“You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways” (Psalm 139:3).
We had just finished dinner at Mama Melrose (Walt Disney World Hollywood Studios) and were on our way to the Toy Story ride when a woman noticed her child had wandered off. She was shouting his name and frantically running around searching for him. We and others joined in the search, looking in shop windows and around corners. Suddenly, he was found! The woman broke into tears, embracing him. Tears came to my eyes too, because only a few days earlier, Melody, my nine year old daughter with Down’s syndrome had lost herself in the crowd at Animal Kingdom leaving us momentarily in similar panic before we located her.
Ever want to get lost?
In my twenties I read Rabbit, Run, by John Updike, and considered for the first time what happens when a person just can’t take it anymore and gets in the car and just keeps driving. I remember thinking, “How could he just go?” Yet, go he did.
My business has been so tough lately that I have found myself wishing I could get lost, and Rabbit Angstrom comes to mind. Whether wistful, wishful, or rueful, I am resolved to stay put because that is my character. It has not always been so with me, but it is now.
Novels let us try on a different personality, but God empowers us to overcome, letting life circumstances refine our character and our hope and our trust.
Oswald Chambers’ devotional, My Utmost for His Highest taught me that God views the trials of our lives differently than we do. We want to win, whatever that is, and we want victory now. God wants us to become the people He created us to be, and circumstances are tools to accomplish that. We are keeping score of a game God is not playing.
Joshua was a remarkable figure in the Old Testament. An aide to Moses, he was chosen by God to complete the mission Moses began of bringing the Israelites into the Promised Land. In the opening chapter of the book that bears his name, God encourages Joshua to be strong and courageous four times, admonishing Joshua to follow all that God commanded in the course of his work in leading the people.
God’s encouragement was needed because Joshua had been there when the people refused to enter the Promised Land the first time, leading to forty years of wandering in the desert. Joshua had heard their grumbling against Moses; he knew the people of Israel were fickle. On the other hand, he also had come to know God. Joshua resolved to do what God asked; that was enough and all that God required.
God called Joshua to play a part in His story of the redemption of the world. Along the way people behaved badly; but God always proved Himself to be true. Coming to believe that God is a rock, a sure foundation upon which to build our lives requires our enduring trials as well as prosperity.
We can learn a lot from Joshua when we face times of difficulty for which our hearts do not betray us—times of trial yet we believe we are not being bull-headed or defiant against God. Here are five things Joshua teaches us:
- Do not procrastinate. Joshua immediately began the work; he put his best foot forward. God’s instruction was pretty clear: “Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses” (Joshua 1:2b-3). Immediately upon hearing the instruction, he readied the people to go (Joshua 1:10-11).
- Remain close to God. Joshua stayed close to God as the work progressed. Through prayer and study, giving careful attention to what God had commanded, Joshua worked within the plan and framework established by God.
- Hold on to faith. Not all of the Israelite endeavors went as the people had hoped, but Joshua kept his faith that God would be faithful. Victory led to faith, but so did set-backs. Joshua’s life is a testament of the power of faith.
- Do the work and leave outcomes to God. Paul said, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13b-14). The only outcome that matters is running the race to please God.
- Build a legacy for others. Joshua’s words, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…but as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15) still echo down the centuries to us.
As I was taking a walk a few days ago, pondering again the troubles besetting my business, this thought suddenly struck: God knows right where I am, spatially, physically, and emotionally. The thought brought peace, and I whispered as the psalmist did, “this knowledge is too great for me.” Renewed in confidence, this thought came: each step I am taking in His will is a step towards home. I’m not lost, and my journey has great purpose to my Creator.