Wednesday, August 5, 2015

On Courage

"Courage is found in unlikely places."
J.R.R. Tolkien

What character traits do you admire in a person?
One of mine is courage.

I  am drawn to the stories of people who stand settled in the unsettled places of life.  The places where a firm footing is hard to find and there is often the danger of losing their footing completely as in an undertow, when wave after wave buffets them until they go under.  

These are the ones who don’t stay under.  

They get back up knowing they will face waves again.

These are the people who understand the story in which they are a part; the people who know the plot, and understand that we all have a part in it.  They are ready to step into their role and fulfill all that the Author intended, because they know the Author and are assured of His goodness.

I am drawn to their stories.  

Their stories teach me what trusting God looks like.

In every chapter.

In the beginning of the story, when everything is fresh.  When you can clearly see the hope that is available.

In the middle of the story, when things go awry.  When you wonder if there can even be a happy ending.  Surely not now, not after this.  Not ever. Those places where you wonder how they will make it to the end ... or if they will make it to the end.

And at the end.  When in the midst of all you have been through and all you are facing, you discover a fresh new hope. 

A stronger hope.

An enduring hope. 

When I read their stories, there are some things that surprise me. The most obvious is that most of them never consider themselves brave; they don’t see their actions as courageous.

Many of them come from places of brokenness or timidity. 
They know their own weakness and rely instead on His strength.
Strength that He promised. 

He never lets them down; He is there with them through it all.

Their lives remind me that He will always be there for us as well. 

Deuteronomy 31:6  "Be strong and courageous; don't be terrified or afraid of them. For it is the Lord your God who goes with you; He will not leave you or forsake you."

When you look at their lives, you see a common thread …

a life that trusts God with all of the details, or maybe as they are struggling, only most of the details,

and at times it might even be just one.  

But that one is that this God who loves them is a good God.

Their desire is that they live each day surrendered to the One who loves them, the one who loves us more than any of us can ever deserve!

These are some of the women I am talking about. 

You probably know them as well.  

Gladys Aylward 
(single missionary to China; rescuer guide to 100 children; expert storyteller)

 “Here I was worrying about my journey, while God was helping me all the way.  It made me realize that I am very weak; my courage is only borrowed from Him, but, oh, the peace that flooded my soul … because I know that He never faileth. I would not if I could, turn back now, because I believe that God is going to reveal Himself in a wonderful way.” 

Corrie Ten Boom
 (concentration camp survivor and conduit of God’s love and forgiveness)

"When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don't throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer."

Joni  Earickson Tada 
(someone who faces unimaginable pain and hard things depending on the Sovereign One)

"He has chosen not to heal me, but to hold me. The more intense the pain, the closer His embrace"

There are many others.

While these women are all obviously courageous, even facing difficulty with grace, I noticed something else that they all share.

They have opened their lives to us.  The ups and downs, the good and the bad, the sweet and the bitter.

I also see that in women who are not as well-known.

The woman who taught a Sunday School class on the topic of depression, sharing her own battle and struggles at a time when not many admitted their struggles in this area.

The author who wrote from the safety of an isolated place, but found herself in the limelight.  In her willingness to be vulnerable with her struggles, she has taught many about the goodness of God.

There was also the mother who, facing her own death, did not withdraw into the privacy of her family and home, but continued to share her life with us, teaching us what a life that is held by Jesus looks like at the good-bye.

Then those women that we do know - the brave women who move in our own circles.  

The one who gets up each morning and keeps going, despite facing physical pain or that one who is experiencing great personal loss.  

The woman who knows suffering herself.  And the one who loves and cares for someone who does. 

The woman who can make us smile even while they deal with hardships that most could never imagine. 

The woman facing the unknown each day, with no end in sight to her problems. 

The ones who always have a kind word to encourage or a forgiving word that helps heal.

Their lives are a gift to us.  As much as their pain breaks our hearts, it is a blessing to be allowed close to someone who is suffering. 

It will be Jesus that you will be drawn to as you are around them, but you may not realize it at the time.

While their wisest words and actions may only come after a lifetime of trusting God, you can know that when their reliance is on God …  you'd better hang on. 

Stay close. 

You will learn from them.

There will be much wisdom.

Thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that he is our Father and the source of all mercy and comfort. For he gives us comfort in our trials so that we in turn may be able to give the same sort of strong sympathy to others in theirs. Indeed, experience shows that the more we share Christ’s suffering the more we are able to give of his encouragement. This means that if we experience trouble we can pass on to you comfort and spiritual help; for if we ourselves have been comforted we know how to encourage you to endure patiently the same sort of troubles that we have ourselves endured. We are quite confident that if you have to suffer troubles as we have done, then, like us, you will find the comfort and encouragement of God.
II Corinthians 1:3-7 (J.B. Phillips translation)


What about you?  Who are the people God has used to teach you more about Him through their examples of courage?


And my personal favorite?

Ruth Bell Graham.  

Sharing her husband with the world, literally, she has faithfully pointed her children to Jesus and allowed us all to see them live life in strength and weakness, depending constantly on His nearness.

She once wrote:     “My business address? Wherever He puts me...  But He is my home.”

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