I find it interesting how God told Joshua at the beginning of his watch as Israel's new leader to be strong and courageous 3 times in the space of 4 verses. I don't think The Lord would have repeated Himself unless Joshua would have needed to hear these comforting words of encouragement.
After all, Moses had been Israel's champion for 40 years and though Joshua was at his side all that time, he had not carried the ultimate responsibility to lead the people. Now Moses was gone and the burden of leadership rested squarely on Joshua's shoulders alone. I think it would have been quite understandable if Joshua was dealing with some issues of self doubt and fear as he faced the sobering responsibility of leading all Israel into the promised land.
I am amazed and greatly encouraged to read how God dealt with Joshua's trepidation. He didn't rebuke Joshua and He didn't shame him, He just encouraged him to not be afraid and He promised to go with him each step of the way.
Often when we think of courageous people, we may make the assumption that they are fearless and not intimidated by anything. While this may be partly true, I think that the true definition of courage is not the absence of fear but rather the ability to face our deepest fears head on and still not back down. In a nutshell, I believe that our greatest need for courage comes when we have the greatest reason to be afraid.
Being courageous in the face of extreme adversity is something that I am learning on a whole new level now from our youngest daughter, Candice. In September 2014, she was unexpectedly diagnosed with an aggressive form of Leukemia. Though she was devastated by the initial diagnosis, my wife and I have watched her face the biggest challenge of her 25 years with a grace and courage at a level that we have not seen in her before.
Though there were many opportunities for fear to raise it's ugly head in her 2 1/2 years of daily treatment, through God's strength, she faced every obstacle with a ferocious tenacity that could only come from God. So much so that our oldest daughter calls Candice, her ‘brave lion heart'.
Candice continues to teach our family that true courage is not about being oblivious to fear, but having the ability to keep standing even in the midst of the most intimidating of circumstances. At the height of her treatment, she texted me a quote from the late Bob Marley which said... 'You never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only choice'. I think that pretty well sums up our daughter's resolve too.
At the time of writing this blog, our daughter has successfully completed her treatment and is now cancer free! Though this difficult season in her life is now in her rear view mirror, the lessons that we have learned as a family will serve as markers for the rest of our lives.
The reality is, that at one time or another, we will all face things that make us afraid. Unfortunately fear is one of the byproducts of the fallen world that we live in. But even when we are struggling with things that cause us to be afraid the most, God's promise is that He is with us even in the most difficult of circumstances.
While we may not always be able to tangibly feel His abiding presence during those dark times, He is close to us nonetheless. The truth that will sustain us through every circumstance is that He is closer to us than we could possibly imagine.
King David wrote about God’s nearness when he penned the words of Psalm 23:4 which say… Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (NIV)
Whether we feel distant from Him or not in our deepest times of struggle, the Biblical reality is that there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus… In good times and in bad times (Romans 8:35-39).
So when you are struggling with fear, don’t let the presence of fear in your life discourage you. God doesn't judge you for being afraid. He completely understands why you react the way that you do because He has a Father's heart toward you (Psalm 103:13-14). And His Father's heart wants to strengthen, encourage and comfort you (1 Corinthians 14:3) with the same words that He spoke to Joshua when he was about to face the biggest giants of his life...
Haven’t I commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be dismayed, for Yahweh your God is with you wherever you go.” (WEB)