By Renee Swope
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”I do not like open heights. I can't stand narrow balconies. And when driving across a bridge, you'll find me hugging the rail along the inside lane.
Joshua 1:9 (NIV)
A few years ago, some friends tried to help me conquer my fear of heights by inviting our family to an indoor rock-climbing center. My heart stopped as we entered the doors and I scanned the highest peak at 25 feet. The instructors assured me that a web of ropes and harnesses would hold me tight. Before I could say "no thank you," I was strapped in and signing an injury waiver.
Towards the end of the day our friends, John and Laura, asked their eight-year-old son Steven if he wanted to try to climb to the highest peak. Steven seemed a little hesitant, but when his dad offered game tokens and ice cream if he reached it, Steven took the challenge.
Although Steven wasn't crazy about heights, he loved a dare. The promise of reward, mixed with the challenge and faith of his father, evoked courage in him.
I watched with admiration as Steven started the climb with confidence. He made it to 10 feet, then 15, then 20. But as he inched past the next face of the wall, he looked down. Realizing how high he was and how far he still had to go, he insisted he couldn't do it.
By this time, John was holding their very tired and fussy 3-year-old and Laura was feeding their hungry baby girl. I don't know where my brave husband was, but I quickly realized I was the only one standing there who could do something.
Suddenly courage and strength surged through my body and I called out, "Don't give up buddy. You can do it. I'll help you!"
In record time, I reached the 20-foot marker, crossed over the peak and up beside Steven to encourage him, reminding him of how far he'd come. I told him he could do it with God's strength and that it would be worth it if he'd persevere. With my words and my confidence in him, I helped Steven turn his thoughts towards a higher goal, an inner peak, a reward much greater than ice cream and game tokens – the reward of getting to a place he had stopped believing he could reach.
I surprised myself. I had silenced the voices of my own fears by focusing on helping someone else overcome theirs. In that moment, I realized the same promises I was claiming for Steven were true for me, too. I could do it with God's strength, and I did!
Each day we have the same opportunity. Like God did with Joshua in today's key verse, and like He does with us, we can come alongside each other in some of life's hardest challenges and highest peaks and say, "Don't give up, you can do it. I'll be with you and I will help you."
Isn't it amazing that when we take our eyes off our fears, our doubts, and our struggles and focus on someone else’s needs, we somehow forget our own? In believing the power of God's promises for others, our confidence in His promises for us seems to grow as well. And that my friend is the power of encouragement!