Authored by Marie Story
As the children of Israel were preparing to cross the Jordan River, Joshua sent the priests ahead with the Ark of the Covenant. He instructed the people: “When you see the Levitical priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant of the LORD your God, move out from your positions and follow them.1 Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before.”2
“Never been this way before.” I often feel that way. I run into a situation or a dilemma that’s all new to me, and I just don’t know how to tackle it. Should I go or stay? Should I take this offer or turn it down?
Some decisions in life are easy to make. Sometimes the path ahead seems pretty straightforward, even if you’ve never been that way before. Other times, it can feel like you’re walking into foreign terrain, with potential dangers and pitfalls all around.
Looking ahead can be exciting, but it can also be terrifying because of the many unknowns. As a kid, thinking about the future kind of freaked me out. I didn’t know what I would become or if I’d be successful—so I’d just try not to think about it. But time went on and I eventually became an adult, and soon found that I regularly have to face unknown territory.
Even as I write this, I’m facing a dilemma. I’ve been offered a job that seems pretty appealing. It’s work that I’d enjoy and the pay is good. But this job would mean a major move to another city—when we’ve only just gotten settled. It would mean putting other goals on hold and moving away from family. It’s exciting, in a way, but it’s also freaky, because I don’t know how things are going to turn out.
The children of Israel didn’t know how things were going to play out for them either. They knew they had to keep moving forward, as there was a promised land ahead for them, but there was also the River Jordan blocking their way.
They must have been asking themselves, “How are we possibly going to cross this river, let alone conquer this entire land?” I mean, here was a nation of millions, along with their animals and possessions, crossing a flooded river into enemy-occupied lands.
The Israelites hadn’t traveled that way before; they didn’t know what to do. That’s why they had to follow the Ark. The Ark represented God’s Spirit and His promises. By following the Ark—by following God—they could walk ahead confidently, knowing that they were headed in the right direction.
Following God can be a tough thing to do, though. The way He leads doesn’t always seem to make sense. Sometimes, it can look downright crazy, like when He instructed Joshua, “Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: ‘When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river.’”3 In other words, “Go into the river and then see what I will do.”
I imagine some of the children of Israel were more than a little anxious as they approached the flooded river banks. After wandering in the desert for most of their lives, I doubt many of them knew how to swim. But “as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away.”4 And the priests stood in the middle of the dry river bed while all the Israelites walked safely across.
I think this story offers a pretty awesome formula for making decisions. When you’re facing tough choices, when you “haven’t been this way before,” and you’re dealing with brand-new challenges or seeming impossibilities, remember to keep your eyes on Jesus. He’s out in front, going ahead of you, and all you have to do is obey His instructions and follow His lead.
If you rush ahead, you won’t know where you’re going—and you may end up going the wrong way. Only God knows what’s ahead, so it’s a good idea to follow His lead.
Perhaps you have a decision to make and the pros and cons are pretty evenly balanced on either side. Maybe you’ve even got people pressuring you one way or the other, or you have a short time frame in which to make the decision. You know you have to decide, but it can be really difficult to know what to do or which way to go.
The good news is that God cares about your problems and concerns and dilemmas just as much as He cared about those millions of Israelites sitting on the banks of the Jordan River. God promises that you will find Him when you search for Him with all your heart.5 So if you’re serious about finding His answers and having His guidance in your life, then seek Him, tell Him about your concerns and questions, listen for His answers, and be willing to obey His instructions, and then you can be sure that He will lead and guide you.
The Bible promises “[God] will be gracious if you ask for help. He will surely respond to the sound of your cries. He will … be with you to teach you. You will see your teacher with your own eyes. Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, ‘This is the way you should go,’ whether to the right or to the left.”6
Those are solid promises that you can stand on and claim in prayer, whenever you’re desperate for God’s answers and direction in your life. Then, as you keep your eyes on Jesus and follow His lead, the rivers of impossibility will part before you, and you’ll be able to march confidently forward into what God has in store for you.
1 Joshua 3:3 NLT.
2 Joshua 3:4 NIV.
3 Joshua 3:8 NIV.
4 Joshua 3:15–16 NIV.
5 Jeremiah 29:13.
6 Isaiah 30:19–21 NLT.
Read by Amber Larriva. Music by Simon W. Copyright © 2012 by The Family International