Now the angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites. And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.” And Gideon said to him, “Please, sir, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.” And the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” (11-14).
Did you hear that? When the angel told Gideon that God was with him, Gideon’s reaction was one of bitterness. He expressed questioning if God truly was with him, because instead of the promised good things only bad things had happened. To be transparent, I’ve felt the same way. Sometimes things don’t look like they’re going anywhere. In those times, when Jesus says that He is with me and that good things are happening, I’m sometimes more angered than encouraged. There comes a point when I’ve been somewhere for so long that I don’t want to be told to wait any longer; I just want permission to finally leave. I react like Gideon did: in bitterness and questions. And how does God react?
Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do I not send you?
He says: “I can use that.”
If you are in a hard place that Jesus has been calling a place of promise, He will show Himself and you can trust Him to be there. But you also have permission to feel what you are feeling, even if it’s bitter. I think suppressing feelings is the one of the most unhealthy things I’ve ever been told to do. You don’t need to act on your feelings, and often you shouldn’t, but you don’t have to ignore them. Feelings are reactions, which means they have been set off by something. Suppressing or ignoring those feelings is essentially ignoring something that affected you.
I’ve been trying to train myself to feel what I feel; to stop denying my feelings, and to live through them and acknowledge them as I keep the truth in my mind. I’ve had moments in which I did or said something, then gasped because I had no idea that was in me, and I think that comes from stuffing everything negative inside to try being happy. It’s nice to be happy, but sometimes I’m simply not. And that is okay. Jesus never asked me to be perpetually happy; He asked me to take joy in Him. And I can do that even in the saddest, most frustrating of times, because I am giving myself to Him instead of trying to be in control.
Feelings are reactions. I can’t be one hundred percent positive, but I think Gideon’s (and my) bitterness came from distrust. God said He was there; Gideon (and I) didn’t see a fulfilled promise. Therefore, he couldn’t help wondering if God was really who He said He was. What is a natural reaction to being lied to and betrayed? Bitterness. No, God wasn’t lying and did not betray him; it isn’t in Him to do those things. But for someone who didn’t have the whole picture yet and had been living in what looked like the opposite of the promise, isn’t feeling that way understandable? And God didn’t deny Gideon his feelings; quite the opposite!
God said, “I can use that!”
God told Gideon He had sent him to use his might to see the promise fulfilled. He didn’t say, “You need to stop being angry.” or “You have no valid reason to feel this way.” Instead, He simply said, “Live the calling I’ve given you.”
When God looks at you and me, He doesn’t see a mess of feelings; He sees conquerors, His chosen. Our feelings exist and we don’t have to deny them, but we also don’t have to let them rule us. God wants to use us even when we’re in a state of negativity or anger or hurt. He just asks that we listen to Him before we listen to ourselves. Today, I feel a bit like Gideon. And I will trust God with my entire soul and follow His lead, even if He leads me through some dour-looking places.
What do you feel today? And how can you use that to live in your calling?