I’ve never chosen a “word of the year” before. My blogger friends all seemed to have one: faith, unity, joy, presence. One word for the whole year ahead. Yet it felt odd to me, somehow, to choose a word for the next 365 days. How could I put them into a one-word box so early in the year? Who knew what those days would hold?
Then this holiday break, Daryl and our oldest son and I each wrote down a prayer request for the coming year. Something we hoped God would grant to us as we sought him anew in 2018. Each of our requests had a single word in common: courage.
Turns out I didn’t need to choose a word of the year. God picked one for me.
In Joshua 1, the Lord speaks to the young leader. “Be strong and courageous,” he says. “Strong and very courageous.”
I’ve always thought that telling a person to “be brave” is kind of like telling them to relax. Wouldn’t they have done it on their own if they could have?
Back in seminary I stepped on broken glass and had to get stitches in the bottom of my foot. As the doctor stitched up one of the more tender spots on my arch, he kept telling me to relax. I wanted to kick him in the head. “How about you relax?” I wanted to say. “I’m the one with a giant needle in my foot.”
Yet the Biblical injunction to have courage never comes without help. Take Joshua, for example:
No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.
Be strong and very courageous.
God doesn’t just say “take courage.” God says, “I will be with you. Be courageous.”
The same is true when angels show up to Mary in Luke chapter 1:
The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary.”
Courage comes from God’s presence. Not from our own abilities, strength, or even desire to have more of it.
Our little family is facing an exciting 2018. Lincoln will start kindergarten in the fall. Daryl and I are helping launch some huge new initiatives at church. My first book is due in May, and a new exercise routine to adjust to now that I’m not supposed to run. Wilson’s going to get some more molars.
In C. S. Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Lucy faces serious fear. Yet in her darkest moments, Aslan (Lewis’s figure for Jesus) brings her courage.
No one except Lucy knew that it had whispered to her, “Courage, dear heart,” and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan’s.
What are you facing in 2018? Take courage, dear heart.
The Lord is near.