By Alex Florez
Two years ago, a student of mine experienced a loss that my heart could not even calculate. Without telling the details (for the story is his to tell and not mine), I will share that Joshua 1:9 came up time and time again throughout the crisis and in the midst of the grief that followed. It became something of a rallying cry for the family healing from their experience of unutterable loss.
And yet, deep in my heart, I was reluctant to tell a heartbroken boy, “Don’t be afraid, buddy; be strong and courageous. God is with you.” Are those words true? Without question. Does God stand by those promises? Unequivocally He does. But I didn’t want to give him the impression that God wanted him to stuff his pain down deep where it couldn’t get him; I didn’t want to suggest that he ought to put on a brave face and pretend like everything was ok. This passage was not designed to help us tap into our own inner strength; it’s meant to point us to God’s faithfulness in the midst of even the most dreadful circumstances.
The same God that sent Joshua into the promised land to face the unspeakable horrors of war is the same God who stands by our side today. The God who delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt is the same God who pardons us from the consequences of sin by the blood of Jesus. When God urges Joshua to be strong and courageous, when He tells him not to fear, it is the absolute certainty of God’s mighty presence that empowers Joshua to carry on. In the same way, as we stand in the present moment—somewhere between our deliverance from sin and the unknown perils awaiting us in the future—it is the promise of God’s constant companionship that allows us to persevere. The same God that told Joshua, “I will not leave you or abandon you” (Joshua 1:5), is the same God who stands in our midst even now.
We are right to be encouraged by all God-breathed Scripture, but we must be careful not to misunderstand where the true strength comes from. When we are called to be courageous and strong and not to fear, we are not meant to take this as a call to become Christian superheroes, unfazed by the danger and pain in our lives. Instead, we are called to remember who God is, what He has done, and what His promises for the future are. If we can renew our confidence in Jesus day by day, then we stand a chance of living as He has commanded us: not blind to fear, not ignorant of pain and danger, but awakened to the steady, unshakable strength of our faithful Lord Jesus.