It’s okay to be afraid.

Joshua 1


What are you hiding, church people?

One of the most frustrating aspects of the Christian church subculture is this unspoken understanding that we’re all supposed to be okay, that, through the immeasurable strength of the Lord, we should always be sturdy and strong and happy, and most importantly so at the very moment we cross the threshold of the church entrance. Shaking hands, smiling, button-up shirt or polo, the nods and claps during service — it’s a sick sub-reality that doesn’t exist.

How do I know that? Because a man who followed Moses around for his entire life up to the opening of the book of Joshua, who had every resource at his disposal and a whole nation rooting him on, was pee-in-your-pants scared.

I think it’s ridiculous that we’re expected to be completely fearless.  If that were the case, much of what’s written in the first chapter of Joshua, along with numerous other passages in the Bible, would be a waste of space.  And I’m pretty sure God isn’t the kind of guy that would blow His time on anything.

If you’re afraid, the following might help you out.

Preface with promises

The fact that the Bible still exists and remains intact to a high degree is miraculous.  This can be attributed to the longevity of its content. Scrappy books about nonsense wouldn’t last very long, but the integrity of the Bible is profound, and its readers should remember what it says.

Although Joshua had just been filled with the “spirit of wisdom”, he needed a reminder before he set out — that God’s promises would stand up.  God ties off His introduction with a profound promise: “I will not leave you nor forsake you.”

Before you panic, remember what He has already said to you. Is there a promise that God has made that helps you stand?

Afraid of the territory

Some of us are heading into finals or a new job.  Some of us have just become fathers or wives. New territory is always challenging because you’re facing the unknown.

And it’s okay to be afraid.

Joshua is about to go where no Israelite had gone before.  And that shook him up for sure. God reminds him of His presence and prods him to continue.

The landscape is vast, and confusion is at an all-time high. You have no idea what your next move is.  But know this: it is not imperative to be an expert, and foreknowledge of your next step might not exist; you are only expected to be faithful, to depend on the Spirit to be strong and courageous.

Afraid of misdirection

I’m not a big fan of getting lost.  My wife and I joke about “navigational amnesia” when I intentionally pass something to surprise her with another destination, but sometimes I have no idea where I’m going for real. And that’s terrifying.

And it’s okay to be afraid.

The Bible is rather specific about several commands, but sometimes it’s not clear when it comes to personal situations.

In the same way, Joshua is likely afraid of screwing it up for the nation. He has nearly a million people trailing him, and one false move might mean a tragedy. But the Lord encourages him to be strong and courageous through obedience.

When we’re uncertain of God’s will, the foolproof plan is simply to do the will of God that has already been established: observe what He says and do it. Success in the next step will surely follow.

Afraid of being alone

I’m pretty certain most musicians that write their biggest hits are dealing with heartbreak or loneliness at the time they compose. They’re sitting in their rooms poring over their recent heartbreak, their sheet music soaked with tears, their studio apartment is a mess, pizza boxes everywhere, and the words and melodies just start flowing because their emotions are overwhelmed with a single sentiment: the fear of being alone.  Forever.

And it’s okay to be afraid.

Joshua has seen numerous miracles and signs throughout his life, yet at crunch time, his fear of God abandoning him is evident.  Once again, God reminds him of a simple truth: “the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

The same God, the one who brought you back to life through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, is always near.  Our perception is heavily based on sight, which is why we often do not “see” God, but God prevails through His Spirit dwelling inside of us. Be assured of this: be strong and courageous when loneliness is on the horizon, because God is a lot nearer than you think.

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