Her voice cut out and I repositioned the phone to my other ear.
“You cut out for a moment, what did you say?”
Her voice broke a little as she repeated herself, but this time I knew it wasn’t the reception.
She told me she’d been praying for an army for us.
I cried and told her I feel like we need an army. I told her how weary I am and how there’s still, always, so much more to do.
“But I feel like our people are weary too.” I said.
I think they are as tired of this battle as I am. I think they are as tired of me as I am of myself.
And besides, they already have so much to carry. They are stressed and weary from their own battles. I don’t think they have the strength or energy to hold up my feeble arms.
The weight of it all came rushing over me. My cheeks were wet now and I didn’t feel like wiping them dry. I looked out the window down into the UCLA courtyard and watched the people walking below. How many of them are here for oncology appointments? How many of them are in pain? How many of them feel the overwhelming weight of uncertainty and helplessness that I feel now? I’m sure many, many of them.
It all felt so heavy and so hopeless.
The moment washed over and past us. We said our goodbyes, and hung up our phones, and we were once again separated by thousands of miles.
But I forgot something in that moment; something that slowly began to step towards my consciousness as small and big gifts of grace appeared throughout the week, and then began to knocked loud as we made the long drive between Arizona and California yet again.
God likes small armies.
As I drove, and Bryan wiggled restlessly in the back, and Thad played on the iPad, the story from Judges 7 kept coming into my mind. In the story, Gideon has an army and is going to go up against the Midianites, but God tells him his army is too big. So he sends home anyone who is afraid. Then he’s left with 10,000, but God says the army is still too big, least they take the glory for themselves and forget it was the Lord’s doing. So Gideon puts them to a test and determines that only the men who drink water from the river a certain way will go into battle. He ends up with only 300 in his army. And that 300 defeats the Midianites.
My focus wasn’t drawn to this story as a metaphor or as a message about my life or our army (our support system is always getting bigger not smaller), but there was something here for me and I knew it right away. It wasn’t a message about our army, it was a message about our God, about who God is. A message I desperately needed to remember about God.
God likes small armies, he likes poor odds, he likes the impossible.
Our God is the God who fights our battles for us – whether there are tens of thousands in his army, or three hundred, or just one small boy with a sling shot. He brakes down stone walls with nothing but trumpets and shouts of praise. The “army” is always secondary to the presence of God.
Our God is the God who provides – even when the oil is gone and the jug is empty, he provides enough for each day. Even when there is only a few small loaves and fishes, he provides food for thousands – and leftovers! Even when there are no matches, and the wood is wet, he provides fire for the alter.
This is what he does. He takes nothing and makes something out of it. He takes small armies and weak arms and makes them victorious. He takes hungry bellies and fills them. He takes me – dry, tired, and shaky – and makes me enough for this day. Gives me enough to keep going, to keep fighting, to keep pressing onward.
I don’t have to feel hopeless by how exhausted and overwhelmed I feel. I can feel exhausted and overwhelmed, I’m allowed! I don’t need to be strong. God loves winning with the weak.
I don’t have to worry that my community will not have enough strength to help me hold my heavy burden. They don’t need to. God loves small weary armies. He will meet each of them with enough for today, just as he meets me with enough for today.
God loves small armies. So…
“Be strong and very courageous, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Grace and peace,