I really miss those weeknights under the lights, playing soccer against county rivals back at Daniel Boone High School. I was never a natural at soccer, and it was a sport I really had to work at. Not the most agile, I can remember running hills, doing plyometrics, and just trying to be an asset for my team. I didn’t start varsity until my senior year, but it was so rewarding after working hard throughout high school. I finally felt like I was contributing.
At work, it’s been very similar. I’ve always felt self-conscious of my work quality, or not worth the money they’re paying me until I heard from coworkers that I was in fact doing a good job. That recognition is exactly what I’m looking for to get settled, but without it, I always feel this need and strong desire for the approval of others.
Even when it comes to clubs and organizations, I’ve always been driven to give as close to everything as I could give. Burning myself out just to get the feeling that others “needed” me. I wanted to feel that my existence made a difference; that if I left I would be missed, or things wouldn’t be as good. And maybe I’m the only one that feels like this, but I think this is a void that we feel inside and constantly try to fill with the recognition of others.
Recently I was really intrigued by the story of Samson. It’s told in Judges chapters 13-16. I would highly suggest reading it. It has lions, honey, and three-hundred foxes tied in pairs and lit on fire. How can you not enjoy it.
But in summary, it tells the story of the last judge of Israel who was born to take the lead in God’s plan of delivering the Israelites from the Philistines who ruled over them at this time. He was born a Nazirite, dedicated to God from birth. He is the only man in the Bible with the power of extraordinary strength, and an angel tells his mother that this strength doesn’t fail as long as his hair remains uncut.
Being a Nazirite, Samson is forbidden from particular things. Looking at Judges 6: 1-8 it says in Ben’s Shortened Version (BSV),
“That if a man or woman is to make the Nazirite vow, a vow of himself to Yahweh, he will abstain from wine and fermented liquor, cut his or her hair, or go near a corpse.” Interestingly though, as a man dedicated from birth to God, we see Samson participate in many “unNazirite-like” actions:
1. He marries a Philistine woman.
2. He goes back to the corpse of the lion he kills when it attacks him.
3. He uses the “fresh” jawbone of a donkey (another corpse) to strike down a thousand Phillistines.
4. He sleeps with a prostitute.
5. He is blinded by women to the point that he gives up his secrets to them, including the secret of his strength that resides in his hair remaining uncut.
In conclusion, the Philistines cut Samson’s hair and yet in response we see him say in Judges 16: 20 “‘I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.’ But he did not know that the Lord had left him.”
Do we reside in our own abilities to try to accomplish God’s will? Do we think that our strengths are our own? Or do we somehow think we can make God feel like he needs us?
Samson’s strength remained, despite his countless sins, but it is when he fails to recognize his own need for God, he is left powerless, abandoned by the Lord. Samson’s eyes are plucked out as he is captured by the Philistines, leaned up between the two pillars that supported the temple and was harassed. He prayed to God for the last time in verse 28 “Sovereign Lord, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.”
And God listened, providing Samson with his strength again. With all his might, Samson pushed the two pillars over killing thousands of the Philistines in the temple, fulfilling God’s will of helping deliverer Israel from their hands.
I’d like to share the important messages I’ve drawn from this amazing story:
1. There’s a difference between God’s “perfect will” and “permissive will.” He wants us to do the right things, and live sinless, but because of our brokenness, perfect is not achievable. He still remains with us though as long as we don’t think take it upon ourselves and diminish His role in our lives.
2. God will fulfill His will regardless of what we do. That might make us think we can kick up our feet and chill but I think it makes point 3 important.
3. God doesn’t need us. He’s the perfect storyteller, working through our mistakes to fulfill his plan. Yet, it’s amazing how often we resort to idolizing “our own” strengths as if we’re contributing, and making God’s plan better than it was before we came along.
Our personal relationship with Him is what is important for us. We experience Him by pursuing his perfect will, loving others, taking leaps of faith, and living radically for Him. He loves us, and gives us a great amount of freedom to play a role in his redemptive story just like Samson, which is very uplifting. It’s not about us. It isn’t about how “needed” we feel. It never was and never will be. It’s just about Him, and how He has, and is, and will continue to prevail.
So lets take the pressure off ourselves to contribute and let’s enjoy the grace, mercy, and freedom He’s poured onto us. Let’s serve Him, not to be recognized, or “earn” salvation, but out of our love for Him.