Trying to wrap my head around such a ponderous word, I decided to ask for a little help. I first asked some teenagers that I work with, “What is courage?”. Here are some of the replies: “Doing what is right when you know others won’t.” “Being afraid but doing it anyway.“ “ Choosing to do something regardless of the outcome”.
I also asked a group of senior citizens: “Prayers & having a great positive attitude” “I like the British definition: keep calm and carry on.” “The ability to carry on in the face of adversity.” “Doing what is right when you know it won’t be the popular choice.” “Don’t be afraid to ask for help!!”
The definition didn’t differ much by age. I think what strikes me about courage is that there cannot be courage without fear. I also notice that courage is right in the middle of encouragement. How often are we able to find courage because someone has given us the words that we need to hear, the support or inspiration to move past the fear or pain? In every instance that I can think of in the Bible where an angel appears, there is the proclamation- “Do not fear”. In the story of Joshua, he is encouraged to be “strong and courageous”. In Exodus 20, Moses tells the people “Do not fear”. Isaiah says it multiple times including my favorite “Isaiah 41:10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” But you will also notice just as many verses directing us to fear God. (You can look them up on Biblegateway.com) So don’t fear but fear God. So instead of “the only thing to fear is fear itself”, perhaps as Christians the only thing to fear is God himself.
I just finished a 2nd book of a trilogy (The Kingkiller Chronicles). It is fiction, a fantasy world with magic and powers both good and evil. Sometimes reading fiction reminds me that there is a world beyond that which I can see. There are forces at work for good and evil. There is a larger story that I am apart of, but there is a story that is all my own as well. How sad if I limit myself to a paragraph or a page because I let fear of harm, or fear of others prevent me from doing what I can for the larger story. I am not sure how it all works, but I think the desiring to be a part of God’s story, rather than worrying about my own, leads ironically to a larger, more fulfilling story for myself. If I focus on giving myself away rather than keeping myself safe, trying to fear God by releasing my insatiable need to try and control the plan and the outcome (as if I could…), courage is there. Sadie Robertson shared at Passion 2018 her fear of public speaking, but said she chose to speak anyway. The fear did not leave until she stood on the stage. She said God met her where she faced her fear.
So today- let’s do what is right even if others don’t. Let’s be afraid but do it anyway. Let’s let go of our desire to know the outcome. Let’s pray and have a great attitude. Let’s keep calm and carry on. Let’s carry on despite adversity. And let’s ask for help when we need it.