Joshua 4 is the very familiar account of God’s people as they finally crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land of Israel. The Children of Israel spent 400 years in Egyptian bondage, were chased by Pharaoh to the Red Sea, crossed over on dry land by the miraculous hand of God, and then found themselves circling the desert. Now, after 40 long years of struggle in the desert, the people of God find themselves under Joshua’s leadership standing at the banks of the Jordan River. They would finally be able to enter into their Promised Land.
The Jordan River was all that lay between them and the land of Canaan. Normally the Jordan was a small river that could easily be crossed. One time each year, however, the river that was normally 60-90 feet wide and 3 feet deep would swell to overflowing (Joshua 3:15) – almost a mile wide with raging rapids. It was at this time in the year that the Lord brought Israel to the river.
After all they had experienced, why couldn’t the children of Israel have crossed at a normal time, when the river wasn’t flooding? Why did they have to “go thru” at the most difficult time? In my own life, I’ve often asked, “Why does it seem like everything has to be such a struggle?” Can you imagine how the Israelites felt after Egypt, 40 years in the desert, giants in the land, and now flood waters?
I believe that the answer, at least in part, is that God wants us to learn to depend upon Him instead of our own efforts and abilities. If Israel had crossed at another time, then they could have believed that they came into the Promised Land – their destiny and God’s will for them – on their own.
In his book Coming Back Stronger, NFL quarterback Drew Brees talks about facing seeming insurmountable adversity and depending upon God to overcome. Brees started his career in 2001 with the San Diego Chargers, and suffered a debilitating injury to the shoulder of his throwing arm in 2005. After a long recovery, he was signed with the New Orleans Saints – even though few people believed he could actually return. Then, in the 2009 season, he led the Saints as Superbowl MVP to become National Champions.
Brees speaks of adversity ranging from the physical injuries and mental challenges of the game to the strain of fractured relationships, the death of loved ones, and even marital struggles. Some of the key quotes or statements that I have gleaned from the book include the following (emphasis mine):
“I truly believe that God can use anything – even an injury – for good. I believe that God has a plan for people’s lives, even when that plan doesn’t work out the way we think it should.” (xxi)
“What I’ve discovered along the way is that the road to success is usually a pretty bumpy one. And there are no shortcuts.” (1)
Concerning his place in the NFL draft, “I could get stuck in disappointment because I hadn’t gone in the first round like I’d envisioned, or I could be thankful I’d landed in the right place. Sometimes it’s not how you get to your destination that’s most important. The key is ending up in the right place.” (43)
“A good friend of mine once told me that each morning when you wake up, think about winning the day. Don’t worry about a week from now or a month from now – just think about one day at a time.” (79-80)
“If you let adversity do its work in you, it will make you stronger. God’s refining process is never easy.” (90)
“The painful things we go through have a way of teaching us things we can’t learn in any other way.” (120)
“Experience is what you gain when you don’t get what you want.” (226)
“If you take away only one thing from this book, never forget that sometimes your greatest victories come from your greatest defeats.” (303)
A key to the story in Joshua 4 is that they left an altar of stones in the river as they crossed. Throughout the book of Joshua, there are at least seven places where monuments were created with the purpose of reminding them and future generations of God’s grace, deliverance, and miracle-working power. We will all face adversity as we journey towards God’s appointed destiny for our lives. May we be encouraged, reminded of His faithfulness through past struggles, and grow in grace and knowledge more and more!