Ever have days when you’re so tense it feels like your shoulders are taped to your ears? You’re stressed – and your body carries it as much as your mind; like a human knot, shaking with the effort of keeping it all in.
That’s the thing isn’t it – sometimes stress comes, not just from what’s going on, but the pressure of trying to hold it all together.
Maybe you’re a mum, trying to pacify a howling infant or a screaming teen.
A boss, drowning under people and budgets and expectations and deadlines.
Maybe you’re looking after an elderly relative, or struggling with money problems or ill health.
Or simply trying to stay afloat under the pressures of depression or anxiety.
These things are difficult – but it’s pretending that they’re not which can be really unbearable. Perhaps that’s one reason why suicides can sometimes come without warning – we’re so good at putting on masks we’d rather kill ourselves than take them off.
Not that it’s always a deliberate choice. Perhaps we’ve had to be strong – for others or because there aren’t others to lean on. If that’s the case, then what do we do? Where do we turn when we’re weeping with weariness, empty and bone-tired of fighting?
This week we’ve been looking at Joshua 5. In it, we read about one of the great leaders of God’s people: Joshua. He’s an amazing leader; commissioned by God to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. There’s just one problem; it’s already populated, (and by fearsome warriors who won’t go quietly). Joshua is personally responsible for protecting and leading millions of men, women and children in a situation of terrible danger. Now that’s stressful. Little wonder that both God and the people urge him to be ‘strong and courageous!’
If you were in Joshua’s shoes, what would you be feeling? Everyone is frightened and unsure of what to do and where to go. They’re looking to you for guidance – but you’re just one man and the weight of these lives hangs heavy on your shoulders. Should you shoulder the burden and prepare to die? Or (as I would), shout ‘look – an elephant!’ and then run for the hills?
Just before facing the battle of his life, Joshua takes neither of these options. Instead he leads the people in the Passover celebration – a meal that remembers how God provided shelter under the blood of the lamb. How He fought for His people and led them out of slavery. This is very appropriate, because shortly afterwards Joshua meets the real Commander:
What does the commander of God’s army say to Joshua…
– Work harder?
– Up your tactical game?
– Marshall your men and get plotting?
– Eat more eggs and go for a run…?
– Keep it together for the sake of the people?
No. The LORD Jesus – the ultimate Leader With It All Together – tells Joshua this:
– Set your burdens and responsibilities down.
– I don’t want you to keep it together
– I don’t need you to work harder or put up a front
– I am the Lord and I will fight for you. You don’t need to do anything at all – just trust me and see how I will work incredible deliverance from an impossible situation.
The LORD delivered Joshua and the people. The same LORD who came as the ultimate Joshua. The LORD who lives and fights for us today. The LORD who comes to lift our burdens and who stands with us in our struggles. The LORD who cares – and the LORD who acts.