When I was 11, I prayed obsessively for a new best friend. I dreamed up all of these picture perfect fantasies of how I would meet her and the adventures we would have.
It wasn’t like I was friendless. I got along with my classmates. I had friends I’d known since I was in diapers. But I wanted to meet someone who would make me feel safe and valued and understood.
Maybe Joshua was feeling similarly.
It’s a new book, a new chapter, and a new beginning for Joshua, son of Nun. It’s also a turning point for the nation of Israel, because Moses has passed away, leaving Joshua to lead hundreds of thousands of people to the Promised Land.
As someone who fears leadership of any kind, I can only imagine how Joshua felt. It was the biggest job in the world, and on top of it all, Joshua had just lost a dear friend.
Joshua needed someone. He needed someone in his corner, to protect him, to care for him, to know what he was going through.
Enter his Best Friend.
What is friendship?
When I was really little I thought new friendships began with a simple transaction. Will you be my friend? Yes? Great. Boom. Done.
But the older you get, the more you realize just how much goes into being a good friend. A good friend listens. A good friend supports you. A good friend wants to know about you, even your deepest, darkest secrets. A good friend stays by your side, especially in the hard times. A good friend will tell you what you need to hear, even when you don’t want to hear it.
Joshua had all of those things in none other than his heavenly Father.
It can be hard to think of God as a friend. It might be even harder to think of the God of the Old Testament as a friend. We imagine Him angrily throwing thunderbolts down from the sky, not nurturing or caring for anyone.
But I think that’s because we don’t understand Him. We focus on our knee-jerk reactions to His actions, rather than the heart of love and mercy that’s behind them all.
Luckily we have examples of that love and friendship all throughout the Bible, including this chapter.
The book of Joshua begins with a speech. Really, it’s more of a pep talk. It’s kind of like God sat Joshua down, looked him warmly in the eye, and began speaking to him. Gently. Carefully. He knew what Joshua was feeling. He knew what Joshua was up against.
Not only that, but God spoke directly, personally to Joshua. He had a personal message just for Joshua. He had a personal relationship with Joshua, too.
God cared so deeply for Joshua that He wasn’t going to speak to him with pat, thin clichés. He was straight with him. God gave Joshua firm, serious advice. He gave Joshua what he would need to succeed.
But my favorite part about Joshua’s chat with his Best Friend are the words “be strong and courageous”. God says these words to Joshua three times. Three times! If you’re writing a quick letter to someone, you’re probably not going to repeat yourself more than once. If you’re trying to encourage someone you don’t know, you’re going to toss out a kind word, but only one time.
This was different. This was real friendship. This was ride or die support. This was love.
“Be strong and courageous.”
“Be strong and very courageous.”
“Be strong and courageous.”
For I will be with you wherever you go.
Loyalty. Assurance. Safety. Support. Love.
I want that. I want that so bad.
Thankfully, Joshua’s Best Friend can be our Best Friend, too.
“Will you be My friend?”
I did eventually meet my new best friend. Then I (re-)met another. Then I met two more. But from that day to this, there’s one thing that stands out as the best thing a Friend has ever done for me.
I was 18 and I had my first real job working at Walmart. I hated it. I was scared all the time – of responsibility, of the customers, of my mean coworkers, of failing. I was so scared and stressed that I developed a stomach ulcer. Was I silly and immature? Definitely. But my Best Friend didn’t hold that against me.
I remember lying on my bed before shifts, listening to music to calm down, breathing in deep through my nose and out long through my mouth. I remember praying. I remember wanting for all the world to stay in my safe room. And I remember getting up off my bed, out the door, and down the street to Walmart. Every single shift.
One day I looked back and I realized that the Friend walking next to me on those anxiety-filled walks to work was Jesus. He knew me and what I was feeling. He understood me. And I was – am – special to Him.
He told me to be strong and very courageous. And I was.
We are all so different, but God knows each and every one of us – personally. Deeply. He is already supporting our very lives. His wisdom and guidance is available and overflowing. He is a safe Refuge who will never leave us. And He loves us. What more can you ask for in a Best Friend?
Come meet Him. Sit beside Him. Talk to Him, read His letters to you, open your heart to Him. He wants to be your friend, your support, your safety.
All He asks is that you be His friend, too.
What do you think? Is Jesus your best friend?