An elite special-forces soldier, interviewed on TV, described the tough selection process for admission into his band of military brothers:
“The process is designed to bring out the characteristics and attributes about yourself that you didn’t even know exist.”
The famous “hell week” or similar processes that Navy SEALs, Army Green Berets and other commando type units impose on recruits may not be as much about physical stamina or combat skills as they are about developing self-awareness and demonstrating self-mastery.
Likewise, God tests and proves all His appointed leaders. He often proves us, as so many devotional writers have testified, by leading us into greater brokenness.
In so many cases, His testing seems designed to help leaders abandon their facades, bravado, fears or faults and develop a new identity. Here a few examples:
Moses. He killed an Egyptian in misguided zeal and over-reliance on his own prowess. God let him cool off and calm down 40 years at the backside of the desert. The humble Moses of the burning bush and the patient Moses leading Israel approached his calling in a far different manner than the Moses of the quick temper.
Joseph. Blessed with extraordinary gifts and his father’s favor – and apparently, oblivious as to how other’s perceived him – he tactlessly told his brothers that they would bow down to him. And truly enough, it came to pass. However, only after slavery, imprisonment and decades of exile. The Joseph weeping with forgiveness for his brothers no longer resembled the insensitive dreamer of dreams.
Gideon. Gideon also need a breaking of sorts. In his case, his weakness lay in a view of himself so low that it hindered him from believing and obeying God.
When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, "The LORD is with you, mighty warrior."
“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?
The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”
“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”
(Judges 6:12 NIV)
You know the rest of the story; Gideon’s fleeces and eventual obedience. God did break him of his old thought patterns and developed his new identity: mighty warrior!
God deals with each of us according to our needs. He proves us and tests us in various ways; some of them, quite painful and difficult!
Others, He challenges and pushes to leap into zones of discomfort and challenge.
Through it all, God challenges us to grow. Often, we grow into greater awareness of our own strengths and weaknesses, our ability to master our own emotions, our willingness to show compassion to others, and our skill in relating effectively.
So, my challenge for you this week: take some time to pray and journal about your most difficult experiences in ministry so far. Here’s the question: through them, what has God taught you about you?