“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9
Written by Rev. Brandon Durán
“Do not be afraid” (or a variation of this sentiment) is the most common command in the Bible. Often the statement takes place in the context of a story, but that doesn’t change the relevance. Some say this exhortation is repeated 365 times in the scripture, one for every day of the year. While this is a lovely idea, a little bit of concordance work reveals that it’s not quite accurate. Nevertheless, it is an important command. I just wish it had a bit more nuance.
I am convinced that fear, like many emotions, are value neutral. Fear is hardwired into our physiology and has served an important role for humanity for centuries. Are we really supposed to live without fear? Perhaps. First John 4:18 says, “Perfect love casts out fear.” Striving to live in, with, and out of a complete love certainly seems like a great goal to strive for. But I’m not there yet, I have a long way to go. I am still reaching for that goal.
So with where I am now, perhaps the goal is less about shutting down my “fear” response and nurturing my “strong and courageous” side. Courage isn’t really courageous if you are not afraid. Bravery isn’t really brave if you aren’t feeling fear. I think it’s less about the feeling of fear and more about what we do with that feeling. How do we respond to our fear? Do we make decisions based upon fear? Or do we run towards the roar?
I am convinced that we are all stronger than we think, and more courageous than we believe. It is easy to believe in a very hyper-stylized, over the top, image of bravery. Running into a burning building, flying headlong into danger, making the ultimate sacrifice, and other dramatic actions get labeled as courageous.
Yet courage is heavily contextualized. Each of us are confronted with our own battles, our own challenges, or, since this is Halloween, our own demons. Having the courage to face what’s before us, to name it, and to move forward with openness and trust, despite the fear of the unknown outcome, that is courageous.
Whatever fears you are facing, know that your fear is not sinful, you have the power to be brave, and more than anything else hold on to the latter half of the verse above, “…the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”