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  • Writer's pictureAmanda Strauser

Here Be Giants

I have felt a special kind of kinship to Joshua for some time now. I know what it's like to wander due to the choices of another, to glimpse a promise just out of reach. It can be an isolating and lonely place to live. But the time that I lived in the wilderness of another’s choosing was a drop in the bucket compared to the forty years that Joshua wandered alongside those who condemned him there. The life of Joshua gave me hope.

During the difficult time in my marriage, while my husband was in active addiction, I felt like Joshua. I wanted the promised land more than anything, but I wasn’t able to enter into it alone. During that wilderness season, God spoke promise after promise of what was to come, and I clung on to them like the life jackets that they are.

But this blog isn’t about that. You see I had talked to enough addicts and sat through enough meetings to know that when the sobriety finally came it wasn’t going to be the fix-all. I knew that there would be work necessary after the fact but I was naive and while I said the right things, looking back, I realize that I didn’t really believe them, not fully. I thought that sobriety would fix some things, that surely our marriage would be better, that we would be on the same page, facing the same way…something. But when the sobriety finally came and we stood in our promised land together, I realized that we were standing in a completely foreign place surrounded by giants.

I remember some time into our journey God lead me to study the book of Joshua. Now I was a church kid, I knew about the battle of Jericho and had memorized Joshua 1:9 at some point in my youth but other than that I can't say that I was very familiar with the book. I had expected it to read as a testimony to the good life in the promised land, dripping with encouraging verses and insight into the life of this character that I looked up to. Instead, it read like a war documentary. Battle after battle after battle ensued in those twenty-four chapters. All of them read differently but they all began to run into one another as the chapters piled up. What I had hoped would encourage me and give me insight into the next season of my marriage instead left me mildly confused as to why God led me there in the first place. I found no mic drop moment, no angels singing, no “this verse was written for me” experience. So I finally chalked it up to miscommunication and an overly excited attitude and I moved on.

That is not to say that I didn't learn some interesting things, but as a whole, I can't say that I connected with the latter part of Joshua's life the way that I did with the beginning. Then came James.

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have [its] perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

-James 1:2-4 NASB

I’ve been spending a ton of time in James recently. It's funny how God can highlight one word and open your understanding in a completely new way. My word was 'various'. James says you will encounter various trials in the testing of your faith. I mean, I get it, I knew on the surface that I was facing various trials but when I read it this time God reminded me of Joshua. He faced various enemies in the promised land and, here's the kicker, they were all defeated in different ways!

What worked against Jericho wasn't how they defeated Ai or the Amorites and so forth. Each enemy needed a different strategy. That's what I was missing, I was taking the endurance that was produced in the wilderness and trying to rely on it against the giants I was now facing and coming up short. That didn't mean that I didn't learn the lessons that I was meant to while facing the trials in that place but endurance in one area does not automatically transfer into another.

Here's a practical example of what I mean: While our marriage was in its wilderness season I battled against discontentment but the endurance that was produced in me through that battle doesn't automatically give me the endurance to stand against and defeat the giant of distraction that I have (and still) fight against on this side. The lessons learned about God's grace and mercy, the difference between wants and needs are all invaluable but it is a different giant and therefore needs a different strategy and there is a different type of endurance to be produced through its defeat.

That's what I see in Joshua when I read it now. It's a picture of strategies and that God will call us to handle different trials in different ways. Just because the old way doesn't work now doesn't mean that it is to be thrown out or that you missed it and have failed, it just means that there is a new lesson to be learned. That is the beauty of our life with God, we have the opportunity to keep growing and maturing and learning and being transformed into His image from glory to glory. But in order to be transformed, we must persevere.

Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which [the Lord] has promised to those who love Him.”

-James 1:12 NASB

Learning perseverance is not necessarily a fun lesson. I so prefer the lessons on blessings or giftings over perseverance and endurance but it is supremely necessary. But how? How do we persevere through all of these trials? By loving God! Notice in the above verse that the crown of life is given to those who love God. The crown is the reward received for perseverance. Therefore those that persevere love God. That's not saying that those who falter do not, but for just a moment think of someone that you love deeply, maybe a child or spouse or best friend. You would inherently endure so much more on their behalf than an acquaintance at work, right? It's the same with God. When you are sold out and bought in, completely head-over-heels in love with Him its easier to endure the trials knowing that you will have more of Him on the other side of them. The ends justify the means.

Perseverance through various trials does not just produce endurance, which results in us being perfect, complete, and lacking nothing (James 1:4) but we will receive the crown of life if we persevere to the end. Jesus's perseverance earned Him a crown of thorns, but because He endured the cross we can receive a crown of life! What an unbelievably unfair exchange rate and there is no better reason to persevere until the end. I want something of value to lay at His feet because He laid down His life for me. That, beloved, is the God that we persevere for, that is the God that we have the privilege to love, to know, to call our own. Because He endured the cross let us fight on, push forward, and claim the land that has been promised to us regardless of the giants that are standing in our way.

Written by Amanda Strauser

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