"Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." -Joshua 1:9 nkjv
These are God's words to Joshua, the budding leader of Israel. God tells Joshua no less than 3 times in the first chapter of Joshua that he needs to have courage, to not be afraid and to know that God is with him.
Lovely, lovely words. To us, anyway, because we know how the story plays out. Joshua kicks so much butt on behalf of Israel that it's not even funny. By God's help he topples the strongest, most brilliantly designed city walls. He sees the Jordan river completely dry up under the feet of some priests carrying an ark. He fought battle after battle and won most of them with a group of ragtag nomadics who had probably the worst fighting technology of their time. No horses, no chariots, just some clay pots and trumpets and blunt objects for the final go. Un bloody believable. But those of us rooting for Joshua are not surprised at these miracles because if we are rooting for him, we probably believe in the same God he did. Full of power, full of care for His people, full of mysterious miracles is this God that we believe in.
But Joshua hadn't lived all those miracles yet. He was handed this leadership position after Moses died with God whispering into His mind, "Whatever you do, have courage." He probably got a little nervous after hearing that. Comforted, but perhaps asking, "Wait. If He's telling me to have courage that means there will be situations where I will actually need it... where my reason for having courage will boil down to this thrice spoken command and not the fact that things are going good and I can see a way out of our struggles."
Let me state something obvious: life is hard. But each time X, Y and/or Z struggles come my way I'm always surprised. Each time I have to walk myself through an emergency thought process: Quiet down, let it go, turn to God first, try not to keep yourself up at night living off purely and freshly distilled worry. I suppose I get disappointed that despite trusting in this big, truly wonderful and miracle working God, crappy things still happen.
But God and later Jesus never set us up for this disappointment. Jesus says quite clearly, "In this world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." Beautiful, right? I still don't want to go through it. That's nice, Cas. You and every human ever.
So what is the answer? What is the balance? It's in having realistic expectations of life and solid, miraculous expectations/beliefs of God.
"Joshua, you must have courage. I will give your people this land, but it will take some pretty plucky bravery on your part. You'll actually have to show up to cities and fight wars. You'll have to see some gruesome battles. Some people in your company will die. The land will resist. But resistance is not defeat. A delayed victory is not defeat, either. This is no time for fear, this is the time for trust."
"Cas (or insert your name here), you must have courage. I will conquer your struggles and take you to the tops of mountains and deliver you from your enemies. I have and will overcome all these things. But you need to decide right now that you're not gonna panic. It's gonna take some nerve. But you can be brave because I WILL perform what I promise. I AM with you. I am your permission to be bold."
I want my troubles to see me and say, "you've got a lot of nerve coming over here to face us."
I want to say from the layers of love and protection criss crossed over me, "Yep. And I brought a Friend. God of my heart and the universe, what are you gonna do with these scum-bag-worries of mine."
I want to see my warrior God unleash some epic smack. I want to see fireworks. I want to see impossible things happen.
But if I'm too afraid to walk out the door, I (or the people watching me, both to root me on and to see how I may fare) will never have the chance to know that my trust in Him was not ill placed.
If you are a Christ follower, I promise you have seen impossible things happen, starting with the salvation of your impossible-to-save soul. What's to keep more from happening? O my goodness, let it not be our attitudes and fear- after all He has promised, please let it not be that.
Be brave, be intrepid, be a lion and a lamb. Because the only way to be as courageous as a lion is to know down to every depth in that heart of yours that you are only a lamb- dependent, hopeless without help... and that you are a lamb who is doted on by the most perfect, dependable, insanely strong God. So go get em, lamb chop, because this was never about your strength and it never will be. It's about His. And that's enough to give even the weakest heart the realest hope.