Words of My Life: Courage
In ongoing celebration of my Jubilee year of 50 years in ministry and 70 years of life, I am sharing some of the words of my life. This post connects with my previous Words of My Life post: Encourage.
It seems that a person whose calling in life is to encourage—“to put courage into”—should have plenty of courage.
Not necessarily.Fear frequently lurks nearby. A few of my most common fears:
Driving over bridges.
That my recent inability to find the right word will happen when I am speaking.
That my introvertedness will win over my desire to sacrificially love others.
That I will say too much or too little to my grown children.
That the world my grandchildren will face is too terrible.
That my weaknesses and failures and wrong thoughts and attitudes will reveal that in many ways I am not the authentic person people think I am.
Do Not Be Afraid
Gratefully, our God has said to me—and to you—365 times: “Do not be afraid.” These are just a few of those times:
Beginning with Abraham: “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.’” (Genesis 15:1)
To Hagar: “God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, ‘What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there….’” (Genesis 21:17)
To Joshua: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
To Israel: “Do not tremble, do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago? You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.” (Isaiah 44:8)
To Mary: “But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.’” (Luke 1:30)
To the disciples: “But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’” (Matthew 14:27)
For us: “So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:6)
Gratefully, the Spirit of Christ in me has over and over given me courage to stand up to and rise above my fears. Three of those “Do not be afraid—have courage” opportunities stand out:
1. As I was graduating from the University of Texas, the Lord gave me a clear call to join the staff of the ministry I was affiliated with. One problem: I was engaged to a man I loved very much, but he did not sense any such call.
I argued with God, suggesting that he needed to tell my fiancé what we were to do. God’s response to me: Judy, if you marry him, you will not be able to do what I want you to do.”I broke my engagement. People said I was so courageous. It was the right decision.
2. After having two beautiful daughters, I miscarried a much-desired child. As I grieved, I heard God say, “I am sending you a son, and you don’t need to do anything about it.”
Years passed, and I was content with my girls. The Lord said, “I am sending you a son. When you move to Florida, someone will ask if you could take a boy needing a home.”
A few months later, as we were settling into our new home, these words came from a new friend: “Do you know someone who could take an 8-year-old boy?” Tears came. “Yes, we will.”
At nine years old, that boy came to us, first as a foster child, then we adopted him. He changed our lives. He brought incredible challenges, much hurt and pain and great joy to us. God’s assurance that He sent him to us was our “do not be afraid” to have courage over many years to keep on and keep loving.
3. A major focus of my ministry has been to open doors for development, equipping and opportunity for our staff women. A dozen years ago several of us began to plan for a large event to bring together hundreds of our women from around the world for beginning leadership development.We received a lot of kick back: Why do something so big? How much will it cost? The right women won’t come. If you fail it will be a setback for our women. Most areas of the world don’t want this.We prayed and God assured us He was in it. Since I was the point person, I received most of the questions and doubts. It was a big step of courage for me.
God did a great work. Some 450 women from 95 countries gathered in Chiang Mai, Thailand, to learn they could be leaders. We gave them a leadership framework and taught them beginning leadership skills. They learned together in coaching groups and each left with a personal development plan and an assignment to take what they had learned back to the women in their areas--to be fireseeds of new possibilities for our women.
They fulfilled their assignment. Over the next several years we had 40 different trainings and development opportunities for women. They were included in development initiatives with the men. The fires were slow to spread, but now we are benefiting from the contributions our staff women are making to who we are and how we serve as a ministry.
So yes, courage is possible. In the face of fear. We have the clear words from God: “Do not be afraid.” And the empowering of the Holy Spirit will enable us to do all that God calls us to do.
What about you? What do you need courage for?
C2015 Judy Douglass