When Submission Takes Strength
Words by Lindsay Smith // Images by Candice Hackett
Submission takes strength and courage. Our culture has crafted a pretty bleak persona for submission, portraying it only as weakness or passivity or failure. Perhaps this is why I have a hard time understanding and embracing it. Maybe I struggle with submission because I am trying to wrap my arms around a God-ordained task while viewing it through the eyes of a secular society, and so I never quite grasp the right thing.
Over and over again in Joshua 1, God tells Joshua to be strong and courageous. These commands leave me wondering, what mighty act is Joshua about to be called to accomplish? The task must be hard, grueling, and frightening. Taking the Promised Land was Joshua's task. Finally, after forty years, he will lead God's people to their long-awaited destination. If he needs to remember to be strong and courageous, there must be a large battle impending or treacherous terrain to cross. I wonder if he began to train himself to fight so he wouldn't be fearful when the time came.
And then, he gets his orders. March around the city six days and on the seventh blow your horns and yell (Joshua 6:2–5).
Hmm, did I miss something? Where is the battle that takes courage? Where are the orders that take strength to accomplish? Maybe we underestimate the strength and courage needed to submit. Submitting is easy when things go your way. I can readily submit to my dreams and my timetable and my [highly valued] opinions. My version of submission looks a lot more like pride than I care to admit. It takes no courage and no strength to submit to your own pleasure. I can pat myself on the back for the good work I’ve done, but if by submitting I elevate myself—my dreams, my desires—I think I have missed the point. I think we have missed the point.
I wonder what Joshua's first thought was when he heard about Jericho. Did he question all the Lord’s previous commands for boldness and determination? Did he wonder if God meant to make him strong? Oh, how I have wondered. How I have questioned why God gave me skills and abilities, if I am just meant to walk in a circle and holler, if I am just meant to submit. Perhaps, I need those skills to submit. Maybe this all works together in a greater harmony than I realize. Maybe submission is not one chosen person playing loudly while the others tap their foot in the corner, pretending to be content to keep the beat. I hear the one loud, blunt note of the horn while my God hears the perfect melody of hearts turning and praises rising and glory abounding!
Because submission takes courage. I am sure it took courage for Joshua to relay this unorthodox battle plan to Israel. The torch had just passed to him. I cannot imagine he thought this would be his first great announcement as the leader.
Yet, there shall be a distance between you and it, about 2,000 cubits in length. Do not come near it, in order that you may know the way you shall go, for you have not passed this way before.” (Joshua 3:4)
This is submission. I have not gone this way before, so I take a step back and I trust the preparation God has given me. I do this even on days when it seems fruitless—especially on days it seems fruitless. I have not been this way. Maybe for me there will be courage in a public arena or maybe there will be courage that I am all God says I am in a quiet home scrubbing the kitchen. Regardless, there will be courage and strength in submission, and with God’s help, I can be courageous enough to submit.
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)