If I sit back and really listen, I often hear God telling me to get rid of things.
Get rid of fear.
Get rid of pride.
Get rid of the plans.
Get rid of my reliance on money.
Get rid of my right answers.
When I do get rid of something (finally) after wrestling with it for longer than I should, He often says, “Okay, just a little more.”
It’s like the guy is never satisfied.
But what I’m learning as He pushes me and pushes me, as He says, “Not enough, keep going,” is He’s got some crazy good plans up His sleeve, and I just need to get out of the way.
In Judges, God has promised the Israelites triumph over their enemies if they follow Him. So Gideon rounds up thousands of troops to overtake a city in the name of the Lord. But outside the city, God tells Gideon he’s got too many guys with him and he needs to send some of them home. “Some” meaning 22,000.
Gideon says okay and releases thousands of troops from their duty.
Then he feels he’s ready to attack the city and God again says, “Actually, too many guys still. Send more home.” (I’m paraphrasing here, but I feel like God talks in a very conversational way and less King James than people tend rethink.)
At this point, I’m assuming Gideon starts to get a little worried. Sure, he trusts God, but God also seems a little confused. They need men to conquer the city. THAT’S HOW WAR WORKS, GOD.
So even though he’s doubting, he listens to God and sends more troops home. Now he’s down to 300 men. 300 men to attack a city with its own army, men, women, and children. This doesn’t look good for the Israelites.
But Gideon trusts God and he goes into the city as God instructed.
They come out victorious.
Afterward, God reminds them He had to make it impossible so there was no confusion as to who should get the honor and glory for this feat. God stripped them down to nothing and then said, “Watch this.”
It’s hard to see when God is doing this in our own lives, but looking back, it often becomes pretty clear the God who loved the Israelites fiercely and protectively is doing the same thing in us.
When I took a new job I really wanted a few years ago, it came with a huge pay cut. It was painful and scary to be offered the job I’d been praying about for years but know my salary would be cut by one-third.
But we trusted God. It felt silly to ask for this thing for so long and then turn it down because it wasn’t exactly what I planned it would be. I was afraid without that money, we’d be unable to travel or enjoy life at the level we had been accustomed to. My flesh wanted all the things and my heart didn’t want to accept what I had asked for because it might mean less for me. I had a plan and God had a plan. When we submitted to His plan, He answered our hearts’ desires just the same, but in greater, more wild ways.
Last year when we (very suddenly) decided we’d sell our house and move to a much bigger house in the country, it seemed extremely out of our comfort zone and almost too good to be true. For years, even in the midst of saying we would never move, we’d been keeping a dream list of what the perfect house would have. And suddenly when it became a real option to buy this house–the one my dad grew up in and the one my grandma was heartbroken to sell–we said God, if you want this to happen, You’ve got some crazy things to pull off really fast.
And He did. All of them. He made things happen in ways we can’t take credit for. Plus, He did a few more we didn’t dream of but He threw in because He’s loving and kind and merciful. Also, because I think our joy brings Him joy. We shouldn’t be able to buy a bigger, more expensive house after my huge pay cut. We shouldn’t be able to buy a new car after my huge pay cut. We shouldn’t be able to travel and plan adventures after my huge pay cut. But we are and it’s only because of God.
He keeps stripping more things from us: money, security, plans, and right answers, but then He does these unbelievable things to remind us He gets the glory, He gets the credit, and He writes the best stories.
I’ve heard the story of David and Goliath since I was a kid. (I was going to say “small kid” there, but I’m not sure I was ever considered small so I left that part out.)
But this week as I was reading it again, I was struck with how much God stripped away from the Israelites and Saul before David showed up. Goliath had been raging for forty days, trying to challenge one man from the army to take him. And the Israelites just cowered in fear. Finally David shows up, sent by his father to check in on his older brothers, and after seeing Goliath says he can take him.
I’m sure everyone in the vicinity rolled their eyes so hard at this proclamation. I would have. I rolled my eyes just reading it, and I know the outcome. David was crazy.
So they suit him up with armor and a shield, but he’s so small he can’t even walk in it. So they strip it off him. They take everything away that provided safety and security. Everything that would have given David a fighting chance against Goliath.
And they give him a slingshot and five smooth stones.
We all know how the story ends, but I think sometimes we miss the point that God did that so there could be no confusion about who was in control. God gave David the power to defeat Goliath, no question.
God stripped everything away so it would be clear who deserved the glory.
So many times, I’m upset or scared or mad about the stripping away. I hate giving things up. I hate going without. I hate being told no.
But the stripping away is good and healthy and for my benefit. The stripping away is a reminder when things get good I’m not to take the credit, because I couldn’t have done this on my own. It’s also a reminder when things get less-than-good I’m not lost and on my own, because there is good to come after the stripping away. He promises that.