“Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow’.” Mary Anne Radmacher
Fear. It’s another ugly F-word in the English language. It holds so many people back from what they truly want and gives them nothing in return.
Christians are supposed to live lives without fear. Why should we be afraid? God is with us always. He will never leave. Joshua 1:9 says, “This is my command–be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
Yet, we still feel afraid. It’s easy to look around at life’s circumstances and panic. There is too much to be done and too little time. There are so many problems that need resolutions and so few viable solutions. There are so many people who need help and so few helpers.
We aren’t perfect yet, so of course we’re going to still struggle.
As someone who’s struggled with anxiety, there was a time when I was afraid almost constantly. I was afraid when I was driving to school, walking from my car to my class, sitting in class waiting for the professor to start teaching, walking from one class to another, and when I drove home every day. I was afraid at church. I was afraid when I was sitting in the chapel, waiting for the sermon to finish. I was afraid walking over to the college ministry and listening to the Sunday school lesson. I was afraid when I’d sit in the prayer room after Sunday school, trying to calm myself down as I waited for church to end. I was afraid until I went home and fell onto my bed to take a nice, long nap.
There were very few reasons for me to feel as afraid as I did, but I still struggled with my fear for over a year.
Through all of that, having anxiety has shown me I can be courageous even when my fear is all I can hear.
To me, the bravest acts of courage are done when someone is feeling a deep level of fear.
I am not a coward for feeling scared or worried. I am brave for feeling scared and continuing on anyway.
Fear says you should never try that scary thing because you’ll only ever always fail.
Courage says to take one step forward and worry about the next step after you’ve taken the first.
Fear says everything will fail if everything is not done exactly right today.
Courage says you do the small thing right in front of you and focus on moving forward as you are able.
Fear says what you’re doing will be too dangerous so you shouldn’t bother trying.
Courage sees the high stakes, feels the risks, and makes calculated movements that assess and address potential problems.
Fear questions whether your efforts will be good enough.
Courage answers if you are trying your best, you are doing enough.
Courage isn’t tough love, content to say “suck it up, buttercup”, but it says to do what is right and let your feelings fall in step behind you.
It’s okay to panic. It’s okay to trip and fall. None of those things mean you have failed; if anything, they mean you have tried.
It’s okay to take a timeout. It’s okay to take a break. Sometimes you’re working really hard and you need to rest. (God made the world in six days; he rested on the seventh to show us it isn’t a sin to work and rest.)
It isn’t okay to stay down forever.
If you know what you need to do, it isn’t okay to try one time and refuse to ever try again when you fail.
To me, courage is not the absence of fear. True courage is feeling fear and moving forward anyway. To paraphrase Ann Voskamp, “fear is what we feel; brave is what we do”.
I still struggle with fear. I’m a conscientious, overly-analytical person; I know I will often feel scared of whatever it is that I have to do. On the rare occasions I don’t feel fear, it’s usually because God is being extra, super-duper merciful to help me actually do the big thing I need to do.
I’ve realized it’s okay to ask God to remove fear. It doesn’t make me selfish, childish, or weak; it just means I don’t want to feel that pain. He may remove it. He may not. Whether the fear stays or goes, he will help me do what needs to be done anyway. Sometimes my feelings fall in line behind me and behave. Sometimes they don’t. That’s okay either way. I’m doing the best you can and every little bit counts.
The way I worked through my fear began when I accepted that I was afraid. I couldn’t fight it by ignoring it, discounting it, or shaming myself for feeling afraid. I had to disobey my fear by being courageous. When I recognized my fear trying to take over, I had to pray for help to be courageous. Then I had to step out and handle the situation.
I am starting my third year of college this week, so that’s where I’m going to need some fresh courage. Last semester was my least-favorite of them all, so I’m a little worried about how this semester will fare. Maybe you’ll be facing big things this week. Even if you aren’t, the words I have for you come from the fantastic C. S. Lewis and are the ones I have for myself: