Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” -Joshua 1:9
My Mom has recited this verse of Scripture to me during stressful situations over the years, but like a normal daughter, I haven’t paid all that much attention to the wisdom of Mom. I have experienced my fair measure of fear throughout the years – more than is normal or healthy. During some of my teenage years a lot of my thoughts were consumed by fear and worry, as I suffered from anxiety. Although I have, thanks be to God, overcome a lot of that, I would be dishonest if I said that I did not fear, even today. Fear is something that humans hold in common. We fear being alone, being judged, not being good enough, and we fear failure, losing loved ones, and all sorts of other general and more specific fears.
Here’s what I’ve discovered about fear: it’s not whether you have it or not, but whether you let it paralyze you or not. For example, the death-fear of failure will result in nothing new or worthwhile. Recently I heard Pastor Bill Hybels, of the well-known Willow Creek Community Church, speak on how during every new and big endeavor presented to him he is literally brought to his knees in fear – fear of repercussions, of what people would say, of what would happen if it failed, etc. – and that he recites Joshua 1:9 as a prayer. Perhaps it’s because misery loves company, but I loved hearing him say that. One of today’s most most successful leaders’ knees shake too! This means that courage really is doing something that frightens you, it’s not about doing scary things that don’t frighten you.
So, what’s my point? Just like God commanded Joshua to be courageous, we too are called to be courageous. Our faith calls us to be courageous. In the midst of fear and doubts, of challenging, desperate-looking situations, God calls us to be strong and courageous. We’re actually not called to be comfortable, we’re called to be uncomfortable, mostly because courage is never comfortable. Thankfully, there’s the second part of the verse: for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. God does not call us to confront scary life alone, but promises to be present in the midst of it; and as with Joshua, and as seen throughout the rest of scripture, God also provides other tangible people to be present with us during parts of our most frightening times. This is one of the things I love most about God – God is present (whether we realize it or not) with us, especially in our most difficult moments. Go figure – Mom was right!
I don’t know what this call to be courageous looks like for you right now. For me, it’s looking like a lot of things – it’s looking like leading in a brand new setting, and allowing myself to dream dreams and cast visions; it looks like being patient, listening, and being vulnerable, to name a few. It looks like me being on my knees praying for courage, trusting that God will come through on his promise. What does it look like for you? I’ll leave you with a song…
Oh, my God, He will not delay
My refuge and strength always
I will not fear, His promise is true
My God will come through always, always