There are many times where I feel overwhelmed, so burdened that I can barely stand, and I feel nothing but weakness in those moments.
There are times when I see the mountain in front of me and I am too scared to take that first step, because I can't see what is ahead of me. It is a moment where I must decide to stay where I am or to move ahead into the unknown, yet I don't have the courage to choose the unknown.
There are times when I think of the future, or even my current situations, and I feel fear, fear of being stuck where I am, fear of failure, fear of not ending up where I dream of going...fear that plagues so many aspects of my life.
Then there is the discouragement, the part that ties the weakness, cowardice, and fear together into the dangerous notion that you will never measure up...your works aren't enough, your heart isn't enough, and you will not succeed because of everything you are and everything you are not.
Weakness, cowardice, fear, and discouragement are human emotions. There is no human alive today who has never felt those emotions plague their mind, heart, and spirit. To not be any of those things is a difficult, nearly impossible command to follow...it's certainly no "Thou shalt not murder". They are emotions that can come up at any point, because life is filled with struggles and uncertainty. When I first read Joshua 1:9, I thought it was the most unrealistic command. How am I supposed to never feel weak or discouraged? How am I supposed to never feel cowardly or afraid? That is an impossible command! If I could just snap my fingers and never feel any of those things again, I absolutely would. No one wants to feel that way, so how can God just expect me to not feel that way? Doesn't He know how unrealistic He's being? Did He miss those years where I struggled with horrible things in an attempt to survive those feelings? Yet He wants me to just not feel them?! Now to feel them is going against God's commands?! What am I supposed to do?
The misunderstanding I felt for this verse and those like it is simple, really. I took this verse to mean that I needed to summon up every pathetic drop of human strength and bravery I had in my body and try to overcome every struggle with that. My strength, my courage, my fearlessness, and my own sense of encouragement needed to be enough, and I knew it wasn't. I thought those feelings in and of themselves were sin. I was wrong. Those feelings aren't sinful, they're human. God isn't commanding us to just find something in our own humanity to give us strength and courage. God is commanding us to lean on Him, to let His strength and courage and fearlessness and encouragement become our own. He is commanding us to depend on Him and to let Him sustain us. When God asks us to do what is impossible for us, it's so that we will depend on Him to make it possible.
With God's strength, I can face the trials of today.
With God's courage, I can be brave when I have to take a step into the unknown.
With God's fearlessness, I can find peace in the knowledge that He has everything under control.
With God's encouragement, I know that no, alone I am not enough. Yet He created me and chose me for a purpose that will come to pass.
With God's spirit, we all have it within us to be strong, courageous, fearless, and encouraged no matter where we are or what we face.