Most dictionaries will tell you that brave means “fearless” or “without fear,” but for the life of me, I can’t figure out why that is. I mean, how can you be brave if you’re not facing something you fear? And is there some kind of standard for bravery, or is being brave just in the eye of the beholder?
And furthermore, why are we so drawn to the brave and heroic in the first place? Could it be that being brave is actually part of our true identity in Christ? I have come to believe that it is.
Nelson Mandela once said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
Courage is an interesting word, when you look at it. Did you know that its root comes from the Latin word, cor, which means ‘heart’? It follows, then, that courage begins in the heart, and it is why the phrase ‘take heart’ means ‘be brave’ or ‘be courageous.’ Immediately, this Scripture comes to mind:
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33 NIV
So if courage, or being brave, comes from your heart and arises out of it, what ‘heart’ are we talking about here–the orphan heart you were born with? No! It’s the new heart you were given when you accepted Jesus as your savior! I call it the grafted-in heart; the heart that has embraced its identity as a true son or daughter of the Father. And when Jesus says “take heart,” what he means is “Be courageous! Be brave! Use the heart I have given you!”
How can we do this? Because “I have overcome the world,” he says. And not only that, but “everyone born of God overcomes the world!“ (1 John 5:4-5, emphasis mine) That’s you and me! Let’s throw off any notion that brave means being fearless and begin to acknowledge that being brave means being willing to do what it takes to be an overcomer!
What we need to overcome, ultimately, are the things that hold us back from living the kind of life God desires for us and for those around us.
So what does it take to have courage and be an overcomer?
- We must stop avoiding the issues inside ourselves that are uncomfortable, inconvenient, and messy to face. I am convinced that many of us miss out on so many blessings, on so much growth and healing and freedom because we are afraid to face our own junk.
- We must be convinced that a) there is a higher purpose that justifies the risk involved, b) that the potential gain is worth the risk of potential loss, and c) that there is Someone to rely on to give us confidence to do what we’re about to do. Real courage acknowledges that there are no guarantees of success, and being brave requires faith, but true bravery is never reckless nor random.
- We must allow ourselves to be vulnerable. Vulnerability uncovers the heart and allows true courage to come forth. It says, “self-protection is not my first priority,” and allows us not only to be honest with ourselves, but relatable to others. It’s what makes us human, and it’s what makes us more like Jesus.
- We must remain moldable, teachable, and flexible. We must operate from a heart of flesh, and not from an immovable heart of stone.
- Love has to be our top priority–for real. Courage flows from an ongoing, passionate cultivation of a loving heart. Towards God, towards others, and even towards ourselves. We must always be learning how to love well and love hard. Love is nearly always the prime motivation behind acts of bravery.
Does this all sound unattainable? Like maybe some other hero–any other hero–besides you? Let me set you straight: being brave doesn’t have to look like marching into battle or rushing into a burning building or even saving the world from imminent danger.
Sometimes brave doesn’t look like you think it does.
Sometimes brave looks like that moment you’re lying on your bedroom floor drenched in your own tears, when you sit up, wipe your face, and choose hope in some small way.
Sometimes brave looks like confessing to someone else that you really need help.
Brave is cranking up your worship music and forcing yourself to sing along when you feel like you hate yourself and everyone around you.
Brave is choosing to do that one thing you don’t want to do–because Jesus is whispering it’s the right thing to do. It’s listening to his voice when everything in you is screaming lies, condemnation, and destruction.
Brave is not giving up when it gets hard or messy.
It’s continuing to love when you are despised, or blamed, or misunderstood in return.
It’s continuing to forgive again and again and again, when there are easier and more satisfying options.
Brave means picking up the broken pieces of your life and starting again.
Brave is a choice. It’s a faith-based choice to be that overcomer you are absolutely destined to be. My dear friend, you don’t need to ask God for courage, as if it’s something you need to be given.
You just have to activate what is already in there.
We are the brave-hearted children of a loving Father, and He has already given us what we need to vanquish our fears and overcome any obstacle that keeps us from living like the conquerors we actually are.
The Bible even says that we are more than conquerors.
Blessed, courageous friend, you are braver than you think.