By Jay Bransford
If you’re like me, you’ve had a few fears in life and lacked the courage to face them. Life is uncertain. Life can be scary. And life requires a level of courage both to survive and to thrive.
So where does courage come from? And how can you get more of it?
If only the answer could be found in drinking a can of Red Bull, a triple latte, pure caffeine powder (yes it exists!!), or simply by taking a box of special courage pills. Alas, there are no simple dietary supplements that build up our courage muscles or strengthen the altruistic courage centers of our brain.
Courage requires action. That action can be demonstrated through the words you speak, the prayers you pray, and the things you do. But in order for you to have the courage to take action, that courage must first exist within you. And your current level of courage to take action must be higher than your level of fear not to.
I think of courage and fear as being at the two opposite ends of a seesaw (see image below).
Whichever side has more weight or influence will decide what action (or inaction) you take.
So where do fear and courage come from?
Let’s start with a non-exhaustive list of where courage comes from:
- Your pride
- People cheering you on and encouraging you
- Strong emotional feelings of love, care, or concern
- A strong sense of calling or purpose
- Trust in God’s character and leading
From which of the five items above would you want your courage to come and which would you want to avoid? Hopefully you quickly identified pride as an unhealthy source of courage. But what about courage coming from people who encourage you and cheer you on? Well, as long as their encouragement is coming from a place of truth, then their encouragement is a wonderful thing. Is it OK for courage to come from strong emotional feelings of love, care and concern? Perhaps it’s better to answer that question with another question. Where does love, care and concern for others come from? Do those feelings come from God or from the enemy? If as Christians we believe that God is love, then love should be an exceptional source of courage. And what about our sense of calling or purpose giving us courage? Did your calling and purpose come from God? Then have courage! And lastly, should we have courage based on God’s character and leading? What has God asked you to do? Do you trust Him? How much? Do you trust Him more than the encouragement you’ve received, or the thoughts, feelings or experiences you’ve had? If so, what more reason to have courage do you need?
Some of you might be thinking, “What do I do with the fear I feel? Is all fear wrong?” Good questions! God created humans with the ability to feel fear. And He created us perfectly. He made no mistakes. Proverbs 9:10 says that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom.” So we know that it is good to fear the Lord – a fear that is based on our awe and respect for Him. In addition, it is good when our fears act as cautionary emotions guiding us toward wisdom. For example, it is generally wise to be weary of walking down dark alleys alone at night, getting in a car with a complete stranger, or lighting a firework in your hand and not letting go of it. However, there are other types of fears to avoid or resist. Examples of fears that do not lead to wisdom include the fear of man, the fear of not measuring up, and simply the fear of the unknown.
So how do we take courageous action in life as we experience the fears and courage represented on our own respective seesaws in life?
Take all of your thoughts captive:
- What are your fears?
- Which of your fears are based on God’s wisdom?
- Which of your fears are not?
What is God speaking to you through:
- The input and encouragement of other Godly people
- Your emotional feelings of love, care and concern for others – and for what seems ‘right’
- Your calling and purpose
- His Word or the Holy Spirit
At the end of the day, God’s voice should reign supreme in our lives. There is no one greater than our God. And thus there is no one for us to fear more or have greater courage in than Him. He is our hope and in Him we can always trust. And remember that “Perfect love casts out all fear.” (1 John 4:18). As you seek God and trust in His character and leading, He will drive out any worldly fears you may have, and He will give you the courage you need to move forward.
*For more ALLC resources on courage, click here.