Thursday, 24 November 2005

Tragic Flaw, Healing Grace
Written: November 9, 2005

Unless one leads a particularly charmed life, graduating from college could both be the happiest and scariest moment in your life (that is, until your wedding day, but that is another story altogether). Assignments, tutorials and exams become but a fading bitter taste in the mouth as the sweet smell of freedom starts wafting in.

Unfortunately, with it also comes the inevitable question of “what next?”

My struggle with my future last year nearly resulted in a major relational crisis with God. Far from being the “good and faithful servant” I thought all Christians were supposed to be, my search for a job brought me into dark despair.

It did not take long for me to realize that jobs requiring my qualifications were scarce, and a fresh grad’s resume isn’t the most attractive in the world.

Six months after graduating and with no job in sight, my despair became a crippling guilt. Somewhere at the back of my head was the knowledge that God was in charge, but at the same time, I was terrified. Terrified that in the next few years, my life would consist of being stuck in a job I hated, living in a city I detested. I would slowly transform into the most negative and depressed individual that ever graced the earth and my favorite Bible verse would be Ecclesiastes 1:2.

Despite my faith in God, I was afraid that things were not going to work out. And that was when the crippling guilt started creeping into my heart. After all, isn’t faith “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see”? (Hebrews 11:1)

The fact that I kept fearing my future was going the way of the sewer obviously meant that I was not a good enough Christian, having insufficient faith in God.

If I were a true Christian, I would be looking my future boldly in the eye, ready to take whatever was thrown at me. I would be sure that whatever hopes I had about job prospects would come true. Fear should not even exist in my vocabulary if I really had faith in God. My tragic flaw obviously spelt the beginning of the end of my relationship with God.

That was when I stumbled across the story of Gideon, the young chap from the weakest clan of Manasseh chosen by God to defeat the Midianites.

Most people know his story, found in Judges 6-8. The insignficant fellow from an insignificant tribe who tested God twice with a wool fleece, and had so much faith in God, he had no problems fighting tens and thousands of Midianites with only three hundred men. His was a story of courage, faith and how God can use anybody to achieve greatness.

Or was it?

It’s true that Gideon did everything God commanded. It’s true that it was because of Gideon that Israel enjoyed peace for the rest of his life. Gideon was a hero, remembered in Hebrews as one of the champions of faith.

But that’s not what was significant about Gideon. What was significant was the fact that he achieved all these despite a tragic flaw.

Gideon was not a fearless warrior. Gideon did not even transform into a fearless warrior after he received directions from God. Throughout his entire journey, Gideon remained a terrified individual, lacking courage, doubting God.

When God first commanded Gideon to tear down his father’s altar to Baal and replace it with one to God, Gideon obeyed. But the Bible says “because he was afraid…he did it at night rather than in the daytime” (Judges 6:27).

And after Gideon gathered all the forces against the Midianites, he continued to doubt God, and had to use a wool fleece not once, but twice, to be reassured that God really wanted him to fight the Midianites (Judges 6:36-40).

And still, Gideon could not get rid of his fear. In Judges 7:10, God told Gideon, “If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah.” Immediately in the next verse, Gideon does just that – “he and Purah his servant went down to the outposts of the camp.”

Even after all kinds of signs and direct instructions from God, Gideon never completely got rid of his fear. It was obvious that God was on Gideon’s side (you can’t get any more obvious than having God actually tell you), and yet his fear was never abated. Time and time again, God had to reassure Gideon so that he wouldn’t run all the way back home, cowering in fear.

But get this.

God did not give up on Gideon because he was afraid, even after the third extremely obvious sign. God did not deem Gideon an unfit Israelite because Gideon had this nagging feeling at the back of his head that things just may not turn out.

And Gideon fought the fight against the Midianites full of fear, but full of faith.

That’s when it all made sense.

Having faith is not about being fearless. Having faith is not completely losing our human senses. Having faith can mean we continue being afraid but going ahead with the battle anyway, just like Gideon against the Midianites.

Just like David and his men in Keilah, against the Philistine forces (1 Samuel 23:3-5).

Just like Elijah against Jezebel, even after his triumphant victory on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 19:3).

Just like when we are faced with an uncertain future, wondering if we are indeed good and faithful Christians because we are starting to fear that God would allow us to forever be stuck in an unbearable fate.

Gideon had a rather tragic flaw of cowardice that kept coming back to haunt him. But God’s healing grace and comforting reassurances were always there to reignite his courage and help him go on.

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