I’ve been extremely discouraged lately. I’m one punch away from throwing in the proverbial towel on my love life and my church life. I’m disappointed in women, in love, in church, in church leaders, in the policies and political platforms of Evangelical Christians. I’m exhausted from trying to argue against the hatred and bigotry rampant within Christian circles. I’m sick of going out on dates, trying to convince a woman that I’m worthy, trying to find the love-needle in a haystack full of manure-saturated straw.
Those who don’t know Jesus, are confused as to who He truly is. I’m wearied from trying to introduce those who have questions to the loving, accepting, compassionate One—the Lord who recognizes the epidemic of loneliness and hurting and welcomes all people into His loving embrace. The simplicity, hypocrisy, and outright idiocy of the right is pushing me so far left, I’m about to fall of the spectrum completely. I’m tired, I’m lonely, I’m weak, and I’m afraid to face the world I call home because it’s a world that values hatred, anger, outward appearances, and disdain. I’m too weak and too afraid to cross the Jordan and engage this world that doesn’t seem very Promising anyway.
Therefore, I’m content to stay in the Wilderness and avoid the other side of the river completely. I’m grateful for the arrival of the football season and eventual snowboarding season to distract me from the loneliness, hatred, greed, materialism, bigotry, systemic selfishness that has become the identity of the world that exists on the other side of the river. So why shouldn’t I be afraid? Why shouldn’t I be weak? What does this Promised Land have to offer us anymore? I just can’t face this abysmal world alone…I can’t!
I honestly believe that this is exactly where Joshua was after his leader and mentor Moses died on Mount Nebo. Joshua had witnessed the futility of the world. He knew these people couldn’t be trusted. He doubted the value of the Promised Land and he was weak and afraid. He knew that the Israelites valued hatred, anger, outward appearances, materialism, bigotry, and selfishness. It doesn’t say that exactly in Scripture, but the fact that God had to tell him seven separate times to “Be Strong and Courageous” seems to suggest that God had some convincing to do (Deut. 31:6, 7, 23; Josh 1:6, 7, 9, 18).
I’m sure Joshua—like me—would rather sit in his chair east of the Jordan and watch the Minnesota Vikings embarrass themselves at Levi’s Stadium or shred the Gnar Pow on Mount Nebo than enter his world and embrace his calling. Joshua needed to know that he wasn’t about to face his abysmal world alone. Joshua needed an encouraging word from the all-powerful God and that is exactly what he received:
“Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 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.”
God’s redundant persistence shouldn’t go unnoticed here. God had to drill the assurance of His presence into the mind and heart of Joshua. Not only that, he had to repetitively encourage Joshua to avoid the temptation to remain weak and cowardly and instead embrace the strength and courage that can only come from God’s Spirit. God had a task and purpose for Joshua. Without God, Joshua was afraid and discouraged. With God’s presence, strength, and courage, Joshua could overcome those fears that plagued him, embrace his purpose, and cross the Jordan into the Promised Land—a land that may appear abysmal, but held promises and hope beyond the reach of Joshua’s expectations and imagination.
I’m still going to suffer through a dismal shellacking of the Minnesota Vikings every Sunday. I’m still going to partake in the thrill of shredding eight inches of powder in the Montezuma Bowl at Arapahoe Basin. I’m not, however, going to let those distractions dominate my existence. I’m still going to reach into that manure-saturated haystack in search for that enigmatic needle of love. I’m still going to trudge into church in search for that community of believers who still worship the Jesus I follow, love, adore, and try to emulate. I’m still going to combat the hypocrisy, hate, and bigotry that’s become annoyingly prevalent amid many Christians today.
But I can’t do it alone.
Thank goodness the Lord my God will be with me wherever I go…so I don’t have to.