“I repeat, be strong and courageous! Don’t be afraid and don’t panic, for I, the LORD your God, am with you in all you do.”
Grandbaby number four was on her way.
My daughter-in-law Ashley was at the hospital to have a cesarean section, and we would soon see precious Madi’s little face. How much would she weigh? Would she look like her Mother or Dad? As a Yaya, I was beyond excited to get details and be on my way to North Carolina. But, my wait kept getting longer and longer. I began to wonder what was happening and if everyone was okay.
My cell rang, and it was Ashley. She said, “Madi is here” and her voice broke. As I sat at my desk, icy fear gripped my heart. I had known Ashley since she was 12 years old, and I had never heard her sound this way. I asked Ashley what was wrong. Still groggy from the anesthesia, she calmly answered that Madi was here and had Down Syndrome and heart problems. Her words sparked one of the very few times that I have ever struggled to find words of comfort. My brain tried to grasp what she was saying. I asked her where Daniel, my son, was. She said he was with Madi, and they were getting ready to transport her to a children’s hospital.
I can’t recall ever feeling this helpless as a mother. I told Ashley that I loved her, and I would be there in a few hours. I searched my heart for a spark of courage and found nothing but fear and disbelief. I then realized that courage is a decision, not a warm and fuzzy feeling. Ashley had shown me how to choose courage and rise strong. I distinctly remember asking God for the strong courage we would all need for the unknown journey ahead for Madi and our family.
Fear is an emotional default for us.
It is an emotion we don’t like to feel and one that can disable us, rob us of faith, and throw us into a never-ending prison of chaos. In Joshua 1:9, we see Joshua assume leadership of the Hebrew people. They had just lost the only leader they knew, were heading into a land very little was known about, and Joshua knew they were going into war. As Joshua prepares to lead into what seems like an impossible situation, he gets solid and strong instruction from God.
In verse 9, we see God reiterate his encouragement as he tells him, “I repeat.” In Hebrew culture, repetition was used for both a strong emphasis and also to teach a point. God was making a point to be strong and courageous. Joshua is told by God three times to be strong and courageous. Out of all the commands in the first chapter of Joshua, to be strong and courageous has the most repetitions.
Joshua had a choice.
He could courageously confront his fears and believe God’s word, or he could try to work with what he saw and felt. We have the same choice. When we are on the battlefield of fear, we can’t shove it away or stuff it neatly in a back drawer. Until we courageously confront our fear and back it up with God’s word, we can never be free of the pit of perpetual fear. When we are courageous and face the fear by backing it down with God’s word, there is a particular power that Scripture unleashes that backs the enemy down. It is a huge victory that God has fashioned for us, and it is ours if we will believe him for it.
The day Madi was born, I watched Ashley believe God, move fear out of the way with Scripture, and courageously rise strong to take care of her baby. I wish I could say it was smooth sailing after that. Truth is there were days in Madi’s infancy we didn’t think she would live. These were the times she chose courage over fear. Ashley did not hit the panic button; she hit the battle plan. These were the times she believed what God said in Scripture over the fearful lies the enemy so shrewdly whispered in her ear.
Today, Madi is a precocious 6-year-old who goes to school, loves her sisters, and brings great joy to her family and more than a little chaos. God equips each of us to be strong and courageous. It is hard work but so very worth it.
The LORD said it best, “I repeat, be strong and courageous.”