Redefining Courage

I am a woman of bold and courageous confidence.

Romans 8:37-39 (NIV) says, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Through God I am bold.  Through Jesus I am courageous.  Through the Holy Spirit I am confident.

Yes, these words are being written by the same woman who posted an article two days ago about praying for an escape.   No, God did not mystically transport me past my circumstances, responsibilities or mistakes over the past couple of days.   I have had to trudge through it all the good, the bad and the yucky.

I am here to write another day.  You made it to today too.  That in and of itself is an amazing miracle.

How can it be that at one day I am a cowering and fearful mess, then another day be bold and confident?  It has nothing to do with me.  Instead, it has to do with one amazing and mighty God.  I am a crazy nut case.  I do not argue that at all.  I am one odd duck who gets herself into a lot of trouble by waddling around willy nilly.

I spent time this morning staring at myself in the mirror.  I have never been able to gaze upon my own face with my own eyes.  I can only see what is reflected to me through a mirror.  A mere object made by human hands.  It is by that image that I judge myself.

Do you know what my mirror shows me?  A scared little girl who just wants to be loved and approved of.  I also see someone whose soul can be very downcast.  I see a person who repetitively struggles  with the same things over and over again.  A tired mother who honestly believes that all the tasks she tends to will make her children better people and her husband love her more.  A woman who desires so greatly to be cherished and treasured in romantic and magical ways.  A friend who wishes so dearly to protect others and make life better for them.   A person who wants her work to leave a great legacy of light and of love in the lives of others.  A child of God who longs to encourage with love, passion and enthusiasm.

The odd thing was the longer I stood there, the more good thoughts started coming to my mind.  I started with all of the negative, in fact, I did not even want to look at first.  I had all of these hideous things running through my mind about what I was and what I am not.  Yet, when I really looked at myself that is not what my attention was drawn to.  I kept coming up with brighter and brighter things.  It was an unusual and pleasant blessing.

I most often look in the mirror when I am washing my hands.  Perhaps I need to start using the mirror to wash my mind with the good things about me instead of focusing on the all of the dust, dirt and grime that accumulates from being in the world.  Perhaps those should be rinsed down the drain along with the dirt on my hands.

Shortly after this experience I was praying for myself and for some friends.  It occurred to me how hard I am on myself.  Most days I feel very cowardly rather than courageous.  Some days I find the greatest miracle is just getting to my bed to close out another day.

I was then gripped by a horrific thought that brought me to tears trembling.  What if those I love so much, whose strength and courage I admire, do not even realize that they are courageous?  What if they too assume themselves to be cowardly, weak and of little value?  What if when they looked in the mirror, they saw ugly dirt in the reflection and not the radiant beauty.  I may not be able to look upon my own face with the clarity of the vision that God gave me, but I can certainly see the wondrous beauty, courage and boldness in those around me.

What if God allows us the opportunity to see those around us better than we can see ourselves via reflection?  What if it is blessing from Him?  What if God wants us to encourage or give courage and confidence to others through our words and actions because He blessed us with the ability to see it, making us better together than we are apart?

It is on rare occasion that I reference the King James Version of the Bible, but sometimes that slight change in wording is like turning a light switch on to new meaning.  “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.”  Proverbs 27:17 

Iron sharpens iron, friend sharpens friend.  Yes, that saying is very familiar.  One should choose one’s friends wisely.  But what popped out at me today more than anything, is the word “countenance”.

Since this is an older word that I do not hear commonly offered up in conversation, I used Webster’s 1828 dictionary to look it up.

As a noun countenance means  “Literally, the contents of a body; the outline and extent which constitutes the whole figure or external appearance. Appropriately, the human face; the whole form of the face, or system of features; visage.”  The dictionary references Proverbs 15 “A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance.” As a verb countenance means “To favor; to encourage by opinion or words.”

I like both of these definitions.  I see the first one as sharpening the outside and the second as sharpening the inside.  I can make friends smile or laugh both of which would improve their countenance.  I can use words and opinions to encourage and pour favor upon their hearts.

So, what if courage is not something that we come up with on our own merits; this banishment of fear by our own resources?  What if courage is something that is built up by those around us sharing what they see in us with great clarity so that we may be made sharper and better able to face life and all of its complications?

Maybe I can take what I see, what God helps me to see, and use it to build others up, making courage a gift I can give.

This is a thought provoking way for me to look at courage.  I used to think courage was not being afraid, the absence of fear.  Then I read this great quote, “courage is fear that said its prayers”.  Perhaps courage is the blessing God sends through others when we are afraid.

Here’s a real world application of this theory.  My family and I were at some activities at our church one night, after dark.  The power went out.  Not for very long, momentarily really.  My daughter was in one room and I was in another.  When the lights went out it got very dark.  She screamed and came running to find me.  She was afraid.  She needed courage.  Did she stand there and try to build herself up, manufacturing her own courage?  No, not at all.  She came running to me.  My daughter knew that if she wanted courage to face the darkness she needed to be near me.

If I need courage to face the ugly things, the challenging circumstance, the hard times I need someone to run to for courage too.  I need a friend to face the darkness with.  I need them to instill in me that which I can not muster up on my own.

At the same time I can not become completely dependent upon my friends for every moment and waking second.  I need something bigger than one friend or all friends can provide.    I need God.  I need Jesus.  I need the Holy Spirit.  Which, brings me back to the verse from Romans that I started with.

Through Christ I can be more than a conqueror.  When I picture a conqueror I picture someone brave, bold and courageous.  The Bible tells us that through Christ we can be MORE THAN that.  We can face giants, survive storms, walk out of fire and move mountains.  Allow that to just blow your mind for a moment.

Present circumstances.  Future circumstances.  The highest cliffs and the deepest darkest abysses.  No powers of any kind.  Nothing in all of creation can separate us from the Love of Christ and the courage that He has for you.

Whatever it is that we face.  It may be relational.  It might be financial.  It could be physical.  Perhaps it is emotional.  Maybe you just do not feel like you can even get out of bed today, let alone leave the house.  You are not alone.  Christ is with you.  He will bring incredible blessings into your life including people to stand by you, to walk with you and to encourage you to face that situation and say:

Through God I am bold.  Through Jesus I am courageous.  Through the Holy Spirit I am confident.

Dearest Lord,

Thank You so much for giving me courage.  Thank You for making me more than a conqueror.  Lord, thank You for the words that You placed upon my heart and flowed through my fingers.  I learn so much through this God.  But even more than my own personal benefit, Lord I boldly ask that my words would offer courage to another.  Please take what I see and what I try to do and transform it to be a blessing to another.  

Lord, for everyone one of my readers, please give them courage in their walk with You.  May You reveal Yourself to them in depths and on the cliffs of this world so that they may know without a doubt that You are the great I AM.  Allow Your presence to be felt by them in a tangible way.  May it build up and give hope to those who need it and are searching for it.

Thank You Lord for every beautiful treasure that You have allowed my path to draw near to.

In Jesus, bold and courageous name, Amen.   

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