Think of the biggest struggle in your life right now, the thing that plagues you. The issue you’ve dealt with for so long that you can’t imagine ever feeling free of it.
Now imagine yourself in a place of great victory. You are finally learning to walk in freedom as it pertains to your struggle.
You have overcome obstacles that used to appear to be Mount Everest. Now you feel as if you have conquered Mount Everest!
I’m rapidly nearing the end of Joshua. Today, I read chapter 23.
It’s exciting to imagine the Israelites in the Promised Land. The land had been divided; the Israelites had received their inheritance. They were settling in to their new homes.
We hear Joshua imploring the Israelites to continue to follow God with everything they have.
So be very careful to follow everything Moses wrote in the Book of Instruction. Do not deviate from it, turning either to the right or to the left. Make sure you do not associate with the other people still remaining in the land. Do not even mention the names of their gods, much less swear by them or serve them or worship them. Rather, cling tightly to the Lord your God as you have done until now.
Put yourself back in that place of great victory you envisioned at the beginning of this post.
Now imagine you are an Israelite.
You have stepped into your Jordan.
You gathered your stones of remembrance.
You have seen challenges through God’s eyes.
You have learned the importance of consulting God in all things.
And now you are living in the fullness of God’s specific plan for you.
No wonder you feel as if you’ve conquered a giant mountain! Surely now you can exhale and finally relax.
Now, imagine you are facing another obstacle that makes you wonder if you made up the Promised Land. What feelings rise up within you? Hope? Fear? Trust? Or Despair?
The reality of life is that we are bound, just like the Israelites, to face challenges. We don’t have control over that. But we do have control over how we respond.
Despair used to be one of my default settings. And it’s no surprise. I’ve had a challenging life. The circumstances and situations I have faced could easily point me to despair. Many of those things seemed hopeless.
But slowly, by seeing God’s faithfulness, by learning to tell myself the truth, by choosing to trust in God’s goodness, my tendency to despair is something I’ve slowly been able to overcome.
Now, when the despairing thoughts come, I replace them with truth.
When I worry about the details, I say out loud: “God will take care of me. He doesn’t give His kids stones when they ask for bread. I am worth more than many sparrows.”
I remember 2 Corinthians 4:8: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” Then I pray through it:
“God, help me to be perplexed, confused, but not to fall into despair. Persecuted, yes, but God, You NEVER abandon me. Struck down, but Lord, you are my strong tower, a refuge in times of trouble, an ever-present help in time of need. Lord, thank You that the lions may grow weak & hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.”
In that moment of maybe, I have a choice: despair in my circumstances or trust in my God.
As I finish up Joshua, I’m excited and apprehensive concerning not only what the Israelites will face next, but more importantly how they will choose to respond.
How will you respond today? When trials come, will you rely on your feelings to dictate your truth, or will you once again choose to trust in Your Creator, the Freedom Giver? Will you choose to believe the father of lies or the lifter of your head?
The old hymn “Before the Throne of God Above” comes to mind.
When Satan tempts me to despair,
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end to all my sin.
Looking up, as Joshua did, not looking at our challenges, but looking at our God. The God who hung from the cross, who gave up everything for you & me, surely He is trustworthy. Are you, as I wrote about last week, choosing to hold on to hopelessness and despair, or are you willing to unclench your fists, open your hands to God, and see what He has for you?