I started teaching high school at the tender age of 23– only five years after graduating from high school myself. Being a new teacher was hard. What made matters worse was that I looked like I could’ve been one of the students. I decided that the best way to gain respect was to hide my weaknesses and insecurities. I thought the students and parents would look down on me if I didn’t appear to have all the answers and everything “together” all the time. Even among the other faculty members, I felt wary about sharing struggles. I spent a lot of time compensating for my weaknesses and trying to cover them up. That year I found myself in the staff lounge bathroom from time to time crying my eyes out over some difficulty I was facing. Too proud to admit the truth, I’d blame my red, watery eyes on “allergies” if anyone approached me with concern for my wellbeing.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that admitting weaknesses is not only healthy and human– it’s also biblical. To think I can do things on my own without God is simply foolish pride. Maybe that’s why the story of Gideon appeals to me so much. There’s no doubt he was weak. He didn’t have the credentials needed to engage in battle against a formidable enemy—and that is exactly why God chose him.
Another reason I like Gideon is that he needed reassurance from God several times before he acted. Just before entering battle against the Midianites with his puny army of 300, God blessed Gideon with the chance to overhear a Midianite soldier talking with his tent mate about a dream he had. When Gideon overheard the dream and learned the men feared him and the army of Israel, he was greatly encouraged. The story below picks up just after this in Judges 7:15-21.
When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he bowed down and worshiped. He returned to the camp of Israel and called out, “Get up! The Lord has given the Midianite camp into your hands.” Dividing the three hundred men into three companies, he placed trumpets and empty jars in the hands of all of them, with torches inside.
“Watch me,” he told them. “Follow my lead. When I get to the edge of the camp, do exactly as I do. When I and all who are with me blow our trumpets, then from all around the camp blow yours and shout, ‘For the Lord and for Gideon.’”
Gideon and the hundred men with him reached the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just after they had changed the guard. They blew their trumpets and broke the jars that were in their hands. The three companies blew the trumpets and smashed the jars. Grasping the torches in their left hands and holding in their right hands the trumpets they were to blow, they shouted, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” While each man held his position around the camp, all the Midianites ran, crying out as they fled.
When the three hundred trumpets sounded, the Lord caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords. The army fled to Beth Shittah toward Zererah as far as the border of Abel Meholah near Tabbath.
I love imagining the sound of the shattering pottery and the shouts of the soldiers. I can just picture the shimmering light produced by the flames of 300 torches strategically placed in a circle on the hills surrounding the Midianite camp. The small band of soldiers had been too far apart to see one another as they waited in the dark for the signal. Imagine their triumph at the sound of the trumpet and the lights they all held high in the darkness.
These men did not fight with the traditional weapons of battle, yet God used their uncommon weapons to achieve a stunning victory. On paper, nothing about their plan worked from a worldly perspective- they didn’t have the manpower or the tools to achieve victory, but they had God on their side.
“The weaknesses we often despise are required for the light of Christ to be seen and for the darkness around us to be dispelled. Without the limitations and deficiencies of our vessels, we would not serve our purpose well. Your weakness is not a liability. It is one of your greatest assets. God’s presence and power are best seen when our large, impressive personalities aren’t getting in the way. So welcome His light into your weakness, and let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!” (Priscilla Shirer, Gideon, p. 125)
So, how does this look for those of us living in the 21st century? First and foremost, we need to recognize our weaknesses and realize they need to be surrendered to God.
For me, the process of seeing my weaknesses took quite a while. Throughout my teens and twenties, I struggled with insecurity. I’d grown so accustomed to it that I just assumed it was a part of who I was. Never once had I considered asking God to use it for His glory. I did my best to compensate for it in many ways- whether by trying to achieve more academically, to wear the “right” clothes, to associate with the “right” people or to hold positions of power and respect. While none of these things were necessarily “bad,” none of them helped to alleviate my insecurity. (Thus, the crying in the bathroom when I was a new teacher). Sadly, my compensating made me more intimidating and less approachable as I tried harder and harder to be “perfect” so that I would feel more secure.
It was not until after I had kids and participated in my first Beth Moore Bible study that I ever realized insecurity was a weakness I could submit to God. As I began to pray about it, God started to change me. He didn’t miraculously remove it from my life, but He used it to make me more sensitive to others. I began realizing that insecurity is a pervasive issue in our culture and that many women struggle with it. God showed me many ways Satan uses it to keep women from connecting with one another because they feel too threatened and intimidated. Insecurity prevents many of us from living into the people God is calling us to be. It causes us to put up unhealthy facades that prevent authentic connection. It renders our gifts useless and often leaves us feeling like outsiders with nothing to offer. Few Bible teachers address this issue, so it remains a silent struggle for many.
I still remember the first time I admitted that I battled with insecurity publically. I’d been asked to sit on a panel of women at our weekly Focused Living Bible Study. Each panelist was asked to share about an area in her life where she needed God’s intervention on a regular basis. I had a “safe” answer prepared in my head, but when the microphone was handed to me, I horrified myself by blurting out “I struggle with insecurity.” My face was red and my hands were shaking as I passed the microphone on to the next panelist. Inside, I was kicking myself for being so vulnerable.
To my surprise, when the panel ended several women made a beeline for me and thanked me for sharing aloud what they‘d been struggling with for years. Each woman thought she was the only one. When I let my clay vessel crack open and I exposed my weakness, the light of God’s love used my honesty to encourage others. The weakness I’d been hiding and trying to compensate for in a variety of ways became the very thing God used to make me more authentic, approachable and encouraging to others with similar struggles.
Whether or not we like to admit it, we’re all just simple clay vessels like those earthen pots the soldiers carried to battle. Your weaknesses may be different from mine, but you have something God can use for His glory, if only you’ll surrender it to Him. With the Holy Spirit living within us, God can use our weaknesses to shine His light to a dark world in desperate need of a Savior.
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness, ”made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 2 Corinthians 4:6-7
Click on the link below to hear Matthew West’s song “Strong Enough,” to be reminded that God’s strength trumps your weakness.
Click on the link below to hear Josh Wilson’s “Pushing Back the Dark.” You’ll be inspired to give your weaknesses to God and to watch how He uses them to shine His light to the world through you!