It’s been a trying and scary week. I know I was glued to my phone and Facebook for the better part of Monday afternoon, into the evening, and then as soon as I woke up on Tuesday morning. I was wondering if we should pack a bag quick just in case, and I definitely made sure I knew where the carriers were for the cats in case we needed to evacuate.
But the winds changed. It died down in the night. It cooled down in general. And while the wind picked up again the next day, my fear was nowhere near as great as it had been that Monday afternoon.
I am amazed by everyone turning out to help someone else, someone who was less fortunate, someone who is experiencing the struggle of the fires so strongly in their lives. Like I said, it’s been a trying and scary week.
Through it all, I witnessed how we all came together. How the call was put out for sandwiches and water for those fighting the fires, how the call was put out for clothes and necessary items for those who had lost homes in the fires. How people rallied together in support and in love.
This is the world I want to be a part of. The world where we love each other, where we give and help each other, where we move together as one unit, as one family, as one together in whatever struggles may come to face us.
We come into this passage of scripture right at a major change in life, when something shocking happened, and when something new is about to happen. Not unlike where we are this week. The scriptures say to be “Be very brave and strong…” something I don’t think God means just when we’re here in this building.
I’ve seen this strength and this bravery throughout the week. In the little boy at play group on Tuesday that said, “The fire’s out!” in a whisper scream while he waited for his statement to be confirmed. “Yes, the fire is out.” He didn’t need to hear the “we hope for good” or the worries ramping around in our adult minds as we think of hot spots and what has already been lost.
For him, his bravery came from that one simple statement, from trusting and believing in what he’d been told and taught, to be brave and strong, to trust in God his creator and giver of life. God is our only constant, the only thing that does not change in our lives.
Sometimes change happens swiftly, like when a fire rages through the grasslands and into town, or when power lines hit together, spark, and start the flames ablaze. The changes can come swiftly, quickly, unknowingly. And other times they can come slowly, as if we’re waiting decades for them to happen.
This passage of scripture combines both. Moses is gone. Joshua was his assistant, so it would seem God has now put him in charge of leading the people as Moses had. However, the Israelites had been waiting decades to be able to cross over into their promised land, to take the steps that would lead them home and allow them to settle.
Yet, I’m sure it happened suddenly, unexpectedly. After waiting that length of time and seeing nothing happening, I’m sure the call Joshua gets to finally “cross over the Jordan with this entire people to the land given to the Israelites” came as a sudden, unexpected change.
But God was still there. God was still in the moments before, when Moses was their leader, and in the moments after. God is still with them when Joshua receives the command to lead the people to the promised land. God is still with us, thousands and thousands of years later, through fire, rain, sleet, through upheavals, losses, changes.
I usually say that our only constant in life is change, but I’ll admit right here and now that I’m wrong. God is our only constant. Change is typically present wherever God is concerned, but God is our one and only true constant in life. Through our faith we know we will have a support to lean on when we need it.
We know through God that we will have a community to back us up, to take care of us when we’re burdened and heavy laden. This is nothing new. This is something that has been true since the beginning of all time, since God created this world anew, since we received the breath of God to give us life.
You think by now we would know it. That we’d understand no matter where we go, no matter what happens, no matter what we do that God is forever with us, but we still need those reminders, those moments to take away our worry and fear—even if it is just for a few seconds—and bring us to life in God’s overwhelming presence.
This passage tells us, “I will be with you in the same way I was with Moses. I won’t desert you or leave you. Be brave and strong, because you are the one who will help this people take possession of the land, which I pledge to give to their ancestors.”
I won’t desert you. I won’t leave you. God is our only constant, always with us, forever, no matter where we go, no matter where our home is, whether it’s something still standing or not. God will forever be with us. God was with the Israelites from the start, from when they were in captivity, to leading them out of captivity, to finally after many years of waiting going to the promised land.
I love the last verse of this passage, where Joshua, I’m sure at this point, is really starting to worry about what’s going to happen next, about how he’ll interact with the people he’s now leading, how he’ll talk to them after these changes have happened, how he’ll handle the changes God has given him.
God tells Joshua, “I’ve commanded you to be brave and strong, haven’t I? Don’t be alarmed or terrified, because the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” If that doesn’t say it, I don’t know what will. So while this week has had terrifying moments, moments of bewilderment and sadness, of loss, of struggle, we should not be alarmed. We should not be terrified. We should be brave and strong because God is with us, wherever we go.