When I feel afraid,
Think I’ve lost my way,
Still you’re there right beside me.
And nothing will I fear
As long as you are near.
Please be near me to the end.

“Thy Word” by Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith

Christians know that they are supposed to live by faith, not by sight. And we are quick to affirm that we know this, but I am more vulnerable to insecurity and fear than I want to admit. I DO need courage in order to face those insecurities and fears.

I need courage. 

But I must honestly acknowledge that I don’t have the capacity to generate it out of my intellect or physical strength or will. I need to receive courage from a source of courage.

Throughout the Bible, God’s people are faced with situations that are difficult or painful, sometimes unbelievably so. Think of the Israelites pinned between Pharoah’s army and the Red Sea. Think also of King Hezekiah when the armies of Sennacherib marched against Jerusalem. Sennacherib’s messengers spoke threats, reminding Hezekiah and the people that no other nations were saved from Assyria’s armies by appealing to their gods. The messengers boldly informed Hezekiah that he wouldn’t be saved, either. In an amazing fashion, the Lord did intervene—causing the deaths of 185,000 soldiers in the Assyrian camp.

These acts of deliverance are cited in the Psalms as reasons that God’s people should act with courage in the face of difficulty and distress. God does deliver His people!

However, the Scriptures also tell us of those moments when God does not supernaturally intervene to save His people. When false prophets are telling those exiled to Babylon that the Lord will free them within 2 years, Jeremiah calls them liars and informs the people that, in fact, they(along with the temple objects) will spend 70 years in Babylon. Certainly, this can’t be regarded as a word of encouragement.

But the Lord speaks the word of encouragement through Jeremiah. In spite of 70 years of exile, God’s affection and His hand still rests on the people of Israel. In this apparently hopeless situation, God affirms, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

The Lord tells them to take courage in the face of this alarming prophecy that He will take care of His people and finally free them from this exile. 

This word is a difficult one for me and, I suspect, for the reader, as well. I want to take courage from a promise of immediate rescue from difficulty, as God’s people experienced under Moses and Hezekiah. I lose courage and experience hopelessness(read: become DIScouraged) at the prospect of an extended time of hardship.

As I consider this further, I have come to realize that courage that comes from agreeable or comfortable circumstances is not courage at all. Courage is the capacity to withstand a hardship and persevere through it. Courage is not to be found because God has provided me an easy place in life, but instead in the promise that He knows me and has set His affection on me and has plans for my future that stretch into eternity.

Someone or some experience is the basis for being emboldened to enter into a circumstance or a task that has previously been overwhelming. It seems that these kinds of challenges are part of my life every day. I need renewed courage every day.

Such courage enables me to continue to live according to the Word of God, which also puts the character of Jesus Christ on display, in spite of the many obstacles which I face in doing so. These include fear, weariness, and a sense of being alone, but there are many others. 

Such courage does not come through the promises and intervention of God alone. This courage also is passed on to me by God’s people who remind me of God’s affection for me and His promise to rescue me ultimately.

This is the essence of being encouraged. But we must recognize that in order to experience such encouragement, I must live transparently in relationship with God’s people—acknowledging when fear and hopelessness are about to overwhelm my resolution to live as one of Christ’s followers. This transparency, too, is frequently the basis for fear, but this fear to I must acknowledge and face so that the calling expressed in Hebrews can be fulfilled in me and those I fellowship with.

“See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”

Hebrews 3:12-13

Take courage!