Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)
We know what it’s like to be afraid when we are standing at the foot of a mountain we feel we have no business climbing. We have all been tasked with something that reaches far beyond our level of comfort, where we feel like we are operating outside of our gift mix, until someone steps in who believes in us and encourages us to try. This was the story of Joshua after God called him to replace Moses as the leader of God’s people.
Granted, the text doesn’t say Joshua experienced the kind of debilitating doubt many of us experience when we are called to do frighteningly courageous things. But God charged Joshua nonetheless and encouraged him to be strong and courageous, which is an odd color scheme when matched with our monotone-like dismay.
Of course, the reason God said it was possible for Joshua to succeed in taking on the monumental task of leading the Israelites is because God had no expectation that Joshua would undertake this task alone. No, the Lord would be with him. Wherever you go.
Put your mind on pause for a brief moment and think about the profundity of that statement. Wherever you go,” God told Joshua, “The LORD your God is with you.” Sometimes in the frantic nature, fearful symmetry, and sunken depths of our proneness to wander, we forget there is no place we go in our lives where God has not gone ahead of us in glorious procession. “Wherever you go,” God whispers to us when that foot takes another step into unknown forests of tangled branches that obscure our sight and cloud our direction. “Wherever you go,” God whispers when the darkness descends upon us in the night hours, and we know that dawn won’t provide the light we long for.
“Wherever you go,” God whispers. “The LORD your God is with you.”
Let honesty be your friend, and admit that you have fashioned some gods this year. You have built altars and bowed down to a vibrant assortment of objects, people, desires, and ambitions. Truthfully, they’ve not resembled God all that much, but they have received your worship, your love, your adoration, and your allegiance. The problem with these lower-case “g” gods is that none of them are the capital-G God of the universe, as much as you’ve tried to make them the god of your universe. In fact, they’re not really gods at all, no matter how much you’ve exalted them to the stained-glass spires of your heart and mind. Ponder now the Lord of the universe, the capital-G God who is with you wherever you go. With you through all the great unknowns that await in the New Year, while remembering that unknowns are only unknown to you. How much greater to have His presence than all those cheap imitations!
So when the Lord your God encourages you to be strong and courageous, you can embrace those two inconceivable postures. You can see them as not moments for you to pass or fail because it’s not really you, but “he who is in you,” who “is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4) will transform you into the person you have no possibility of becoming on your own. Regardless of the outcome, you can trust the Lord who controls the times and seasons of all things including the outcomes. So . . .
Breathe out your angst.
Breathe in His approval.
Because the God who goes before you upholds you in times of faithfulness and faithlessness, belief and doubt, joy and despair, courage and fear. Wherever you go.
He is closer to you than the skin on your bones.
Ronnie Martin celebrates God’s nearness in an exclusive interview with Randy on LIFE Today Live. Excerpted from The God Who Is With Us by Ronnie Martin. Copyright ©2022 by Ronnie Martin. Published by B&H Publishing Group. Used by permission.