In my Land of Neo trilogy, Ella must find courage she doesn't feel she has. Sound familiar? That certainly rings true for me. I can't tell you how many times in my life I've thought I couldn't do something, but I've had to suck up my courage and do it anyway. Sometimes that decision has been fairly quick and simple, and sometimes it has been gut-wrenching and agonizing.
When it's the latter, I find I do not have the courage on my own. I must draw from Someone far greater than my meager attempts at being brave. In my own strength, I quickly deplete my adrenal energy and end up in a puddle of exhaustion. But when I draw on God's strength I have a peace that is remarkable.
This is the kind of peace Joshua must have experienced when God told him the following:
“And the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Do not fear and do not be dismayed. Take all the fighting men with you, and arise, go up to Ai. See, I have given into your hand the king of Ai, and his people, his city, and his land. And you shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king. Only its spoil and its livestock you shall take as plunder for yourselves. Lay an ambush against the city, behind it.’” Joshua 8:1-2 ESV
God assured Joshua: Don’t fear, don’t be dismayed; I’ve given you the king, people, city, land, spoil and livestock.
I can’t imagine how reassuring that must have been to Joshua and his army as they moved forward. If you read the rest of the chapter, you will see that God certainly fulfilled everything he promised.
Why did Joshua and his army need such encouragement? They had already been defeated by Ai because of one man’s disobedience. Joshua 7:5 says “the hearts of the people melted and became as water.” They needed a great deal of courage to face again those who had soundly defeated them. The only way they were to get that courage was by believing that God would do what he promised.
The same is true of me. I can't count the times my heart "melted and became as water" -- the times when I was “defeated” by my “enemies.” But when I've trusted God in the midst of fear, remarkable things have happened. I think of the time I was supposed to speak at a conference and I got a scratch on my cornea just a few hours before. It was extremely painful and I couldn't even open my eyes. It was too late to back out, so I told I God I trusted him and that if I had to speak with my eyes closed, then I prayed he would not allow it to be too distracting to those listening. Yet, a remarkable thing happened. When they announced my name and I stood to walk to the stage, the discomfort in my eye completely disappeared. I got up and spoke with my eye completely clear. But 30 minutes later, when I was finished and sat back down, the pain returned. It was a remarkable adventure in trusting God. (My eye cleared up by the next day)
I also think of when I was stuck at home with two preschoolers without a car. My husband traveled and we couldn't afford another car at that time. One morning, I felt I was supposed to pray for a car. After I prayed, my husband called and said, "I feel like we are supposed to pray for a car for you." I was astounded that God had impressed on each of us separately to pray for a car. That night, I had a couple of friends over for dinner. As we were eating, one woman said, "Do you know anyone who needs a car? A friend of mine got a new one and is giving her old one away."
I was so excited, I bounced. We drove that car for the next three years with only one repair. It was old and beat up, but it was faithful -- and best of all, it was a gift from a faithful God.
These were remarkable things that happened, which gave me courage for the many mundane, unremarkable things I've had to face in life. For most of us, the enemies we face are not actual people, but our own temptations and failings and refusals to believe that God is good and wants to care for us. It’s easy to get stuck in thinking that those enemies can never be conquered but will continue to cause us misery. However, if we believe that God will give us the victory that he’s promised us, we, like Joshua, will see mighty things happen (1 Corinthians 10:13). “Do not fear and do not be dismayed.”