Our weakness, God’s strength (Horizons 2)

“God’s Promise: I Am With You”
Lesson 2:  Exodus 3:1-12, Judges 6:11-27

“To recognize our weaknesses is a great blessing.” How does that statement strike you? Is it odd, a statement of fact or ridiculous?

Our culture is all about strength, gifts and talents. (Indeed, if we weren’t so modest, we each could talk about our worthy abilities!) As children, youth and young adults we strive to master skills and learn what we can do well. As adults, we work out of our strengths. Thus, we tend to stay in the comfort zone of our competences.

When God calls us to serve, we are summoned to move out of our comfort zones and trust God with the future. This feels awkward and threatening. In Exodus 3:1-12 and Judges 6:11-27, Moses’ and Gideon’s first reactions to God’s call mirror our own feelings about doing something we know we are ill-prepared to do.

“You mean me? I am not qualified.”
“Is it really you, God, talking to me?”
“I am nothing special.”
“I don’t speak well.”
“No one will take me seriously.”
“Give me a sign and then I will consider it.”
“I don’t want to do it!”

Moses argues a bit with God, listing the things that disqualify him. Gideon also lists how he is ill-equipped. Gideon also asks for signs that God is really with him and that God will deliver on his promise that the tribes of Israel will defeat the Midianite army (Judges 6:36-40). How we long for signs and guarantees that God will show up!

God’s call comes to all of us in ordinary parenting or taking care of frail parents, in our paid jobs and our volunteer work, in homemaking and at church. Some of us are called to serve as church officers. 

We are called to restore with a spirit of gentleness those who have done wrong, and to evaluate our own work before we criticize our neighbor’s work (Galatians 6:1-5).

There are times when we keenly feel our insufficiencies. Over the years, I have heard from prospective church officers that they don’t feel worthy enough to be an elder. We know how deficient our words seem in speaking to a friend who has tragically lost a loved one. As a parent, I often felt that I was not up to the challenges. I have often wished that my son, who is so different from me, had come with an instruction manual. As a pastor, more than a few times I have read and re-read a complex Scripture passage and wondered how I could say anything relevant about it.

It seems counterintuitive, but our weaknesses can be a doorway through which God can come to strengthen and guide us. Our weakness can be an opportunity to discover God’s strength.

To both Moses and Gideon, God says, “I will be with you.” God does not offer reassurance that they will do just fine. God doesn’t respond to their protests by saying that “God will make them stronger or more able, or somehow change the people that they are” (“God’s Promise,” page 19). God does not promise us a makeover.

Why doesn’t God give us a makeover? Paul prays three times for a “thorn in the flesh” to be removed from him. But his request is not granted. Instead, Paul receives a word from the Lord, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me (2 Corinthians 12:9). In our weakness, we can see where God is at work. In our weakness we are more likely to depend on God for help. We will be prompted to pray and search for guidance more. We are more likely to give God the credit for what happens.

I was the moderator of a group with very different theological viewpoints regarding homosexuality. It was difficult to keep the group functioning. At the beginning of each meeting, we spent time getting to know one another, studying Scripture and praying for each other in order to ground ourselves in our commonly held conviction that Jesus Christ is Lord of our lives. During the period of time that I met with this group, I prayed intensely because I knew that I was in over my head. Overall, the group remained civil and open to one another, which I believe was the power of the Holy Spirit working with us. No one changed his or her mind, but in this deeply divided time, God gave us the ability to listen.

To recognize our weaknesses is a blessing when we can ask God for help. Help will come.

rosalind-banburyROSALIND BANBURY is the interim pastor of Tinkling Spring Presbyterian Church in Fishersville, Virginia.