Raising kids who are strong

 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 1:9

As a parent, this is surely one of my most loved verses. I want my children (and myself!) to be bold, confident, resilient, brave.  And I know that God wants that, too.  He spoke this directive to Joshua as he prepared to take over command of the Israelites from Moses.  Moses earlier had exhorted the people with these same words, repeated them to Joshua, and then the Lord Himself said it twice in 9 short verses.  I think we are supposed to heed this - be strong and have courage.

I cling to this verse in parenting on at least two levels  - one, to address my own fears and inadequacies (of which there are many!) and two, to encourage my children to be strong.  Not strength as the world offers (which is usually false bravado and an attempt to mask insecurities).  Not a foolhardy ignorance of danger or reality. But strong in the Lord.  Mighty in spirit.  Not afraid. Not fragile.  Able to withstand difficulties and persecution and disappointment.  And to withstand it well.

What does it mean to be strong, to be mighty in spirit?  And how can we develop this in our children? And in ourselves!  Let's unpack that verse and see...First, the context.  The Israelites are about to begin the conquest of Canaan, the land God had promised to them.  They had been redeemed from the slavery of Egypt and were on the brink of possessing the blessing of the rest of that redemption.  But it was obviously not going to be a walk in the park.  There were geographical challenges (large bodies of water to cross and a desert to endure) not to mention the fact that the land was already occupied and possessing it would require displacing those who were there. 

Plenty of reason for fear for sure

Yet God repeatedly instructs them not to.  How is that possible?  Were they (and are we) just supposed to deny reality, stuff down our feelings and march stoically off into the unknown?

Not at all.

The keys to a life of courage, of living without fear or discouragement or dismay, are found right there in the text. Let's see what they are...

The first keys I see that God provided for the Israelites are the same ones He makes available to His people today.  Sandwiched in between His two commands not to fear...verses 7 & 8, we see

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[a] 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

1.  Obedience to His commands
2.  Consistent meditation on His Word

So, if we want to be strong and courageous, if we want to grow kids that are mighty in spirit, we must know that the foundation to those qualities is to obey what He says to do and to feast ourselves continually on His Word. 

And the other keys I see to "fearing not" are found in the definitions of those Hebrew words - "be strong"  and "courage".   The word that we translate as "strong" is a word that the Hebrews used frequently for construction, for building.  Its meaning is deeper than "strong" - it carries with it the idea of being attached firmly to something, to be held fast, preserved.  Hmmm, sounds like God is explaining to us here that our strength comes from holding fast to Him, being bound tightly to His Word.  Oh yes!
And the word for courage is equally as rich.  It means more than just being brave - it conveys the idea of wisdom and virtue and excellence.  SO, "courage" is more than an attitude - it is also action of righteousness!

As I have prayed for my kids through the years to be mighty in Spirit, God has consistently laid out practical ways to cultivate this attribute.  Encourage obedience to HIM, not merely to parents.  (That is the basis of obeying all authority!)  Memorize and meditate on His Word.  Talk about His Word all through the day....all through our lives.  Exhort one another to hold fast to His truth, particularly in dark times, when the light is hard to see.  And sow seeds of righteousness.  Over and over and over.  Do the right thing.  Do the kind thing, the faithful thing, the generous thing, the gracious thing, the joyful thing, the loving thing, the forgiving thing.  Over and over and over.

There are plenty of things in life to be afraid of.  Plenty of things that seem to threaten our security and our well-being.  But God wants His kids to face them all with confidence and courage.

And He provides the keys for us to do so.

Will we take Him at His Word?