“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.” – Joshua 1:9
Sports Taught Me a Certain Kind of Strength
My athletic experience taught me a certain kind of strength and a specific brand of courage. I learned to overcome seemingly impossible challenges and persevere when I thought I had reached my limits. As I fought for acceptance and accolades on the court, I became convinced that any sign of vulnerability or insecurity was an unacceptable weakness. Being “strong and courageous” meant relying on my own self-will and determination to be “tough” while hiding away any “weaknesses” that might hinder my efforts.
Though my competitive volleyball days are over, I’ve found that the mentality I adopted while playing still influences who I am and how I see the world. While I am deeply grateful for the positive ways in which sports challenged and shaped me, there are times I can still fall prey to some of the misguided mindsets I developed. Times of transition tend to fall into this category.
Transition is Hard
Last August, my husband and I moved to Chicago. We were moving away from my family, my friends and my job and into a city where I knew no one and had no idea what I would be doing. While my husband’s path forward was clear, he would be attending business school, mine was incredibly unclear. As feelings of uncertainty, anxiety and insecurity surfaced, I quickly resorted to my old ways of protecting myself. I “willed” myself to be strong and brave and tough, the kind of tough I learned during my volleyball career. And while I may have momentarily convinced myself that I had the strength to navigate this transition on my own, doing so made me cold, callused, and cut off from my own emotions.
On my very first Sunday in Chicago, I sat in church as the pastor read Joshua 1 (the verse above) and reminded us that all transition is hard, but transition without God is impossible. As tears gathered in my eyes, I was forced to recognize that I was relying on my own limited and imperfect strength and false courage instead of God’s abundant grace and love.
We Cannot Be Strong All the Time
Times of transition and uncertainty make me feel weak, vulnerable, and like I don’t have control over my life. When these feelings arise, I work to prove my own strength and capabilities. It happened for many years on the volleyball court and it still happens when I can’t clearly see the path ahead of me. However, when we strive to prove our own strength apart from God, we inevitably set ourselves up for failure.
When we claim to be capable of navigating life’s challenges on our own, we push God to the sidelines and rob ourselves of the chance to experience his might and power, not to mention his comfort and love, in the midst of trying times.
“The Lord Your God will be with you Wherever You Go”
Joshua, a young Jewish man, was called by God to lead the Israelites (God’s chosen people) into the long awaited promised land. Joshua was facing a daunting transition when God commanded him to “be strong and courageous.” Yet God provides Joshua with a very clear reason for this instruction: “for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” God does not demand that Joshua muster up strength and courage based on his own sufficiency or deny any of the very real fears he might be feeling; instead, God offers Joshua something bigger than both Joshua’s strengths and weaknesses. God offers Joshua the promise of his presence.
Our strength comes from our relationship with God and our courage comes from knowing he will never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6).
Trust God in Times of Transition
But when we trust God in times of transition, we get to experience the transformative power of his love and faithfulness. True strength and courage are only possible when we are living out of a deep and authentic relationship with God and trust his presence and purpose in our lives. My prayer is that each of us can experience the incredible joy, freedom, and confidence that comes when we cease striving and allow God to be our strength.
Is there an area in your life where you are tempted to rely on your own strength instead of turning to God? Have your attempts at self-sufficiency ever created barriers in your relationship with God or others? If so, I encourage you to bring these things before God and allow him to heal you and grow you. He knows you better than you know yourself and loves you beyond what you can comprehend!
Hey there! My name is Jenn and I am so excited to be a part of the FAM. I know that as female athletes we face unique challenges and unique opportunities, and that God wants to use both to grow us into the precious and powerful women he designed us to be. While I once was a Princeton volleyball player, these days I enjoy spin, yoga, boxing, and the occasional zumba class. I currently live in Chicago with my husband and, much to his dismay, our exceptionally fluffy cat.