Facing life and all of its challenges requires immense courage. I believe this is true for every person regardless of how “courageous” a person may be according to the world’s standards. The homemaker raising three small children needs just as much courage as the jet-setting world traveler who seeks to climb Mt. Everest and sail around the globe by his/herself. The physical dangers are obviously different for each person, but we all have to make do with the cards we are dealt in life, and we all have to face the darkness that is within each one of us. So when I speak of courage, I am speaking of it in terms of facing our fears, the things that are scary and uncomfortable that we have little or no control over.
As I mentioned previously, when I was in the depths of my depression, it took everything I had to not get back in the bed and let the day just pass. I felt this was mostly because I lacked the energy and motivation to do the things I once enjoyed, let alone to do the basic tasks required every day. But there are days, I believe, when many of us would like to either avoid the day altogether because we’re anticipating something uncomfortable, anxiety-producing, stressful or just plain scary, or when we wish we could get back into bed and pretend the scary thing never happened. We never know what will be thrown at us on a daily basis, so how can we be ready for the battle and stand strong through it especially on those days we know we’re going to face challenges (e.g. a job interview, a funeral for a loved one, financial issues, medical tests, a parent-teacher conference about an unruly child, etc.). Or for those of us with a mental or physical illness, how will we cope with our depression, anxiety or chronic pain?
The Valiant Warrior is not a person who doesn’t feel fear or a person who rushes recklessly into battle. On the contrary, he/she is well-served by recognizing and acknowledging his/her fear, exercising caution and preparing his/herself for the upcoming challenge. A warrior needs to check in with his/her commanding officer, i.e. the Lord. To be courageous, we must make prayer a regular part of our life.
I have been praying more and more for the removal of fear and for soundness of mind. I am no prayer guru, but I set my alarm so that every morning I can have quiet time for prayer and Bible reading. This time has become a vital source of strength, centering and stability and gives me a positive way to start my day. But prayer is not limited to a certain time of day. When I can remember, I try to talk to God all day long, and I ask Him to be with me in my coming and going.
In the Old Testament, the Lord often said to Moses and Joshua, “Be strong and courageous” (Deuteronomy. 31:6, Joshua 1:6, 1:9). Imagine the fear these two men must have felt – Moses was commanded to confront Pharaoh and demand that he let the Israelites leave their slavery in Egypt, and Joshua was commanded to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land and to conquer the established cities therein. I especially like Joshua 1:7 where the Lord says, “Be strong and very courageous”. The Bible does not mention that Joshua was afraid, but he must have been if the Lord commanded him to be courageous.
We can take a lesson from this warrior about why he could find courage as he received his battle orders:
Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go (New International Version Joshua 1:9; emphasis mine).
Scripture offers us many words of hope and comfort that we can cling to in those times of fear or when we’re battle-worn and weary. Here are a few that I find helpful:
After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:
“Do not be afraid, Abram.
I am your shield,
your very great reward.” (Gen 15:1)
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)
When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me? (Psalm 56:3-4)
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. (Isaiah 41:10)
Fear is a natural human emotion, and there are healthy fears. I wear my seatbelt because I’m afraid that not wearing it would be detrimental to me in an accident. I’m afraid of losing my sobriety, so I take the necessary steps to ensure I don’t pick up a drink. I’m afraid of getting skin cancer, so I wear sunscreen when I’m out into the sun. And the Bible instructs us to fear (i.e. revere, respect) the Lord:
The fear of the Lord is the
beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is
understanding. (Proverbs 9:10)
Humility and fear of the LORD
bring wealth and honor and
life. (Proverbs 22:4)
The fear of the LORD leads to life:
Then one rests content, untouched
by trouble. (Proverbs 19:23)
And even though fear is an inevitable part of the human experience, the negative form of fear does not come from God. As 2 Timothy 1:7 explains, “For God hath not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (King James Version). How then can fear be overcome during those times it debilitates and immobilizes us? How can I move forward when I’m paralyzed by fear and anxiety? The antidote to worry may be found in Philippians 4:6a: Do not be anxious about anything (New International Version).
Even though intellectually I know the Lord is in control, when I’m full of fear Philippians 4:6a is a very tall order. But with the Lord’s power to help me carry out the rest of the Apostle Paul’s exhortations, it is possible:
…but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Phil 4:6b).
And if I pray to God about my needs and wants, offer him my requests and thank Him for being the Almighty, what will result?
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:7)
Paul also tells me that the God of peace will be with me if I think about “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things” (Phil 4:8).
When I focus on positive things and on the Lord’s power, holiness, purity and on the love the Father has for me and how Jesus died on the cross for me, it is then that fear begins to lose its power. I ask God to take away my fear and to give me the strength to do His will, and He is faithful!
And we do not need to fear because we know how the war ends – the Lord is victorious! He is our commander in chief demonstrating His power and strength for the entire world to witness.
The earth is the LORD’s and
everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it:
for he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the
Lift up your heads, O you gates;
be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may
Who is this King of glory?
The LORD strong and mighty,
the LORD mighty in battle.
(Psalm 24:1-2; 7-8)
Take heart, mighty warrior! The Lord IS strong and mighty, and He is always with you in the battle.