"The Lord said to Gideon, ‘The troops with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand. Israel would only take the credit away from me, saying, "My own hand has delivered me." Now therefore proclaim this in the hearing of the troops, "Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home."' Thus Gideon sifted them out; 22,000 returned, and 10,000 remained." – Judges 7:2-3 (NRSV)
Over the next few days, they would whittle down the list. 32,000 was too many for God's plan. A large army might confuse their mandate, consider their strength and successes of their own doing. God was planning to do something decisive and wanted them to know it for the miracle it was. So the sorting began. "You don't have to do this," I can imagine Gideon sharing. "You can turn back now, go back to your families. If you're afraid, that's ok. Just go home."
22,000 left, admitting their fear or ambivalence. Fear could not take the lead; the Lord was clear.
It is not bad to fear; it is a natural response to danger. The trouble is not feeling afraid. Problems arise when fear takes over. Fear cannot take the lead for any of our major advances, especially as we do the work of God. Fear cannot be the start of the advance, the impetus behind the action, the driving force.
Consider the decisions of your day. Might there be a choice you need to make, an action you need to take, where you have been putting fear in the lead? If so, remember Gideon's shrinking army and know that God needs you to sift that fear out, set it aside, send it away. Setting aside the fear makes room for the miracles to occur.
God help me to sift through my fears and send them running. I'm ready for a miracle. Amen.
Kaji Douša is the Senior Pastor of The Park Avenue Christian Church, a congregation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ, in New York City.