God loves an underdog. In fact, he prefers them. That’s good news for most of us (and bad news for some).
Living in this world, it’s all too easy to believe the eat-or-be-eaten philosophy we learn in everything from nature shows to corporate boardrooms. Don’t show weakness! Get strong!! DOMINATE!!! The irony is that while the world emphatically insists that “Only the strong survive”, our omnipotent and loving Father assures us, “The weak will prevail.”
Weak people get a bad wrap around this planet of ours, but they’re actually what the Lord chooses to use. When he’s picking teams, he always passes over the odds-on favorite in favor of the 98-pound weakling. And he’s been doing it since the beginning.
Think about Noah. The Lord needed someone to build an ark. The ark wasn’t a few logs lashed together that a castaway might use to escape a deserted island, it needed to be a world class ship capable of not only containing several zoos worth of animals but also sturdy enough to stand up to the violent torrents a global flood would necessarily produce. At the time of the commandment to build the ark, Genesis tells us there were giants on the earth. Huge, physically capable men. God didn’t choose them. No, he chose Noah in spite of the fact that he was…FIVE HUNDRED YEARS OLD. Yeah. He was just a bit over the hill. Think that stopped the Lord? Nope. Then to top it off he had this uber-senior citizen round up two of each of all the surrounding critters. Think your “weaknesses” are a problem? Ask your grandpa if he’s up for catching a bear or two and then let’s see how worried about your weaknesses the Lord is. (Genesis 6 is a good read for weak people.)
Speaking of giants, how about David slaying Goliath? We all know the story. A sling, a smooth rock, and a whole lotta faith was all the Lord needed from that little fella to take down the Philistines’ walking Titanic. Do you think your shortcomings are a problem for the Lord?
In contrast to Cecil B. DeMille’s epic portrayal of the unstoppable Charleton Heston version of Moses, the real Moses was a guy who wasn’t keen on public speaking. Yeah, Moses was afraid of speaking in public. In fact, he described himself as “slow of speech” and to really bring it home “of a slow tongue.” Think that stopped the Lord? Nope. He told Moses, “Don’t worry, I’ll tell you what to say.” (that’s paraphrased) But then Moses, the weak guy that he was, resisted, saying, “No, really, I don’t wanna” (ok, that’s paraphrased too). Think THAT stopped the Lord? Nope. He appointed Moses’ brother Aaron as his spokesperson. (That’s all in Exodus 4 if you want to read it. You’ll also discover that Moses was afraid of snakes.) So you’re afraid of a few things — the Lord isn’t afraid of that.
How about Joseph Smith? When was the last time you asked a fourteen year-old boy to read his scriptures, let alone ponder them, walk into the woods, pray about it, fight through a terrifying possession, and then get up and stand as the prophet of the final dispensation? Then, imagine your average EDUCATED college freshman spending more than a couple hours a day on homework, let alone spending every waking hour for two months to translate an ancient record from foreign writings on a huge block of solid gold that he’s not allowed to even think about selling. The Lord could have called in a seasoned and respected archeologist to unearth the plates, translate them through careful decoding, and publish the record according to accepted methods in the scientific community, but that’s not His style. Instead, He accomplished the restoration of the gospel, of the priesthood, and the translation of the Book of Mormon with an uneducated, rambunctious, gold-hungry teenager who by his own description “frequently fell into many foolish errors, and displayed the weakness of youth, and the foibles of human nature; which, I am sorry to say, led me into divers temptations, offensive in the sight of God.” Joseph, though foreordained, was far from perfect. Think that stopped the Lord? Thumb through the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Book of Moses, Book of Abraham, The Articles of Faith, go perform an endowment session, join a sealing ordinance, visit the Kirtland or Nauvoo temples, step on any of the several BYU campuses…(shall we go on?) Nope, didn’t stop the Lord.
Speaking of imperfect teenagers, have you noticed lately who the Lord calls to formally spread His good news across the globe? He calls teenage boys and girls, well shy of full maturity but definitely full of not-so-shy hormones to stand as his representatives across the world. He puts the same creatures that would otherwise occupy frat houses and parties and instead guides them into houses and cities in every land. For many people, the very first time they encounter the Savior is through the facade of a teenager walking and talking in His name. If you were in need of accomplishing the most important thing in your life, would you send an 18 year-old kid to get it done? Would you have had an adolescent propose to your wife for you? Apply for your big promotion for you? Consult with your cardiologist for you? Nope. And yet that’s precisely what the Lord does…every day…and has been for decades…successfully.
Speaking of the Savior, He’s the ultimate example of successfully overcoming weakness; not His own, but His situation. Let’s compare. We’re you born in a barn? Conceived out of wedlock (and not at a time where it’s considered okee-dokee like today)? Did you then grow up poor in a tiny unknown village under a dominant occupying regime? Were you hated by all the leaders of the church you attended? When you were to arrive for your triumphant public moment, were you left to ride in on a donkey? Have you been wrongfully convicted of a crime and when given the option to release either you or a seditious murderer, the public chose the murderer over you? Did your trusted friend betray you for a few bucks? When the going really started to get tough, at the critical moment, did all your friends fall asleep in the middle of it and then go on to deny even knowing you? And did any of that stop Him? Gratefully, no.
The truth is that most of the spiritual icons were usually just average weaklings with very little inherent qualifications other than having an all-powerful God at their side. Nephi was just a guy doing his best to be a faithful disciple and all of a sudden he was commanded to cross an ocean…for the first time…in a boat he was going to build…while trying to fend off his jealous brothers who hated him so much they wanted to kill him…while eating almost exclusively uncooked meat (yeah, how’s that ministering calling looking now?) I imagine the conversation he had with the Lord went something like this:
“Hey, Nephi, I need you to build a ship and cross that big scary ocean.”
“I don’t have a clue how to do that.”
“That’s, okay. I got ya covered.”
It’s the same conversation He has with us:
“Hey, (insert your own name here), I need you to (insert the challenge He’s called you to)”
“I don’t know how/I’m scared/I’m too weak.”
“That’s, okay, I got ya covered.”
How many times have you heard a newly called bishop sincerely lament that he’s not up to the task? How often does a newly called apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints start by saying they feel unqualified? How many times has a king, pharaoh, president, sheriff, prison guard, or member of an angry mob been handily bested by an unarmed, untrained, common nobody? It happens all the time. Salesmen, mothers, accountants, teachers, and other seemingly unremarkable simple folks are who our Lord calls in for the big moment. God rarely calls in the league all-star.
Your weakness not only doesn’t scare the Lord, He plans to use you to confound the wise and the strong. He says it in Isaiah, Acts, Corinthians, Doctrine and Covenants, the Book of Mormon, General Conference talks, and so on. Doctrine and Covenants 35:11 is especially inspiring for those of us who too regularly face our inadequacies, and it says it in some of the coolest language in the scriptures: “Wherefore, I call upon the weak things of the world, those who are unlearned and despised, to thrash the nations by the power of my Spirit;” Thrash the nations. Thrash. Ever thrashed something? It’s not a weak move. And yet when the Lord needs the nations thrashed, he doesn’t seek out the strong and learned, he looks for the “nothing special” types — and then supercharges them with the power of His Spirit. Try to find something more powerful than that.
As he tells us in Ether 12:27, The Lord mercifully takes our weaknesses (which He gives us, by the way) and if we humble ourselves turns them into strengths. He does that for us. And then he turns us into nation-thrashing conquerors.
On the flip side of that, is a word of caution: if you’re feeling like you have things pretty locked down, know what you’re doing, and think you’re all that, there’s a very good chance you may be in for a good thrashing soon, from one of God’s finest weaklings. Humility is a good thing to invest in.
Satan is the one who wants us to think we are mere sons of men. God reminds us that we are sons and daughters of God. And through the apostle Paul (a man who suffered terrible vices himself only to become one of the greatest champions ever) He reminds us, “If God be for us, who can be against us?”
So the next time you’re feeling unqualified, ill-equipped, or outgunned in life just remember that makes you the ideal candidate for the job…and then stop thinking about yourself and get out there and thrash some nations.