I read the words again and repeated them in a whisper. Be strong and courageous. If God would go into war with Joshua, I thought, He would go into that building with me. I opened the car door and stood, gazing at the entrance. Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged. I took a slow, deliberate step toward the door, then another, making my way across the parking lot. Shaking, I opened the door and walked in, whispering and trusting. The Lord my God is with me wherever I go. Whatever happened that morning, I wouldn’t be alone. When a nurse took me into a counseling room and asked if anyone had come with me, I answered, “Yes, but not in the way you mean.”
It would be three days before I would get the test results. As I waited for that interminably long weekend to pass, I spent time reading the first chapter of Joshua. The verse that had carried me into that building and through those tests was part of God’s commissioning of Joshua to lead the people of Israel after Moses’ death. Three times as He gave Joshua responsibility for His people, God charged him to be strong and courageous (1:6, 7, 9). He also promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (1:5). Joshua had big shoes to fill and a tough road ahead. To lead God’s chosen people into the promised land, he would have to cross the wilderness, cross the Jordan river, and defeat Jericho. He rallied the people by reminding them of Moses’ words: “‘The Lord your God will give you rest by giving you this land’ ” (1:13).
Sitting in my car on a chill November Friday, I stared, paralyzed, at the building where I was to spend the next four or five hours undergoing a series of tests. I gripped the steering wheel so tightly, I could no longer feel my hands. Short of someone coming out to escort me, I didn’t know how I was going to make myself go inside. Then my phone buzzed with a text message from my sister. No greeting, no inspirational speech, only these words: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. For the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Josh 1:9).
My mind latched onto the word “rest.” For Joshua and the Israelites, it meant rest from their captivity in Egypt and from their wilderness wanderings. Ultimately, it meant they would be safe, secure, and settled in the land God had promised for generations to give them. But in the immediate context, the promise of rest hinted at success because rest always followed warfare, at least for the victors. Of course, I couldn’t stop myself from thinking about another “rest”—eternal rest in heaven for all who believe (John 3:16). As I read God’s many promises in this passage, I wondered which type of rest He would give me—healing or “home”?
As I thought about these verses, I realized Joshua lived on the other side of the cross—before Jesus lived, died, and rose again, before God gave us the Holy Spirit as our Comforter. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, I have the promise of rest and home in heaven, but I˛also have rest now—in Him—no matter the circumstances. After instructing His disciples, Jesus preached throughout the region of Galilee and compelled the people: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt 11:28–30).
We must move into rest. We must live at rest in the midst of the wilderness and while battle rages. We must know—truly believe, not only with our minds but with our very souls—that God’s will is best for us. This kind of rest isn’t easy: I had my first panic attack that Sunday, knowing I would hear test results the next day. But if we have given our hearts to the Lord, then our lives belong to Him to do with as He sees fit, and for His glory. We must relinquish fear to find this rest, to grow into it, because it requires our ultimate trust and absolute surrender to our Lord.
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged. Wherever you go today, rest in Him.
Biblical references are from the New International Version (NIV).