Saturday, April 6, 2013

My Journey with Joshua, Part 3

"Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it." 
Luke 18:17

When I was little, I went through this period of time when I was having really scary nightmares.The memory of it is still vivid to me. I was in the top bunk in the little room I shared with my sister, and I remember laying there staring at the ceiling, trying to get up the courage to slide all the way down to the cold wood floor and make the journey to my parents' room.

I'd race down the dark hall as fast as I could and climb into my dad's side of the bed. Both my parents were usually sound asleep and barely acknowledged my presence, but my dad always slept on his side, and I would snuggle up next to him and throw one arm over his shoulder. In that moment, my little world would change, and things would become right again. Knowing that he was with me took my fear away. Alone, I was terrified. But when I flung my little arm over his shoulder and knew he was with me, I knew that I was safe. Even if that noise I thought I'd heard downstairs was a bad guy and he came into the room, my dad would protect me. I didn't have to be afraid.

As an adult, I recognize the naivete of my childlike understanding back then. Hypothetically speaking, if it really were an intruder, we were all in big trouble. Though my dad was pretty heroic, he probably would have met his match in a gun-wielding maniac. But when I was five, I didn't think there was any one or any thing that could possibly stop him from keeping me safe. He always said he would protect me, and I believed him.

When Jesus talked about how much he valued the faith of children in Luke 18:17, He wasn't talking about how much he loved kids. He does love kids - but He was talking about that "naivete" I referenced earlier. Sometimes kids are so much smarter than their adult counterparts. Unburdened with the baggage of the world's troubles, they just believe you when you tell them things. They're so beautifully uncomplicated.

God told Joshua not to be afraid because He would be with him. God tells us not to be afraid because He will be with us. He promises that He will not leave us or forsake us; the study notes in my ESV Bible call this "an assurance of the companionship and strength of the Lord." I loved reading that. This past week as things went up, down, round and round with the sale of our home, I was comforted by the realization that God was not just the mighty warrior I needed to get me through this; He was walking next to me through each moment as a friend.

The peace didn't come easily; I had to keep fighting for it. Satan wanted nothing more than to steal it from me, and he lurked in every quiet moment taunting me with my worst fears:

There is no way things are going to work out the way you hope they will.
Do you honestly think God cares about this? Seriously, don't be so stupid! If He really is God, don't you think He has bigger things to take care of?
I know He says that He's going to make this all work for your good, but look at this person, and that person, and that one over there! Didn't work out for them, did it? Remember that pastor who was praying his little girl wouldn't die? Look what happened - he was way better than you, way more important to God - and she still died. 
You don't have a right to hope.
You should be afraid. In fact, kid, you should be terrified.

At one point I had to get out my dictionary and look up the word "assurance." Here's how it's defined:

"Promise or pledge; guaranty; surety; full confidence; freedom from doubt; certainty; freedom from timidity; presumptuous boldness."

John MacArthur puts it another way:

"God's presence with him was sufficient to enable him to meet boldly every obstacle that the future could bring." {MacArthur Bible Commentary}

This whole move to Rochester? It's not easy. None of it. Not selling a house, or buying a house. Not saying goodbye to dearly loved family, and friends who are like family. Not leaving a church we love. Not being apart for ten weeks and counting. Not starting a new job. Not finding a new community. It's been hard and painful and sad, and it's not over.

What I want to tell you is that God has used it for good in my life. He has taught me things about who He is that no one can take away from me, things you couldn't even begin to place enough value on.

As I journeyed with Joshua, He taught me not to be afraid.

"... for He has said, 'I will not leave you nor forsake you.'" (Hebrews 13:5, quoting Genesis 28:15, Deuteronomy 31:6, Deuteronomy 31:8. Joshua 1:5, and 1 Chronicles 28:20)

"Believers can be content in every situation because of this promise. Five negatives are utilized in this statement to emphasize the impossibility of Christ deserting believers. It is like saying, 'there is absolutely no way whatsoever that I will ever, ever leave you.'" {John MacArthur, MacArthur Bible Commentary}

Friends, if that is not the most excellent news, I don't know what is. In a world full of senseless tragedy, horrific evil, constant annoyances, and unpredictability lurking around every corner, here is a rock-solid promise from the Creator of the universe that He is, essentially, the most perfect friend we could ever hope to have. No circumstance can separate us from His love and protection and provision. That doesn't mean it will always work out the way we want it to. 

It means He will be there with us, and He will walk us through it. 

When we can't walk, He'll carry us. 

And we will come out on the other side stronger for knowing Him better.

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