Originally published March 31, 2020
Courage in the Face of Fear
“Haven’t I commanded you: Be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
One of the constant themes throughout scripture is the admonition to not be fearful. From Abraham to Paul, Genesis to Revelation, over and over the Lord tells His children to not be afraid. Moses was afraid of being sent against Pharaoh; the children of Israel were afraid to enter the promised land because of the “giants”; Paul often expressed fear and weakness – sometimes worried that his work as the Lord’s Apostle to the gentiles had been in vain.
As much as we might like to avoid it, fearful seasons come upon all of us. Whether it’s the loss of a job, a broken relationship, a health crisis, or a national/global pandemic – we all face these seasons. Courage during times of adversity, loss, uncertainty, or heartache does not come naturally. Instead, often what we see with our eyes, what we perceive with our senses and understanding – these things affect our sense of peace and well-being more than faith. As long as we live in this body of flesh, we will continue to face this struggle with fear and doubt. When faced with painful and overwhelming circumstances, the battle for faith in our hearts/emotions begins – will I stand strong in my faith in God’s promise, or will I give in to fear and worry? Will what God has promised to me be my anchor, or will I choose to believe what I see? Does He really care about my life and circumstance?
Remember the story of the Israelites’ trip out of Egypt? God gave Moses directions on the route, purposely taking them to a place where they would be boxed in – with the sea in front, and Pharaoh’s armies approaching from behind (See Ex. 14:1-4). Trapped with no natural way out. “Then the Israelites were terrified and cried out to the Lord for help. They said to Moses: ‘Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you took us to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us…?’” (Ex. 14:10, 11).
God knew exactly what He was doing. By bringing the people en masse to a place with no way to escape, He was accomplishing at least two great acts – displaying His power over all creation by parting the sea; and eliminating in one mighty blow the existential threat of Egypt’s army. “But Moses said to the people, ‘Don’t be afraid. Stand firm and see the Lord’s salvation which He will provide for you today; for the Egyptians you see today, you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you must be quiet.’” (Ex. 14:13, 14). I believe He was also doing this to also remind future generations (us!) that nothing is impossible for God. He still directs and delivers. He is still fighting for us. (see Rom. 15:4)
It is easy to read this story from our modern and familiar perspective (we know how that story ends!) and not fully grasp the sense of real fear/terror in the Israelites’ situation and the application to our lives. We just as easily panic when faced with dire and impossible circumstances and conclude the same thing as the Israelites, asking God, “what are you doing?”. No one wants to be facing dangerous, dire or hopeless days. When they come, it is normal and human to feel fear. Courage in the face of adversity doesn’t come naturally. It must be cultivated, nurtured, tested, and chosen daily. It isn’t some emotional or mental exercise that only a few special people obtain. We are all called to “stand firm”.
This daily choice of courage and faith are based entirely on God’s name (His character and reputation) and His promises. We daily face this choice, day-in and day-out, whether facing impossible odds, or when seasons are quiet – will I trust in God’s promises daily, following Him and seeking Him with all my heart; or will I trust my own understanding – what I see, hear, and perceive?
This choice of faith and hope – the strength that gives us courage in the face of our fears – comes from trusting in a God who “raises the dead”. The same God who led His people out of captivity and into the promised land still leads His people today. Instead of falling into the common and automatic response of fear and dread and worry, let’s fix our eyes on Him – “He who promised is faithful”. He hears, He listens, He cares, He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
“Don’t be afraid, little flock, because your Father delights to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32)