Here in California, it’s been a bit more than a month since our governor announced a stay-at-home order. We were gathered as a family celebrating my 59th birthday the evening it was announced. It seems like new dimensions of that order have been added weekly, even daily, since then. You’ve perhaps had a similar experience.
Many are feeling fearful and uncertain about the future. If I let myself, I can very easily begin to imagine a dire economic future for our family. The cancellation of everything on my calendar through the next number of months has been a radical shift in our plans.
I was glad to come across some thoughts in my journal from a time of great transition in my life a few years ago. I had been drawn to read the book of Joshua. Listen to these familiar words:
6Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.
7“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:6-9)
The punch line of this passage is repeated three times: “Be strong and (very) courageous.”
The Lord first urges Joshua to find strength and courage in hope. “You will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.” In what will almost certainly be difficult days ahead, including economic hardships, will God be with us? Will God provide for us? Will God care for us?
We know the answer to that question, and there we can find hope. We can be strong and courageous.
Next, the Lord encourages us to discover strength and courage on the path of obedience. He wants us to meditate on His guidance and counsel. He wants us to be deeply confident that what God says about reality is the most reliable guidance.
God reminds Joshua that the path of fruitfulness, of prosperity, of true success will be discovered living in the counsel and under the direction of a Good Shepherd. Obedience isn’t arbitrary. It is living in the good, beautiful and true light of kingdom reality.
Finally, God encourages them to find courage and strength in His presence. We find strength because God will be with us wherever we go. No matter what happens, we will not be abandoned. We will face no threat alone. We will not be exposed, but safe in the presence of God.
Perhaps Joshua would have been tempted to say, “But I feel weak and fearful. The threats before us are overwhelming.” I’m tempted that way. But this is actually the point. My felt weakness, insecurity, anxiety or fear is not ultimate reality. God’s presence is more real than my worries about present or anticipated hardship.
I am safest as I keep on learning how to walk and work more closely with God. The presence of God is my soul’s home. When God urges me to obey what He says, it’s not a distant ruler demanding my subservience. It is a loving Father saying something more like, “Live your life in and with me. Don’t wander from me. Don’t turn from me. Walk with me. Stay close. Let’s do this together.” Here we’ll find we can be strong and very courageous in these difficult days.