"Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before."
Joshua 3:4a (NIV)
Do you ever fear the unknown? Perhaps it's your health or the uncertainty of your future. Maybe it's the decisions your children will make about following God or following their peers. Fearing the unknown can cause us to spend precious energy anticipating the worst-case scenario. There are two problems with this type of fear:
• The future is not here.
• The future is not ours.
While the future may be out of our hands, it is not out of the hands of our faithful trustworthy God. When we face a worrisome unknown situation, we can look to Joshua as an example of how to trust God in the face of uncertainty.
It's recorded in the first chapter of Joshua that before Moses died, God passed the baton of leadership to Joshua. The Israelites had been wandering in the desert for 40 years under the guidance of Moses. Now, their journey was almost over. Just beyond the Jordan River was their promised land -- the land that God had guaranteed to Abraham and his descendants.
Upon reaching the Jordan River, Joshua and the Israelites set up camp by the stream and awaited God's direction. Much like their meeting with the Red Sea, God had to make a way for them to cross over the river. On the third day, God told the officers to instruct the people that when they saw the Ark of the Covenant (where God's Presence abided) to follow it because they had "never passed this way before" (Joshua 3:4). In essence, God was saying: Follow Me and I'll see you through this unknown territory.
That's not all. The people were instructed on how closely they should follow the ark. Without this instruction, the people would have crowded the ark and God wanted every person to be able to see His presence faithfully leading them through the unknown valley. What greater encouragement could they have than this, that the Lord was their God, a God who was with them?
You see, friend, the Lord understands our fear of the unknown. He realizes that you may be in a situation that you've never passed through before and you're afraid. It may be the first time you've been without employment. Maybe you've just been diagnosed with an illness or your child is in rebellion. You've never been down this road before and you don't know which way to go or what to do. God will guide the way.
Joshua's life was unpredictable and full of unknowns much like yours and mine. Yet, he successfully resisted fear by keeping his focus on God rather than the events surrounding him. Just as God guided the Israelites through unknown territory, He will guide you and me, too.
As He promises in Isaiah 43, when we come to a place we've never passed through before, God is always present to help us. "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior" (v.2-3a, NIV).
Even though the children of Israel were not told how they would pass over the river, the people went forth in faith. We too can move forward in faith sharing in the promised presence of God leading the way through our unknown circumstances.
This word refreshes me because I know that I know that my footsteps are ordered of the Lord, yet and still, there are moments when worry and doubt creep in and I find myself needing to beat fear into submission. Lately, I realize how patient God really is with us and our struggle with our fears. Or, more correctly our struggles with our faith. His resume reads perfectly...yet we wonder if He heard our prayer this time. He has come through for us countless times...yet we are afraid that what we know He told us is not true. Oh, we of little faith! I am grateful for the things of God that have been shared with me by scholars and pastors and friends because every now and then we need to be reminded that the reason we are experiencing God in so many ways is because He is with us and loves us and guides us into our victories as surely as He did the Israelites back in the day. So my prayer is:
Dear Lord, thank You for Your promised presence. It comforts my heart to know that I am not alone. Lead me, Lord, through the unknowns in my life. Make Your path clear and I will follow it. In Jesus' Name, Amen.