God loves a sticky wicket.
It seems He loves to stack the odds against Himself, and often, it appears, also against His people.
Think of Gideon’s army- God whittled them down from 32,000 to 300. That’s 0.9% of their original number. He deliberately and openly thwarted their natural strength because He wanted to be their strength.
Then think of the incarnation- almighty creator eternal made weak, finite, touchable. And how does the hope of the world choose to arrive on the scene? As a weak, naked baby, born to a couple of nobodies who soon become asylum seekers.
And ultimately, let’s consider the cross- just some middle eastern carpenter hung on a tree, at the very turning point of history. Again he’s stripped naked, bruised and torn in weakness with a heart turned to wax (Psalm 22).
When we look for an easy, self serving God we put that statement the other way around: “God will change your weaknesses, He will make your life lovely again.” And of course it’s true: Jesus does lift us from the pit, he heals the broken, he strengthens the weak.
But when we make success our god we miss the potential of failure. This is often called triumphalism, it’s an air of smugness, a proud worship of success. It forgets humility and so is blind to the power of weakness. It resists dying, so foils its own fruitfulness.
But here’s where it gets interesting. God doesn’t simply succeed, or help us succeed, despite our weaknesses, he succeeds through our weaknesses.
Why? Perhaps in part it’s because it’s truly poetic and beautiful. But deeper than that, often God is more interested in changing us than He is in changing our circumstances, because what He’s really after is our hearts. As God wins through our weakness and suffering that allows Him to change us fundamentally inside in a way nothing else can.
And maybe, actually, it’s also because God loves a challenge. He loves to rescue us. Maybe we could even say sometimes God actually engineers adversity to draw His church back to Himself? God wants a people who don’t trust their natural strength but who work to be strong in weakness and dependent on Him.
God has all the resources of the universe at His disposal. He’s very, very clever, He’s eternal and He lacks nothing. Do you think He really needs your talents, time and money for their own sake? If God is after our hearts he asks for these things because He asks for our hearts. He doesn’t need them, but He does need our willingness; He can do less with our resources than with our empty, open hands.
In fact, it’s possible for us to edge God out with organisational efficiency; we no longer need Him because life rolls along happily. Our self-sufficiency turns a relationship into a well oiled machine, a shipshape boat. But the machine is dead. God is not in the boat but out on the water, where we’re too knock-kneed to step out without His call and authority.
And walk we will, because He’s calling, and that’s the only way to follow Jesus.
In reality we’ve always been weak and dependent on Jesus, it’s just that our language and the things we look to can surreptitiously fool us.
If we don’t learn to trust God in small, everyday things, how will we manage to trust Him with bigger things when He leads us into the risky place He’s pulling us with benevolent delight?
Occasionally it’s very healthy to practice being a child, to practice vulnerability, to risk going hungry, poor or stuffed if He doesn’t help us. As we take the time to relearn our weakness, we’ll find ourselves in a much stronger place.
How about not taking lunch (or lunch money) to work for one day every week for a month, and asking God to get you some lunch instead? Or if you’re really adventurous, consider initiating a Luke 10 mission, or joining Escape and Pray?
Then watch Him work through your dependency, whether that’s in your hunger or by blessing you with lunch.
Let’s trust God and see what happens. He is a good Father.