shall not go.”
5 So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the Lord told him, “Separate those who lap the water with their tongues as a dog laps from those who kneel down to drink.” 6 Three hundred of them drank from cupped hands, lapping like dogs. All the rest got down on their knees to drink.
7 The Lord said to Gideon, “With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the others go home.” 8 So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites home but kept the three hundred, who took over the provisions and trumpets of the others.
Now the camp of Midian lay below him in the valley. 12 The Midianites, the Amalekites and all the other eastern peoples had settled in the valley, thick as locusts. Their camels could no more be counted than the sand on the seashore. –Judges 7:2-8, 12
I love the story of Gideon because he had no choice but to trust God and to watch how His plan would unfold to rescue the children of Israel from the Midianites. “If anything was going to be the downfall of these people, it wouldn’t be Midian; it would be Israel’s pride. So God purposefully, lovingly stripped down Gideon’s army to the bare bones, leaving them no choice but to rely on Yahweh for victory” (Gideon by Priscilla Shirer, p. 76).
In case you need a refresher, here it is: Gideon was called by God to lead the Israelites in defeating the Midianites who had been oppressing them. God wanted to be sure that there was no question among the Israelites about who was responsible for their victory, so He whittled the Israelite army down from 32,000 men to 300. “Thus, God minimized pride’s chances of taking credit for a victory” (Gideon, p. 75).
I’ve been struggling to write this blog—not because I can’t identify with this story, but because too many different examples in my own life come to mind. In the past year, I’ve seen the truth of Gideon’s story over and over again. Priscilla Shirer says “we need not see our weaknesses as repulsive, but as helpful in developing our continued dependence on God” (p. 76). When we lay our weaknesses at God’s feet and admit we can’t handle things on our own, He steps in to do some of His best work.
One of the places I feel my weakness most is when I watch someone I love struggling. Over the course of the last several years, I stood by while my husband become progressively more discouraged at work. It was like a heavy weight that burdened him all the time, consuming his thoughts and robbing his joy. Finally, we reached a point last winter when he hit an all time low. He felt stuck—unable to make a change for a variety of valid reasons, yet struggling with the thought of continuing where he was. One night as we sat on the couch having yet another conversation about it I said, “We need to be praying about this more consistently. I’m going to ask God to change either your circumstances or your perspective.” My husband answered, “I don’t really see how either one is going to change, but I guess it can’t hurt to try.” We prayed for months and nothing seemed to be happening
In late spring, his discouragement plummeted even lower. The subject of his job dominated our conversations. We talked for hours on end and reached the same conclusion every time- prayer was our best and only real option. At one point, I remember saying: “I can’t wait to see how God shows up. The more impossible the situation seems to us, the more obvious it is that He’s at work.”
A few weeks later, my husband got an unexpected phone call from a company who was looking to fill a new position. It was a unique opportunity at a place he’d ruled out for a variety of reasons. He entered into dialogue with the company cautiously, but with a glimmer of hope. A series of meetings and interviews over the summer caused a roller coaster of emotions in our household. There were several major obstacles that seemed insurmountable. We continued to pray and ask God whether this opportunity was what He had planned for my husband. With each step of the process, God stripped away anything that would cause us to believe we were in control. We tried hard to keep the right perspective. We wanted to put our hope in God and not in this particular job opportunity.
In late summer my husband was officially offered the job. We’d been praying for peace and clarity and when he received the offer, we knew what he had to do. He turned it down. Although he wanted to work there, neither of us felt peace with the terms of employment. Although it was disappointing, we knew it would be obvious when God was giving us the green light. We truly believed He had something else in store, even if it meant waiting longer.
To our amazement, the company came back the next day and responded to every one of my husband’s specific concerns. Each issue we’d prayed for throughout the summer was addressed clearly and decisively. All of the reservations he’d had were resolved and we both felt peace. There was no explanation other than God’s hand at work.
My husband started his new job last week. He has a spring in his step and a sparkle in his eye that’s been missing for quite a while. When people ask about the new job, he says, “It’s been overwhelmingly positive. I’m truly humbled by the way God has worked.” His joy doesn’t come from his new company, but from the blessing of trusting God and watching Him work in ways that were beyond anything we could have imagined. God did change my husband’s circumstances, but He also changed his perspective and reminded him that our true hope never faltered.
There is nothing unique about our story—we all have opportunities for “God Margin” in our lives regularly. When we acknowledge our weaknesses and offer them up to God, we get to see how He’ll use them for His glory.
I encourage you to commit your seemingly “hopeless” situation to God and wait for Him to reveal Himself in the midst of it. Keep in mind, however– God rarely does things according to our plans. Give Him lots of room to work in His way and His time frame instead of telling Him how you want it resolved.
If you already have a good “God Margin” story to share, please post a comment below.
For more encouragement, click on the link below to hear Matt Maher’s song “Lord, I Need You.” It’s a great reminder to find your strength in God throughout every day.