It is a cliche Christian college girls question: “Which bible guy would you want to marry?” Ew gross I can’t believe I really participated in that conversation. But alas, it happened. My answer was Joshua. My thought process was pretty simple: Joshua wasn’t a screw-up. (This probably has something to do with my expectations of men in general, but we’ll save that for another time.) You know, David was a man after God’s own heart and all, but he was straight up creeping on a bathing woman and then went all House of Cards and got the husband murdered so he could steal the guy’s wife. Abraham lied and told people he was scared of that his wife was his sister. Really, bro? Adam blamed his wife for the fall, Cain killed his brother, Paul has some *interesting* expectations of women, the list goes on.
So Joshua. Joshua followed all the rules, Joshua did all the right things. Joshua was “strong and courageous” and even made the sun stand still in the sky one time (with God’s help, obviously).
So imagine my confusion and shock when I was struck by the thought that maybe Joshua wasn’t so brave after all.
I was listening to a podcast where the guest was talking about fear, and she mentioned that maybe the reason God said, “Do not be afraid, be strong and courageous” to Joshua was because he was, indeed, afraid.
It makes sense if we think about it, right? Why would God need to tell Joshua this if he didn’t struggle with fear? If being strong and courageous wasn’t a difficult battle for him, then God wouldn’t need to speak that courage over him.
God tells Joshua this phrase over and over again. First, God speaks this through Moses to Joshua. He tells him in front of all of Israel (Deuteronomy 31:7-8). Then, when Moses and Joshua go to meet with the Lord, He says it to Joshua again: “Be strong and courageous” (Deuteronomy 31:23). We know the next one well; in Joshua 1:7-9 God tells Joshua twice: “Be strong and courageous…Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
This continues throughout the book of Joshua. What I find amazing is that the people of Israel repeat this phrase to Joshua, and Joshua repeats it to them. God says over and over again when he is about to face hard things: Do not be afraid.
After his people mess up, before an incredibly scary and intimidating battle, God speaks this over him.
Isn’t this just like our God? He knows us personally and speaks our truth to us. And He doesn’t get tired of saying it. He wants us to believe it, and He knows that sometimes we need to hear it over and over again.
Joshua struggled with fear, and so God continually gave him a battle cry of strength and courage. God did not tell Joshua this because he was already a brave warrior, the way we tend to see it.
God speaks into our own stories. He knows our deepest needs, and He covers them with His truth. I have struggled my whole life to believe I have significance. No matter how many people tell me I am, it doesn’t stick. God is gentle and patient enough to remind me over and over again that I am, indeed, worth knowing, worth being in relationship with, worth loving.
What is the false narrative of your life? And what does God have to say about it?
Do not be afraid, be strong and courageous became Joshua’s life motto. If he were a white girl in 2016, he would probably get that tatted on his ankle. (Sounds like a fun podcast segment: What tattoo would bible characters have? Send me ideas.)
Here is what we can learn from this: Joshua heard this message from the Lord over and over again. And then he started to say it over himself and his people. Create your mantra and remind yourself daily. It became so common for Joshua that his people started saying it to him as well. Does your tribe know the message your heart needs to hear? You matter. You are loved. You are worthwhile. You are beautiful. You are whole. You are capable. You are strong. Whatever it might be that you need to hear, make sure you have people who will say it to you when you struggle to believe it yourself.
So Joshua wasn’t perfect. He was, in fact, a fearful leader. But he let the Lord speak truth over him and chose to believe it. When we hear God’s truth in our lives and choose to believe it, He will work in immeasurably powerful ways in our lives. He will do more with and through us than we could ever imagine for ourselves.
We limit ourselves and God by not believing the truth He speaks over us. So whatever it is you might be struggling with today? Hear His truth and let it sink in. Let it wash over you. Be baptized in His thoughts about you. Make it your life motto, your only motto, and live out of that power. You are who He says you are.