There was a man named Gideon who once thought God was against him. One day, Gideon was alone in a field feeling sorry for the pain he and his people were enduring. Life was unfair for the people of Israel in those days. They were under the oppression of the Midianites with no signs of God anywhere on the horizon. The people were hungry and their efforts to gather food were derailed by the heavy hand of their enemies.
One day, Gideon was beating out the wheat in the winepress hoping to quietly sneak out some food to feed his family. Gideon felt like a failure. He felt God had failed him. He couldn’t see past the pain of his present circumstances. When the angel of the Lord appeared to him and promised He would use him to save Israel, Gideon laughed and said,
“Please, my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.” (Judg. 6:13)
God was undeterred: “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” (v. 14).
Gideon’s response was priceless: “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house” (v. 15).
In Gideon’s mind, the case was closed. God had allowed Gideon and the people of Israel to fail. Instead of stepping in and providing for them, God seemed to have abandoned them. Instead of keeping His promises, God seemed to have forgotten them. You could say Gideon felt God rejected him and his people.
I sympathize with Gideon. One of the biggest temptations I have to overcome when I’m dealing with rejection is the temptation to reach the wrong conclusions about God. I reach wrong conclusions about God’s character and His purposes for me. I reach wrong conclusions about both my past and my future. I reach wrong conclusions about what God still longs to do in my life. Instead of letting the character of God lead my thinking toward peace, I allow my pain to mar my perception of the very character of God.
“God is committed to reminding us of His goodness when we’re hurting.”
We’re all tempted to reach the wrong conclusions when we’re living under the weight of our pain. Pain has a way of distorting our perspectives, especially when it’s the supposedly godly people in our lives who are inflicting the greatest pain on us. Why doesn’t God step in and stop them? How could a good God let them get away with so much evil? But perhaps we judge God too soon. God’s Word promises that in due time every wrong will be set right. In Ephesians 5:13, God promises us that “when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible.” In 2 Corinthians 5:10, Paul wrote that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” It’s in the waiting that we must remember who God really is. It’s in the gap that our faith is tested.
Moses struggled with reaching the wrong conclusions about God during his four decades in the wilderness. Little by little, he got to the place where he was no longer convinced that God’s power applied to him anymore. Forty years in the wilderness created a place for Moses to sink deep into hiding, where he became overwhelmed by his insecurities.
Rejection is hard no matter its source, but when rejection comes from unlikely places, it becomes almost impossible to breathe. Rejection by God’s people blinds us to God’s love. As a result, we become self-protective. We give in to the lie that God can’t be trusted, that He might prefer “them” over “me” since they seem to be winning. We feel threatened, and when humans feel threatened, we choose one of two responses: we fight or we run. Initially, most of us might choose to fight. But fight after fight without a positive outcome leaves us exhausted. Fight after fight without reconciliation leaves us cynical. Fight after fight without restitution of relationship leaves us feeling vulnerable. So, we run. We isolate ourselves and hide, which sounds logical at first glance, until we lump God and the people who hurt us in the same category, eventually isolating ourselves even from God.
But there is a better way.
It’s the way of faith. It’s the way of God’s love overruling our insecurities and our fears. It is God who finds us when we’re hurting. It is God who looks for us on the backside of the wilderness and in the heat of the day while we’re beating out wheat. It is God’s goodness that always draws us out of hiding even when we don’t see the need or have the desire to come out of hiding.
God is committed to reminding us of His goodness when we’re hurting. He’s committed to proving to us over and over again just how much we mean to Him. He’s resolved to show us that every human life has value, including mine. It is God’s sovereign goodness that calls us out of our painful places. It is His justice that steps in and vindicates us even after we’ve mentally assumed our story is over. And it is the power of God that allows us to step back into our own life and calling even after we’ve counted ourselves out.
He did it for Moses. He did it for Gideon. He did it for me, and He’ll do it for you. Our wounds have a way of causing us to become more focused on what’s happening to us than what God is trying to accomplish in us. But when you least expect it, God steps in and faithfully points the way forward.
by Lina AbuJamra
After your faith has fractured, let what takes its place be the real thing . . . at last. Somewhere along the way, the Christianity you knew...
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