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How To Find Courage In Hard Times

March 12, 2021

The Courage To Rise

Courage does not just naturally come to us, it must be found, chosen, and practiced.

My boys and I read a gut-wrenching story this week about a young man who dove head-first into a sparkling lake, excited to impress his friends with his vertical leap and adventurous spirit.  But what started as wild and fun, ended in tragedy.  That particular part of the shoreline turned out to be only a few feet deep. That vibrant, healthy young man is now a quadriplegic who must navigate the world using only his mouth.

I had a conversation with another long-time friend recently who is deeply struggling with a child who is not making choices that are healthy or beneficial.  The parent-child relationship is strained and tense as they move through impossible situations and battle foes they never imagined they would be fighting.

In my own life recently, we had to find the courage to make a physical move, though it felt impossibly hard and uncomfortable. 

Courage in the hard places

I’m not sure there is any greater place to practice courage than when something happens in our lives that we did not want, ask for, or anticipate – or when a situation or relationship is simply not turning out as we had hoped.  So often our ideal does not match up with the reality before us. 

Fear tells us to hide in shame, feed anger, or harbor bitterness.  But this way will lead us to a wasteland of the soul.  

We have a choice how we respond.  It may not feel like it sometimes, but we do.  

Choose courage over fear.

To Find Courage We Must Lean Into These Three Areas

HUMILITY

There is not a way forward without it.  When we invite humility into our mistakes, relationships, our positioning before God, we are in a place to truly grow.  

We find freedom when we let go of our puffed-up sense of self, the need to appear a certain way before others, and our expectation that life go a certain way.  We release control, surrendering our demands and rigid expectations.

It is in this place of humility that we prepare the soil for true courage.  Here we find acceptance, forgiveness, and most importantly, love.

THE UNKNOWN

If we knew the outcome, courage would not be necessary.  There is always a leap of faith and a sense of freefall when we are in unknown places and spaces. 

Research shows that we want change, but deeply fear the unknown. People repeatedly choose unhealthy situations that are known over a more healthy way forward that is unknown. Abuse victims are the most tragic example of this phenomenon.

Keeping this in mind as we make decisions is important. If we know our natural bent will be to choose what safe, then we can recognize that tendency and actively choose differently.

When something happens we do not expect, the unknown can terrify us. What will come of this? What will be the outcome? How am I to navigate and survive this? Courage quiets those frequent whispers of fear and reaches for the steady hand of God.

True courage requires action and steps forward that feel uncomfortable.  In the unknown we hold onto trust that the God who is leading will also steady and provide what is necessary with each step. 

COURAGE IS A PRACTICE

Recent research in cognitive neuroscience is demonstrating that courage is a cognitive ability that can be strengthened or atrophied through neuroplasticity. What that means is we can grow our courage muscle through repeated practice.   

Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning or experience.  The brain is constantly adjusting and growing in response to the behaviors we exhibit repeatedly. This is why practices like gratitude journals, prayer and meditation, and media free days are so powerful. It is also why practicing courage works. 

There are two factors to consider when practicing courage – they are considered skills.  The first is the willingness to act in the face of fear, uncertainty, and doubt.  And the second is the ability to manage the fear, anxiety and doubt as we step out. 

When we face down our fears, let go of perfectionism and even embrace possible failure, we are freed to act.  When we remind ourselves that fear is a liar and that anxiety sidelines us at game time, we can fight back with truth and messages of confidence and positive self-talk. 

The more we practice courage, the more natural it becomes.

ALL OF LIFE REQUIRES COURAGE

To face life as a quadriplegic requires courage.  To parent a wayward child requires courage. Those feel big, and maybe not relatable to some, but consider the following that also require great courage:

  • change jobs
  • physically move
  • say yes to an opportunity
  • stare down a diagnosis
  • fight for failing or stale marriage
  • risk in a new or old relationship
  • step out on one’s own
  • ask the hard question
  • reveal the truth
  • come clean
  • start over
  • trust a new skill and do it
  • be vulnerable
  • risk looking foolish

MY COURAGE MANTRA

Getting very practical, I have been creating mantras for areas of life that need some brain training.  Mantras are short, punchy statements that remind you of deep truths.

I created this one for courage.  Feel free to download it, put it on your mirror, repeat it OUT LOUD every day, and let the truth wash over you. 

You are not stuck.  You are not a victim or losing the battle.  You are simply learning to find your courage, and life is your great teacher.  Let today be the day you declare courage over your life and begin to put it into practice. 

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