Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”
We are here on this earth, in these bodies, for unique and varied reasons. There are many lessons that Christ whispers to us: Love your neighbor. We are one. Forgive others and ask for forgiveness. Pray and spend time in the presence of God. Although God has a purpose for us, intentions for us, the most powerful way to honor God is to become the best ‘me’ we each can be.
There are many things that we allow to interfere with our becoming the best that we can be: time, resources, a job, and life in general. We believe the challenges in life are creating road blocks to our spiritual and personal development. The loss of a job, our education, our socioeconomic upbringing, a disease, a divorce, a failure, our mistakes…. There is a long list of trials that we can point to that dictate our path, our attitudes, and our circumstances.
But is that really the truth? Is it really a broken marriage or relationship that has caused our misery, despair, and loneliness, or is it our thinking about that situation? Is it the lump we have found that is causing our fear, or is it our thoughts about that lump?
If we are honest, it is all about our thinking. Our negative and fearful thoughts create vast canyons between us and the Light of God. Our negative thoughts attract more of the same.
In life, we frequently avoid facing our fear and challenges whenever we can. But professionally trained fighters, martial artists, and boxers will tell us that it doesn’t hurt any less to close our eyes when we are hit. All closing our eyes does is take our focus off what is most important in the moment.
If we lose a job, taking up drinking will not make the situation any better. We each have our own personal method of ‘closing our eyes’ to the hurts of life. Some of us may drink or do other drugs; some of us simply move into victimhood or denial: we complain, cry, and blame, then do nothing productive.
But some of us have learned to take the blow on the chin, keep our hands up, and defend ourselves from further assault. We lose our job and go out and apply for another. We face the challenge head on by getting more education, developing more pertinent skills; by learning, growing, and becoming a better person, potential employee, or business owner.
Often, the difference between these two reactions, either facing the challenge directly or turning away in avoidance, is a matter of courage. Of course, wisdom is required to know when one or the other is necessary. But most of our solutions require only the courage to make a decision, and this is done in 10 seconds or less. Our life is formed by the acts of strength and courage we make in intervals of 10 seconds or less. If we are tempted to cheat on our taxes, or our spouse, it takes 10 seconds or less to make a different choice.
In the book “We bought a Zoo”, by Benjamin Mee, the dad character says, "You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it." Truthfully, it doesn’t take 20 seconds; for me that’s too long to think. It happens in 10 seconds or less, and only the full 10 seconds are needed if we argue with ourselves. It takes only a moment to change our thinking, change our direction, and change our life. In fact, I believe that if it takes more than 10 seconds of debate with our ego, we have given it better than a 50-50 chance of winning the argument. 10 seconds or less of Spirit-inspired courage is all that is required to make a new decision, change course, and move into action; our human thinking, debate, and justification just gets in the way of Spirit’s guidance and inspiration.
I experienced this when I was young before sporting activities, musical performances, and asking a girl out. Most often, in the case of dating, I allowed my fears to overwhelm my courage. I spent far too much time thinking about what she might say, wondering if she liked me, and envisioning failure and rejection. I rarely adhered to the 10 second or less rule, so I rarely had a date.
At times, we have to have the courage to say ‘no’ and decline an offer. Again, if we think about it too long before we commit to a decision, we can lose our way and succumb to habits, evil influences, peer pressure, or common social coercion. Bad Patrick sits on my left shoulder, encouraging me to cheat, lie, hurt, and join the dark side of the force. “Come on, Patrick. Everyone is doing it; everyone thinks this way. It is natural to hate people who don’t think and look like you. It is Nature’s way of protecting the gene pool.” Bad Patrick appeals to the emotions and the deepest human instinct … our animal nature.
But then, Good Patrick calls to me from my right shoulder. “Patrick, life is all about love, compassion, respect, tolerance, and empathy. These people are your family and are on the same journey as you, facing similar challenges and lessons. They are not perfect, and neither are you. God has something more in store for you than satisfying your animal desires for control, power, and acquisition. Patrick, abandon your old ways; do not allow your habits to keep you from God’s good.” It takes less than 10 seconds to hear that voice and respond by saying, “Yes, you are right!” With that commitment we step out in faith and courage to pursue a new and productive direction, where God goes with us, providing guidance and power.
2 Timothy 1:7 describes the truth of who we are: For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and sound judgment. This is who we are if we will just take the few seconds required to respond to the guidance of Christ in challenging circumstances: powerful, loving, and wise. “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13). This includes being courageous for the few seconds when we face squarely the darkness of life and its doubts and fears with our eyes open and focused on God.
Some Bible translations refer to courage as ‘good cheer’. Courage, and being of good cheer, both mean boldness and confidence. Behind nearly every command from God to “fear not” comes a glimpse of the plans and purpose God has for us. “Fear not, for I am your shield.” (Genesis 15:1) “Fear not, for I am the one who helps you. (Isaiah 41:14.) “Do not fear … for you have found favor with God." (Luke 1:30). “Do not be afraid, for your prayers have been heard.” (Luke 1:13). “Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared.” (Proverbs 3:25-26). “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom." (Luke 12:13). This last command from Christ should give us the faith to take the 10 seconds necessary to call upon the courage to see us through our fear. On the other side of our fear is freedom, joy, and God’s good.
My prayer is that we will face our challenges with courage and good cheer. Our greatest growth comes from relying on spirit during those 10 second intervals when we face our fears and challenges. My prayer is that we will be strong and courageous, not only when we face the turbulence of life, but as we encounter the wonderful new opportunities, experiences, insights, and revelations of Spirit.
I finish with the words of 1 Corinthians 16:13-14: “Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.”