“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.
I try not to sigh in irritation as my son calls to me from his bedroom yet again. I ask him what he needs and he says, “I’m scared, but I don’t know why.” I remind him that he doesn’t need to be afraid for various reasons (Mommy and Daddy are here, nothing bad is going to happen, our God is bigger than all our fears, etc.) and then pray with him before tucking him in again and leaving.
This scene plays out fairly often in my house. Our son is blessed with a very active imagination (yup, he’s definitely my kid) which can also be a curse when it is time to go to sleep. He’s way too good at thinking of things to be scared of or to worry about.
Truthfully, so am I. Often in my role of ministry leadership, I wrestle with anxiety and worry about what is happening in our church. I wonder what my husband and I are going to do about x, y, and z. I worry about how we will handle that delicate situation where people’s feelings might get hurt. I wonder how in the world we can help the family that’s falling apart right now. I am fearful that our finances will not be enough to support all of our ministries and staff. I worry about how the politics of our nation will wreak havoc in our church and whether or not our family can live through another tumultuous election. I fear that the burdens of ministry might burn out my husband.
Ministry leadership is hard, draining, and can drive us to the brink. There is so much that can (and often does) go wrong.
Recently I was reading in Joshua 1 and was struck by how God told Joshua, “Do not be frightened.” It is a familiar passage to me, but as I read it this time, I realized something new. I had always read an irritated tone into the text, similar to how I’m a bit irritated with my own son when he is scared at night. I always imagined this passage to be a shaming kind of statement, like God was saying, “How silly of you to be frightened! Man up, Joshua!”
This time, I realized how wrong I have been. There is no hint of irritation or shame in this passage! Rather, it is an exhilarating pep talk, filled with encouragement and confidence! Joshua was stepping into an enormous role of leadership, one which must have appeared daunting and certainly would have given me anxiety. God told Joshua three times in this chapter to, “Be strong and courageous,” in addition to telling him, “Do not be frightened.” God wasn’t telling Joshua to man up or scolding him for having fears. He was simply reminding Joshua that he didn’t need to be afraid, because God was with him. It’s that simple – just as God was with Moses, He was going to be with Joshua (vs. 5). Joshua could have courage because of Who was with Him.
God also told Joshua to follow His Law that He had given to Moses, and to meditate on it (vss. 7-8). As long as Joshua followed God’s Word, he didn’t need to fear. God would guide him. God would be with him. Joshua’s courage and strength stemmed from God’s presence, not his own willpower or abilities. I love the patience exhibited by God here! He didn’t sigh in irritation, or say, “Duh, Joshua, obviously there’s no reason to be afraid.” He lovingly comforted Joshua, lifted him up, and prepared him for the road ahead.
In the same way, God is here with us, patiently leading us through the difficulties of ministry leadership. When I am discouraged about the “what if’s” or the “how to’s,” I need to remember what God told Joshua – do not be frightened, follow God’s Law, and meditate on it. If I am faithful to the calling God has placed on my life, and faithful to obey Him in these things, I can let go of all those other things and trust that He will take care of the rest. Just as God reminded Joshua, “Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go,” so I can trust that God is with me.
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