In March 0f 2012, my life as a widow was just beginning. With four children to continue raising, I was stunned with the realities of parenting alone, keeping a household running, making business decisions, and comforting our children in their loss.
Life needed more from me than I had to give. Everywhere I looked there were issues to resolve, questions to answer, love to give, and areas that needed my leadership. And, I wasn’t in a place of personal strength. I was weak, wounded, shocked.
One morning, two weeks into my unexpected (& unwanted) new life, I received a text from my husband’s sister just when I needed it most:
“Love you and praying for continued strength.
‘Go in the strength you have been given.’”
What strength? I didn’t feel like I had any. How could I possibly have an endless stream of strength for the days and years ahead? Not me, especially the brokenhearted me. The mountains ahead of me looked impassable and impossible.
Yet, hope whispered to me from the verse she had quoted from the book of Judges. I opened my Bible to read more. I was surprised to find a man I could identify with.
In Judges 6, Gideon is a desperate and devastated man. So is his country. Israel has been defeated. No food. No housing. Utter disruption and ruin surround them, and they cry out to God for help. God responds by sending an angel with a rescue plan to Gideon.
“The Lord is with you, mighty warrior,” the Angel boldly announces to Gideon, who isn’t looking very heroic at the moment. Not at all mighty. Not like a warrior. He is furtively trying to thresh wheat in a wine press out of sight of their enemies.
Gideon replies, “But sir, if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?”
My head nodded. I immediately identified with Gideon. Someone in the Bible was asking a question I was asking about my own life: “Look at these ruins around me! Why, Lord? Why?”
The angel’s response felt familiar. He doesn’t give Gideon an answer. He simply responds with a command: “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”
Why is a question we ask when we are looking backward. Instead, the Angel’s response focuses Gideon on the future. He gave him a call to move forward, regardless of the ruins surrounding him. A call to action: “Go in the strength you have.”
Gideon isn’t convinced. He knows he isn’t the man for this huge job. He responds with another objection: “But, Lord, how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh and I am the least in my family.”
The Angel encourages him:“I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together.”
The source of Gideon’s strength is revealed: he would have strength that God would supply.
As the chapter unfolds, Gideon tests and questions God repeatedly. Patiently, God proves to Gideon over and over again that there is no mistake. He is called to this new role and God will equip him for it.
I was stunned to find that I identified with a man from thousands of years ago. His questions resonated deeply within my own heart: “If God is with us, why has all this happened? How can I do this hard assignment you are calling me to?”
Even in the initial weeks as a new widow, there was no doubt about my assignment and calling: take care of our family. The harder part has been figuring out how to do that without getting completely, utterly overwhelmed.
Like Gideon, I am all too aware of my weaknesses and lack of ability for many parts of this job, but they aren’t obstacles to God.
Gideon was given the same fuel that I am promised: God is with us. It isn’t about the strength we have, it is about the strength He will give.
My weakness did not fill me with hope for our future. In fact, at that point in our journey, if I thought about all the work set before me in the years ahead, I was simply stunned and overwhelmed. But reading this passage gave me confidence that God would supply me with strength for what He had given me to do. It was a game changer.
God helped me realize I couldn’t measure my ability to do this job by how I felt. My feelings were emotional responses but not indicators of ability. Feeling weak and overwhelmed didn’t mean I wouldn’t have strength as I needed it. I just needed to trust that He wasn’t surprised I was a widow. He knew I had four children to love and raise, and He would strengthen me for what each day would bring.
Since then, the key has been to stay in the day, not looking ahead to tomorrow’s mountains yet to climb. I keep waking up each day and doing what comes next in the strength God supplies. For each moment. Each breath.
Some of you may also face challenges today, with more on the horizon. Don’t measure your challenges by your strength, but by God’s strengthening. He is all-in with you and will lead you forward from “strength to strength.”
In Gideon’s story, I found hope for my unfolding story. When the challenges of life loom large, “go in the strength you have been given” continues to whisper courage and truth into my heart. Frequently, it helps me put one foot in front of the other.
“Blessed are those whose strength is in you…they go from strength to strength till each appears before God in Zion.” Psalm 84:7
“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Phil 4:13
You can too. He’s got us.
PS Thanks for the text, Stephanie.