I’ve never been in a fist fight before. I don’t think I’ve even been close to getting into a fist fight before. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to get into a fight. What sorts of emotions would I feel? Would I fight fiercely or would my flight instinct kick in? I’m not particularly large or strong. I’m pretty sure if I tried to punch someone, my own hand would hurt more than they would. I don’t think I would feel very courageous in a fight. Often, God calls us into fights where we have no idea what we are doing but are told to be strong and courageous.
One of my favorite stories in the Bible is the story of Joshua. He became the leader of the Israelites after Moses died and was tasked with leading them into the land God had promised them. He had the weight of leading Moses’ (and God’s) people on his shoulders and immediately he had to confront Jericho, one of the largest and most powerful city-states in the ancient world. As Joshua was preparing to assault Jericho, an angel of the Lord appeared before him and told him to be strong and courageous. Joshua asked the angel, “Are you for us or our enemies?” The angel responds, “Neither.” God wasn’t interested in taking sides in the coming battle; His desire was for the story of His Kingdom to continue. He wanted Joshua and the Israelites to choose Him. (Joshua 5-6)
For Joshua, choosing God meant going along with a crazy plan of attack that included seven days of marching in circles, trumpets and shouting. Sometimes I feel like God is telling me to follow a similar plan for my life. “Jake, go to college and get a degree in education. Okay, now devote a year to discipling college students. Okay, now don’t teach or pastor but serve the poor and desolate around you.” Talk about yanking my chain. Every time I think I’ve got an understanding of the direction God is taking me, I’m thrown into something new. Each time, I hear God whispering into my ear, “Trust me. Be strong and courageous.”
I think it takes a lot of strength and courage to trust God. When God appeared before Jacob to give him a new direction, Jacob wrestled with God for an entire night. Jacob literally fought with God over what God wanted him to do. After their wrestling match, God blesses Jacob and calls him Israel, completely reshaping his identity. (Genesis 32:22-32) I like that story because I feel like I wrestle with God daily (and because my name is Jacob). Fighting is a hard and rough business. It’s ugly and emotional. And after a fight, you’re never the same. When you’re ready for a fight, you’re saying you care about something enough to get dirty. God say he wants us to battle injustice, care for orphans and widows, to give of ourselves sacrificially. God wants us to get some skin in the game and make a tangible difference and walk out the other side changed.
I think that’s why I’m okay with God jerking me around from place to place. I know what God cares about and I trust that he’s directing me to the places where I’ll make the most difference. Not to places where anyone will make a difference but me, specifically, with all my skills, flaws, strengths, and fears. The path of my life is shrouded in mystery. With each step forward, God shines His light a little bit further ahead on the path. Sometimes that light will grow dim and I have to step out into the darkness, faithfully trusting that my feet will land on solid ground. But each time I’ve done this, Jesus has not disappointed me.