August 13, 2018 by Katy Epling
This morning I watched two of my kids climb on the bus. I’ve been doing this whole first-day-of-school thing for several years now, but this was a big one. The first year of middle school for my son. The last year of middle school for my daughter. A new school for both of them. Emotions of all shapes and sizes filled our house this morning as we got dressed, ate waffles (a family tradition), packed book bags, and took pictures.
As we stood outside waiting for the bus, I read the verse that has been playing on repeat in my head for the last several days: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
The word “commanded” in that verse has always given me pause. When I grew up, I pictured a stern and frustrated God with hands on hips, chastising his people. “Why do I have to keep telling you this? Just stop being afraid, already!” Rarely did reading this passage make me feel strong or courageous–I just walked away feeling guilty for being fearful in the first place.
But that is not the God we serve. He is not an angry coach, shouting at us from the sidelines to get our heads in the game and stop being fearful. He is, like I was this morning, a patient and loving parent. He knows that we will face real struggles and trials in this life. He knows we will feel afraid, worried, and weary. So when Moses dies and it is time for the Israelites to move forward without him, God encourages them, “Be strong and courageous.” When God’s people are in exile, he reminds them, “fear not, for I am with you” (Isaiah 41:10). And when Jesus stood before his disciples at the last supper, seeing the concern and confusion on their faces, he comforts them, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1).
In fact, throughout the Bible God tells us not to worry or fear. It is a command, an imperative. But it is not one spoken with indignation or disgust. Rather, it is a command given with love, hope, and confidence. It is the voice of a Father who stoops down to look his child in the eye and says, “Don’t worry, my dear one. We’ve got this.”
This morning I sent my children off with words of comfort and encouragement. Middle school is hard! I didn’t scold them for their worries or belittle the trials they might face. Instead I assured them that, whatever comes their way, they don’t have to face it alone. We will get through it together.
What fears are you facing today? Go back to God’s Word and receive the encouragement from his imperative of peace and courage. He is not commanding us out of anger, but from the love of a Father who sees the bigger picture and who never leaves us standing alone.