Courage is a Process:
From Weakness to Strength
by Maryl De Milo
Courage is grace under pressure – Ernest Hemmingway
BANG! The echoes of the sharp sound resounded through the auditorium. The silence from the stage was painful, anticipatory, and everyone in the room was holding their breath. “Is everyone still standing?” The pastor joked with a concerned look, mixed with reassurance.
Apologies are a little intimidating for anyone let alone for my 11-year-old self. I was frightened actually at the thought of confessing my part in the intense ruckus. My red balloon, that I desperately begged my mom to allow me to take to church, popped in the middle of the church service holding roughly 500 people. My mom marched me right up to the pastor when the service was done. As I was shaking in my boots, I managed to squeak out “I’m, I’m, I’m…it was my balloon and I didn’t mean to. I’m, I’m so sorry.” He looked at me with so much compassion that my fear melted.
This is a simple story but so profound in my formation as a little girl. This moment was one of many confrontations with fear in my life. I was
courageous. I was scared to death. But I did it. And contrary to what my emotional state was telling me…I guess I didn’t die after all.
What comes to mind when you think of a courageous figure? Maybe you think of Martin Luther, Rosa Parks, Harry Potter, or Spiderman, just to name a few.
While the majority of us are not swashbuckling heroes, fear is a very human experience, and we are faced with many opportunities to be courageous daily.
Any quick Google search will tell you that courage means to have strength in the face of pain or grief. Most of us would recognize that we need courage.
Especially when we face fear.
Psychologists describe fear as the anticipation of future suffering or even anticipation of death itself. I would go even further to say that the fear they are describing is the anticipation of suffering without Jesus in the picture. But as a Christian, we have a different story on death.
“But take heart; I have overcome the world”. (John 16:33b ESV)
In other translations of scripture Jesus says, “take courage” (emphasis mine) What would it mean to take courage? This language is active. Something happens in our hearts that gives us the strength to face our fears. What does fear look like?
When we are afraid, it causes all sorts of responses. Anger, hoarding, carelessness, fear, rebellion, angst, and ignoring. Just to name a few.
In the past few weeks and months, we have seen many reactions to the pandemic. From purchasing massive amounts of toilet paper to rejecting restrictions by flooding beaches without a care in the world.
What if instead of responding with fear, we responded with courage?
Courage is a choice. There is a lot of uncertainty and yet, we are also secure in God’s kingdom.
As Brene Brown writes in her book The Gifts of Imperfection, “Courage is…a habit, a virtue: You get it by courageous acts. It’s like you learn to swim by swimming. You learn courage by couraging.” We have to do it! Courage is a character trait, and that means it can be learned. It is a habit that engages perceiving the world and then responding.
Even though we are not one hundred percent secure in our resources, we can still be generous with our words and patient with those around us. We can be kind to ourselves when we are afraid and look for God’s strength in our lives.
Courage is a process. We do not know the future of the economy, the disease, the church, our immediate family, but we don’t have to allow fear to overcome us. We can begin to walk in courage, confidence, and hope as we seek God to change our hearts and influence those around us.
What if we actually can put courage into another person’s heart?
I could imagine Oprah standing in front of a packed audience saying, “You get some courage! And YOU get some courage. Courage for you and YOU get some courage” If only giving out courage was as easy as giving out cars?
All jokes aside, courage is not only a process, it is also contagious.
As much as we need to be courageous, we also need to spread courage.
The word encourage comes from the French word (coeur) which means heart. Encouragement means to put heart in someone else. This is exactly what the Holy Spirit gives us, courage in our hearts. We can respond to others the same way God responds to us. In the middle of a crisis, a choice, or intense situation, we can choose our attitudes and our response to what is happening around us by:
- Speaking kind words
- Listening to others without judgment
- Sharing your hope of a bright future
- Praying in the midst of anxiety
- Being honest about your own fears
This is only a small list of ways to act courageously. When we are rooted in reality and speak of the hope that is in us, we will be enlivening everyone around us.
Courage tells the truth. It takes courage to be honest about what is real.
What is one area in your life where you can be courageous? It can be a small choice; too often we think courage has to be big.
Whenever you feel your courage tank is on empty, remember Jesus has overcome the world.
Go and put on your cape! There is couraging to be done!