In the weeks leading up to my first year of college, I continually heard the question, “Are you ready?”
“Yes!” I always replied. “I’m so excited!”
That was the truth, but only half of it. The other half, the one I didn’t say, was: I’m so, so scared.
College offers the chance to dive deeper into your academic interests while being surrounded by your best friends. It’s normal to be excited about all of the exciting possibilities ahead — but it’s also normal to be scared. Fear is never stronger than when it’s looking at a laundry list of unknowns, and that’s exactly what your first year of college brings. What major will I graduate with? Will I make friends? Will they be good friends? Will I like my roommate? Will I like my classes? Will I get good grades?
Joshua faced a daunting set of unknowns, too. When the book of Joshua begins, Moses has just died after leading the Israelites out of Egypt and through the desert. God instructs Joshua, Moses’s successor, to lead the Israelites across the Jordan and finally enter the Promised Land. After forty years, God’s promise to give the Israelites a land of their own was finally coming true. But Moses left big shoes to fill, and the Promised Land was already occupied by nations who were doubtless less than thrilled about the idea of the Israelites entering. No wonder Joshua was afraid.
Obviously, the nation of Israel entering the Promised Land was a much bigger deal in the redemptive scheme of things than college move-in day. But because all Scripture is God’s Word, it’s useful for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16) today just as much as it was in Joshua’s time.
So let’s look at what the Lord says to Joshua:
“Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”Joshua 1:6-9 ESV
God didn’t tell Joshua that his fears were unfounded or silly. He knew what Joshua was afraid of (verse 6), but He commanded Him to be strong and courageous anyway. Likewise, your fears about this new beginning may be well-founded, but they don’t have to rule you. God is with you wherever you go, whether you’re going to a new state or ten minutes down the road. He is sovereign over your life, orchestrating every detail for your good and His glory.
God’s sovereignty frees us from fear and allows us to lean in to His plans for us. In college, everything about your life is less set in stone than it’s ever been and probably ever will be again. Take advantage of it! Try new foods, new classes, and new experiences. Some chances are going to come up that you absolutely did not expect: take them. Hold both your daily agenda and your five-year-plan with open hands.
Know, too, that some things are going to go wrong. Some internships are going to fall through; some professors are going to be less than polite; some friendships are going to dwindle or even fall apart. Learn to live in uncertainty. Practice saying, “I don’t know, and that’s okay.”
And above all, remain in Christ. The strength and courage that God commands are inseparable from obedience to Him. He admonishes Joshua to meditate on the Law day and night (1:8) and to do according to its commands (1:7). In fact, in verse 9, the entire justification for the command to be strong and courageous is the promise that “the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” In these next few years, as you face trials, joys, and uncertainties, seek His presence. Go to church and spend regular time in the Word and prayer. He will give you the strength you need.
New beginnings are scary, but fear and weakness do not have to overpower you. God’s commands to Joshua are not only for the strong and courageous. They are for those who are weak and afraid, who face circumstances far too big to shoulder on their own. In fact, hundreds of years after Joshua 1, Paul wrote that God’s power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). So be strong and courageous. God has never left your side, and He won’t start now.