(Originally posted March 2016)
An elementary school noon dismissal plus a sunny day over 60 degrees means one thing – time for a Desilets Family Adventure! Last Friday was a perfect day to kick off the spring season with a hike, and we took full advantage of the opportunity. We packed some water and snacks, picked up the kids, and traded suburbia for this:
We all marched with excitement a mile straight up the rocky Appalachian trail, and were treated at the end to some sweet boulder climbing and an awesome view of the valley below.
And a mile straight up a rocky trail makes for an even more fun trip down! The older girls and I took the lead, and, since the potential for falls is much greater in this direction, Tim grabbed our less-experienced (and somewhat reckless) 4-year-old’s hand to help her navigate the path down. After a full day of activity, we were nearing serious preschooler meltdown zone and I decided this would be a great job for “Daddy” – because even a tiny stumble could mean “Carry me!” the rest of the way down.
But as we neared the bottom, instead of hearing whining or crying, all I heard from the back of the line was giggling. I turned around to see Anna running, skipping, and courageously leaping off of rocks – completely free and secure in the confidence that her Daddy had her hand and would not let her fall.
There’s been a lot of talk in the Christian world lately about being “brave” – about facing our fears and taking those next steps God is asking us to take with courage – rather than cowering under the excuses of our weaknesses, the guilt of our failures, and the ease of comfort zones.
As a frequent cower-er myself, I want so badly to face life with the courage of those great heroes I read about in the Bible and in the history of God’s people. I wonder if I would have had the boldness of David, the resolution of Daniel, or the fearlessness of Joshua if I had been in their shoes. It’s hard to imagine, though, when I can barely muster up the guts to take those ‘next steps’ of obedience in my daily life!
It makes total sense that “fear not” is the most frequently spoken command from God in His word, because one of our most basic instincts is self-protection. It’s just plain natural for us to cower and hide. The potential for falls, failure, and even simple discomfort are enough to make us take it slow – or even stand still. Most of us probably don’t even realize how many of our daily choices (or lack thereof) are rooted in fear!
Some of the most familiar verses referred to when we talk about courage are found in God’s promises to Joshua and the people of Israel. In Deuteronomy 31:6, Moses says: “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” The reason they were not to fear was not because there was nothing to fear – but rather because their God would be with them.
The Hebrew term for God being with (and therefore not leaving) them has to do with a letting go or throwing down, specifically from the hand*. For example, the same word is used in Joshua 10:6, “And the men of Gibeon sent to Joshua at the camp in Gilgal, saying, ‘Do not relax your hand from your servants. Come up to us quickly and save us and help us.'”
Being brave does not come from strength we find within ourselves, from circumstances that we predict will lean in our favor, or from guarantees of success. Instead, like Anna’s downhill joy-run, being brave means trusting that the hand that is holding you will never relax, never take a break, and never let you go.
You might think this happy sight lasted all the way down the hill, but, of course, as soon as I pulled out my camera, this happened:
Yes, she fell. Yes, there was pain. Yes, there were tears. But, no, her Daddy did not relax his grasp or let go of her hand for even a second – in fact his grip may have actually tightened.
We all have a next step of obedience that God is leading us to take. Maybe it’s to put your faith in Him for the first time or to turn your entire life over to Him – not just part of it. Maybe it’s going public and getting baptized or sharing your faith with a friend. Maybe it’s joining a small group, reading the Bible, praying out loud, finding a ministry to serve in, or tithing. Maybe it’s forgiving someone who hurt you, showing love to someone in your neighborhood, or opening your home to a child in need. Most of us already know what this step is, but something is preventing us from taking it – the root of it likely being some sort of fear.
But what do we have to fear when God is with us? Why do we hold back when we know that His strong hand is so firmly gripped to ours? You and I can take our next steps with confidence and joy, not because we can’t fall (we very well might!) but because we know He’ll be holding on tight the whole time.
When Anna fell on the trail, I doubted there would be any recovery from this turn of events. I was sure that Tim would be carrying her the rest of the way and we could say goodbye to the laughter and hello to a constant stream of tears.
But, believe it or not, a less than two minutes later she was right back at it again. Her Daddy had not only held her hand the whole time, but he was also the one who picked her up, the one who wiped her tears, and the one who encouraged her to get down and try again.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Be brave! Grand adventures await…