What do you think of when you think of courage? Does your mind begin to see visions of William Wallace in Braveheart? A roaring lion? A tightrope-walker crossing Niagara Falls? A climber atop of Mt Everest?
All these could certainly be equated with courage. But what if most of the time, courage looks a lot more ordinary and a lot less fearless?
Courage doesn’t mean being fearless
Have you ever given a speech in front of a crowd? Asked someone you really liked out on a date? Travelled overseas on your own? Told someone something you’ve never told anyone else? Taken a big risk with no guarantee of the outcome you hope for at the end?
What did it feel like? What was the anticipation like?
Courage doesn’t always look brave and fearless. Courage often looks like sweaty palms, wobbling knees and a quavering voice. It can look like second guessing yourself, battling anxiety and feeling the overwhelming urge to hide back in the shadows.
Courage is not the absence of fear. In fact, the two often go hand in hand. Courage acknowledges fear but does not let it have the last say. Courage does not let fear write the story.
Courage takes risks
Most of us aren’t naturally wired towards risk taking. While part of our nature longs for adventure, another significant part seeks comfort and security. We like to make decisions based on the least possible chance of failure in the outcome.
As Christians, I think we can fall into the mindset that if we pray and listen to God enough, we’ll be safe, never having to encounter failure, avoiding pain. We expect God to protect us from all discomfort and vulnerability.
There are a few things wrong with this thinking. One, it equates failure with shame, two, it forgets we live in an imperfect world and there is no avoiding failure or pain, and three, it can mean we never move anywhere or create momentum in our lives because we are always waiting for 35 signs of ‘confirmation’ before doing anything.
Sometimes God won’t give us clear direction when we ask for it. Instead he says, ‘Just go. Take a step. I’m with you. I will bless your decisions as you trust in me.’
Sometimes we just need to get a move on, take risks, and know God is with us. His Spirit lives inside us and is always guiding us. Not forsaking prayer or wise counsel, we can make decisions with peace in our hearts, knowing whatever the outcome, God has our back and will work all things for good as we trust in him.
Courage doesn’t worry what other people think
It takes courage to be who God made us to be and go where he calls us to go.
If we are worried about what other people think and constantly searching for their approval, we will never fully live out our unique purpose or have the impact we were born to make in the world. Our decision making will constantly be pending on a public opinion poll rather than God’s still, small voice telling us the way to go. Our life will become a bland, watered down version of the incredible adventure it’s meant to be.
Sometimes, God will speak something to us that he won’t speak to anybody else. Sometimes the way he has for us won’t make any sense to those around us. Christians are good at putting God in a box, so if what you feel led to do is outside the box of how they think God moves, your courage isn’t likely to be applauded. You’re more likely to be called stupid!
Courage chooses to listen to God’s voice above the voice of the crowd. It doesn’t live off of man’s approval or applause. It is able to follow God even amidst criticism from others because its identity is firmly rooted in God, not in the approval of others.
“I used to think God guided us by opening and closing doors, but now I know sometimes God wants us to kick doors down.” – Bob Goff, Love Does.
As creatures of comfort, it’s easy to think we’re on the wrong track when things start going wrong or doors are closing in our face. Our instinct tells us to pack up and go home.
But courage isn’t afraid to face challenges. It knows challenges are what shape, grow and strengthen us to be world changers. They deepen our trust in God and bring us back to a place of total dependency on him, rather than striving in our own strength.
Courage perseveres through the struggles, holding firmly to the vision set before it, eyes fixed on Jesus, the ultimate hope and anchor for our soul. Courage gets up again and again, lets go of past hurts, pushes through fear and believes God’s word above circumstances.
Courage continues to show up, stand up, speak up and give itself wholeheartedly.
May we all live lives of incredible courage as we say yes to adventures with God, the only enduring source of true courage.
Bonnie loves all things old-fashioned, exploring new places, coffee with friends and being with her family. She is passionate about broken hearts and relationships being restored through the power of vulnerability and honesty with God and others. She is the founder and director of Jolly Good Events, a social enterprise reviving the days of town hall dances to bring the local community together and raise funds for poverty alleviation projects. Bonnie has a Bachelor of Humanitarian and Community Studies and a Master of International Public Health.
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