In today’s Daily Office from the Book of Common Prayer, we find the LORD speaking these words to Joshua, who has just been called to take the place of Moses as the leader of Israel:
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
These are encouraging words for any of us, regardless of whether we’re starting a new assignment, starting a new day, or starting a new year. However, they inspire for me both a question and a reminder.
The question is this: What does it mean for us to be “strong and courageous”? Given our cultural heritage, it’s hard to ponder these words without calling up an image of the “mighty warrior” who boldly strides into battle ready to “kick butt and take names.” And given the biblical setting of these words, that might be exactly the image we should call to mind. Then again, it occurs to me that for those of us who live on this side of the cross, strength and courage have a different character. For us, perhaps, strength has less to do with our preparedness to go out and triumph, and more to do with our willingness to lay down our lives in sacrificial love. And courage, perhaps, has less to do with imposing our will, and more to do with yielding to God’s will – even when that leads us to places and situations where our courage alone cannot sustain us.
And this leads to the reminder: Whatever is means for us to be “strong and courageous,” we exhibit these qualities not because of our inherent character, but through the gracious gift of God, who promises “to be with us wherever we go.”
What challenges will we face today? And what would it mean for us to meet those challenges in the “cruciform” strength and courage of suffering love? Finally, how will we stay connected to the sustaining presence of God, so that neither fear nor discouragement will prevent us from following Him into the land of promise?