When I was in the eighth grade, a room full of people laughed at me when they saw me wearing underwear.
Outfitted in what I can only assume were some tighty whiteys from Marshall’s, all 93 pounds of my awkwardness was on a weigh in scale before a wrestling match. I felt exposed and dumb in that moment, being forced to stand up there in front of both teams. And my worst fears were confirmed when the other team burst into laughter as I stood up to have my weight taken.
There are few things as good feeling as being in your underwear in the eighth grade while dozens of people openly laugh at you. Sticking my finger into an open electrical socket at Chuck-e-Cheese. Getting head stitches multiple times. These childhood memories were more desirable than that moment.
Standing on that scale, it felt like life was stacked against me. I struggled with some depression in Junior High. I was a skinny, brace faced kid. I was constantly running off at the mouth and gossiping my way out of friendships. The odds for survival and goodness did not seem in my favor.
Twenty years later, God still feels that way to me sometimes.
More than just not showing up when I want him to in the way I want him to, it feels like he actually makes things harder than they need to be.
And I’m not just talking about the times when I’ve made some mistake and life cascades down in a thousand broken pieces. I’m talking about times when it feels like you’re on the same page as God. When we feel close and tied up in him and things are good.
Suddenly something comes out of left field. Something we didn’t expect. Something we didn’t see coming. A death in the family. A job loss. A sickness that swoops down like a vulture. And with no rhyme or reason we find ourselves with the odds stacked against us. We find ourselves in the land of the impossible.
We’re not the only ones either. Look at the story of Gideon. He was hiding in a hole when God called him forth to save his people. God kept reducing the army smaller and smaller until Gideon had no chance. To Joshua, he suggested a Louis Armstrong approach to Jericho, something that most generals would consider a bit impossible. Even Paul was an odds against you choice for the model of all missionaries to come.
If you had one human to pick for your Christian team, Paul “the hold the cloaks while Stephen gets stoned” guy, probably wouldn’t be your man. And Christ was no exception to God’s penchant for the impossible. To a culture expecting a warrior, a mighty savior to storm the gates and bring freedom, a baby was sent. A defenseless baby sent into a manger feels like an impossible way to bring about a change.
Why, does this happen? Why does God stack the odds against us? Why does he make life so impossible sometimes? I think the answer is simple:
Human impossibility amplifies God’s glory.
When we are up against the wall, when our resources are gone and our hope is dwindling and the odds are mounted high all around us, God gets to step in.
And he gets to shine brightest when the night is darkest.
That’s what he did with Moses.
In Exodus 7:3-5, God lays out his plan.
“But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt, he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites. And the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it.”
Those are difficult words to hear when you find yourself lost in the land of the impossible, because God is promising it is going to get even harder.
You think it was bad making bricks all day as a slave? I’m going to harden Pharaoh’s heart and he’ll force you to also find the hay to make the bricks from here on out.
You think I’ve been loud before? I’m going to multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt, but he still won’t listen. It’s going to take “mighty acts of judgment,” not tiny acts, but mighty acts. And it’s going to be hard. The night will be dark. The skies will fill with hurt when the firstborns die in Egypt, but then, only then, will the Egyptians know that I am the Lord when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it.
I think God brings us to the land of the impossible because it shines us. It reveals his glory in a way that shallow water never could. Nations are rarely swayed through tiny domestic miracles. Families are rarely changed through quiet acts of wonder. And Moses knew this. In Exodus 33:16-17, he asks God, “How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”
In the next chapter God answers him as he makes Moses’ face radiant. It literally glows with the glory of God. It physically, tangibly lights up with the wonder and awe of the Lord. This, this is how we will be distinguished from all other people on the face of the earth, in how we reflect God’s glory.
The night will get dark. You will try to be a loving parent to a teenager who does not seem to love you back. You will stand in the gap between love and divorce and it will feel impossible. You will lose a job that you thought you’d always have. You will face opportunities that feel like mountains.
And when you are there, when you stand in that place, you will shine. For God’s glory. For his name. For his might and power, you will shine.
Because in God’s economy, the impossible is a gift, not a curse.
And it always amplifies God’s glory
Thanks to Jon for being the instrument of God to me.
P.S I Love You. Have a good weekend.