Today, I am grateful for something that challenges me mightily: Courage.
Left to my own devices, I tend to lean in to fear, focus on the problems in my life, and dwell on the possibility of bad things that could happen in my future. This is not a good thing.
I feel like God has been dealing with me on this by allowing me to travel along a pretty rough road lately. Though times have been hard, I’ve learned some important lessons – the most valuable of which has been the importance of courage.
It seems to me that this is an important lesson that God has wanted His children to learn all through the Bible. For instance, in the Old Testament, God puts Joshua in a pretty impossible situation: Moses just died, the Israelites have just finished their forty-year trek through the wilderness, and God tells Joshua to lead the people into the Promised Land, but doesn’t tell him how to do it. Here’s what God has to say in Joshua 1:1-9 (NASB):
Now it came about after the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ servant, saying, “Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel. Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon, even as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and as far as the Great Sea toward the setting of the sun will be your territory. No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Talk about a tough assignment!
If you keep reading on in the chapter, it’s not like God reveals His master plan and vision for Joshua – instead, He paints with a very broad brush (allow me to respectfully paraphrase: Moses is dead, and you’re the man now. Not only do you have to lead this unruly people, you also need to enter a foreign country that is occupied by a bunch of well-resourced and intimidating people, defeat them (they’re giants, by the way), and take over their land. Plus, you won’t believe what I have in store for the city of Jericho! More on that later. PS – Strength and courage are super important. XOXO, God).
To his credit, Joshua responds with unwavering obedience (with one or two missteps along the way, but like us, he’s learning), and God shows Himself powerful and absolutely in charge of things in the midst of some very trying circumstances.
What’s good for Joshua is apparently good for me, too. This business about being strong and courageous has not been easy. As I read the passage, it’s clear that the lesson wasn’t easy for Joshua, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that it’s challenging for me, too.
What is courage? To me, the image that I have paired with today’s post describes it best. Biblical courage seems to be equal parts of the following:
If I am rightly discerning God’s will for my life; if I am others-focused, in a genuine and loving way; if I seek to do what is right in God’s eyes, rather than what seems right to me; if I’m grateful for what God has already given me; and if I choose to believe that God means what He says, and that He will do exactly as He has promised (even if it looks different than what I imagined), then I will be a person of biblical strength and courage.
So I’m learning that these attributes are hard-fought and hard-won. Consider:
- We don’t get discernment just by sitting around, doing just whatever. To me, discernment is being able to differentiate between things that may at first seem to be very similar. For instance, blue is a color, and to comprehend this shows knowledge; but to be able to distinguish between navy, cobalt, royal, turquoise, etc., shows discernment. Yes, all of these shades are also in the blue family, but they’re not all the same.
- The same thing is true with love – it has to be intentional (you can view my post from yesterday for more my take on love). Otherwise, we’re just trying to gratify our own own emotional needs, rather than focusing on meeting the needs of others.
- Humility is also something that we have to actively cultivate, as pride tends to be my spirit’s default state. Funny how we never have to work at being proud, eh? It’s always there, in much the same way as weeds pop up in a garden. Turn your back for a moment, and your spiritual garden can be a mess!
- Next, the Bible is pretty clear (in the book of Proverbs) that wisdom is something that we need to ask for on a regular basis, and God promises that 100% of the time, He will give it to us. To me, wisdom is understanding God’s view on the matter, and seeking to do things His way.
- Gratitude is something that the Bible commands each of us to do. Don’t believe me? Check out the book of Psalms. Sure, some of the chapters are full of lament, but more often than not, David remembers God’s faithfulness and His character, and thanks Him for the myriad ways that He’s showed up in the past, when all hope seemed lost.
- Faith is a daily challenge for me. Either I take God at His word or I don’t. If I believe God’s promises, and also understand in the very depths of my soul that He is for me, loves me unconditionally, and is in complete control of my circumstances, then there should be a peace and confidence that I possess, regardless of what my natural senses may tell me.
So this is where I am now. Road-weary, clueless about what lies around the corner, but – I’m almost nervous to peck this truth out on my keyboard – stronger and more courageous. And this strength and courage do not come from me, but rather from the One who makes the same promise to me that He did to Joshua thousands of years ago: “Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
What a promise! Thank You, Lord.
Here is my prayer for today: Dear Jesus, my prayer today is brief. Thank You for always being with me, and giving me the courage and strength that I need (especially when I feel weak and disheartened) to press through the hard times. Help me to remember that if I focus on the things over which I have some control – discernment, love, humility, gratitude, and faith – then You will take care of the rest. You’ll give me the courage and strength to face whatever may come my way. Life certainly isn’t easy, but I know that I can make it through because You are with me, and You will never leave of forsake me. In Your name I pray, Amen.