It’s a great word. A breathtaking reality when on display.
Usually it’s a label attached to people who race headlong into danger to save someone they may not even know with little thought of their own well-being.
- Soldiers in the field of battle who won’t leave a comrade behind.
- Officers in the line of fire who won’t back down until safety is restored.
- Ordinary people who run into a burning house to save an elderly neighbor.
But courage more often comes in simpler form. When you see it in the drudgery of the daily it isn’t as dramatic. But it is still powerful to change both the one who shows it and the one who sees it.
- The single parent who tirelessly works two jobs to guarantee their child gets a real shot in life.
- The patient caregiver who answers the same questions every day so their dementia-weakened parent feels loved to the end.
- The weary worker who shows up on time every day to a job that could sap his soul to make sure there is bread on the table.
Courage is shown at different levels in diverse circumstance by devoted people. It is an essential quality for facing-down fears and overcoming obsessions. It is required for winning wars and defeating despots.
Courage is that quality of soul which confronts paralyzing fear, picks a fight and refuses to back down no matter the outcome.
Courage is a game-changer in the Kingdom. Courageous people are difference-makers who re-write the story’s expected ending.
That is why discouragement is the weapon of choice for the enemy of our souls. With it, he robs us of the confidence to keep fighting, the fortitude to keep believing and the will to keep moving.
In short, we get un-couraged.
This opponent whispers debilitating lies into our pain, confusion and failures:
- You will never get beyond this…you can’t change.
- You just keep getting hit…you can’t win.
- You always do this to yourself…you can’t stop.
- You have failed too many times…you can’t do it.
Discouragement builds its case on the past, interposes the results on the present so you will give up on the future. It is fueled by the times you failed, the ways you’ve been hurt and the dreams you’ve seen dashed.
The opposite of being un-couraged is being en-couraged.
Encouragement bases its resolve on God’s love, infuses that passion in the present struggle so you will have vision for tomorrow. It is fueled by the times God has worked, the gifts you have received and the hopes to which you have clung.
So the choice is simple but not easy: be un-couraged or en-couraged.
Here are some things I’m practicing in my on-going battle to rekindle courage when it is drained.
- Remind myself of what God has done. When it seemed young David had lost it all, his strength was renewed when he “encouraged himself in the Lord.” He reminded himself of all God had provided in the past. He reflected on what God had promised for his future. And with refreshed courage faced what needed to be done in the present. (1 Samuel 30:6)
- Surround myself with people who have hope. Paul gave name to those around us who fill our dreams with possibility. Encouragers…people who look beyond your flaws, failures and foibles and believe that you can do what seems impossible by the grace invested in you. Whatever you face, they have your back. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
- Immerse myself in the One who is with me. Jesus gave name to the Spirit that would fill His followers. Paraclete–the One who comes alongside to help. We are never fighting alone. We will never have to fly solo. Whatever mess we are in, so is He. And He is the ultimate friend to the underdog. (John 14:16)
Remember, the greatest courage is demonstrated in getting up off the mat for another round. Showing up one more time.
Nothing is as sweet as the look on the face of an enemy who thought he had you down for the count when he hears you say, “I’m back!”
Courage is not something you muster up from within you. It isn’t the product of knowing how this will turn out or the certainty that everything will be ok.
Courage is simply trusting that if I keep showing up and swinging the sword, Someone bigger than me will underwrite my weakness with His strength and create an ending no one saw coming.