Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged,
for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go
For those who like walking in the great outdoors, one of the most exciting current projects is the creation of the England Coast Path (ECP). While it’s already possible to walk many sections of the English coast, the project will gradually fill in the gaps, creating a walk of some 2,800 miles - the longest coastal path in the world!
The South West Coast Path, which runs from Poole Harbour in Dorset round to Minehead in Somerset, has been an established part of this route since the 1970s. Over the years I’ve walked around two thirds of it in stages, and it covers some wonderfully varied and dramatic scenery along the way. And even though it makes up less than a quarter of the ECP, the sign at the start in Poole is somewhat daunting, to say the least!
Have you ever found yourself faced with challenges that seem just too big to handle? Maybe it’s been caring for an elderly parent, or taking on a new role at work, or travelling on your own to another country not knowing the language, or stepping outside your front door again having been isolating as someone particularly vulnerable to Covid. Perhaps it’s been serving in some new way at church, or talking to someone along the row that you don’t recognise, or sharing your faith with a neighbour.
Some challenges are unavoidable, but with others we have a choice. And it’s so easy to get into an overly cautious mindset, where we’re unwilling to do anything outside our comfort zone. I tend to be a bit like that, preferring the safe and known to what’s new and uncertain.
After Moses died, Joshua was tasked by God with leading the Israelites into the Promised Land. Knowing this was a big ask, God spoke words of encouragement to him. Four times in the same chapter He tells him to be courageous - once to be very courageous! Why? - because God will be with him wherever he goes. Jesus made the same promise to His disciples before He left the earth, so it’s true for us today.
Knowing we don’t face challenges alone can make a huge difference. God doesn’t promise to remove every difficulty from along the way, but He will be there with us through all the ups and downs. We can miss out on so many blessings if we play it too safe. It’s a bit like coastal walking, really. Yes, there will be huge hills, rough weather at times and possibly a few blisters, but there will also be breathtaking beauty and many signs of God’s goodness to us that enrich our lives.
Father, hear the prayer we offer: not for ease that prayer shall be,
but for strength that we may ever live our lives courageously,
because you will be with us wherever we go. Amen