What do you notice when you see yourself in the mirror? Now, be honest. I don’t take selfies often, but when I do, it’s alarming, “Is that what I look like?! Goodness, I hope not!”
You may not disparage your looks—most women are hard on themselves—but that’s simply the outward appearance. Going deeper, how do you feel about yourself as a person?
What gives you value?
We all receive mixed messages about our identity influenced by family of origin, culture, opportunities, and choices. Your life may have presented many open doors, or perhaps you were forced onto a path by circumstances beyond your control: married, single, divorced, pregnant, childless, career- focused, stay-at-home, university educated, self-taught.
The conditions of your life create labels, some given by others and some chosen by yourself. What labels do you wear? I don’t know the obstacles you’re facing, the concerns plaguing your mind, the fears wearying your heart. But I’m certain you desire to live with a sense of purpose. God made us that way. Unfortunately, the forces of the world seek to sabotage our sense of purpose, distracting us with confusion and disillusionment.
We fight a daily battle to keep our eyes on the path, ears tuned to Holy Spirit, and thoughts filled with truth, especially when circumstances oppose our expectations. Just like Gideon, one of God’s chosen people during a not-so-glorious time when the nation suffered under foreign oppressors who ravaged the land, leaving the Hebrews to starve. We meet Gideon taking cover in a winepress trying to thresh wheat undetected. He is in survival mode—dejected and afraid—part of the weakest clan and a nobody in his own family. (Judges 6:15)
Imagine Gideon’s shock when he is addressed as a “mighty warrior.” Who, me? You’ve got to be kidding! That’ll be the day.
Why is it so hard to let God give us a new name? When we believe in Christ, God sees us as a new creation, cleansed by His redeeming blood shed at Calvary. The old is gone. The new is here. God has prepared a life of purpose for you in Christ Jesus, but those old labels get in the way. Can you hear Gideon’s doubt? Mighty warrior indeed! What a joke.
If we allow our present reality to limit our faith, our new name will sound absurd. We cling to our familiar identity and stay in our habitual patterns, hiding in that winepress. Gideon doubts his new name because it contradicts the reality he perceives with his natural eyes: I don’t see any wonders or miracles. We are oppressed by powerful enemies. God is nowhere to be seen, and now I’m being asked to save Israel? That’s absurd. With what resources? Have you noticed— we’re starving?
Gideon is in survival mode. His plan is to hide away and stay alive. Hope for a glorious future is nonexistent. His lofty aspiration is to secure enough food so his family doesn’t perish. That’s it. Lack of resources is soul-crushing. When we focus on what we don’t have, we are blinded to a story of purpose in our lives.
I’m not young enough, old enough, rich enough, beautiful enough, smart enough, or powerful enough. Since when are those prerequisites to an overcoming life? In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul tells us that the wisdom of the world is foolishness to Christ. God’s ways are not our ways. Weakness overcomes strength. Miracles transform lack into plenty; a few crumbs of food feed thousands. Jesus chooses twelve unlikely recruits to walk with him for three short years, and they alter the course of history. The numbers don’t add up—the statistics don’t make sense.
Without the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, we cannot comprehend God’s ways. We lack the capacity to dream big. We settle for less, diminished by our old names that write small, safe, survival stories for our lives. I get Gideon. I’ve been there, holding tight to the hope that I’ll survive the day, my aspirations dashed on the rocks of failure and disappointment. Where are you, God? You have abandoned me.
But Jesus calls us higher, draws our gaze to heaven, and inspires us with the potential that resides in every life, in every story. He longs to ignite a sense of purpose that makes our story His Story. Some days we dream too small and lose hope. Some days we dream too big and feel overwhelmed:
“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21
We have many plans that vacillate with changing circumstances, influenced by our mood, finances, news, weather, and random input we receive from a thousand sources each day. Without a Holy Spirit anchor, our human nature shifts with every changing current. Even worse are the storms that shake us until we’re nauseous, ready to throw overboard all our plans in exchange for relief.
Life offers struggles, but God offers purpose. He gives you a new name as evidence of your calling. His Word stands true and strong despite circumstances that may shake us to the core. Jesus has an eternal perspective—He does not lose hope. When we yield our heart to His larger purpose and turn away from our smaller schemes, we position ourselves to become participants in His Story. We become conduits of His love, the most powerful force in the universe.
But can we trust His love? Is this all-powerful God approachable? At times, He is intimidating, evoking fear in those who encounter the mighty Yahweh. When Gideon realizes he is conversing with God, our warrior shudders in fear, but the Lord reassures him with a blessing of peace.
God imparts supernatural confidence to Gideon, and He does the same for us, empowering us to survive and even thrive in any challenge we face. He intends to equip us with the faith, courage, and perseverance needed to walk into our story of purpose. He reassures our desperate, doubting soul with His peace. His shalom restores to us a sound mind and heart.
After Gideon encounters the living God, he builds an altar and brings a sacrifice. He creates a place of worship, a place of remembrance, a sanctuary he will return to when the pressure of his “mighty warrior” calling becomes more than he can bear. May you find such a place to meet with God when you need to hear Him whisper your true name and remind you of the powerful story He is writing with your life.