“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
The above scripture is one of the most commonly quoted verses about courage. We all find ourselves in need of courage from time to time such as when we have to speak before a group of people, when we have to approach someone with a touchy subject, when we begin a new job, a new class, or when we go on a first date. Sometimes we need courage when we go the doctor to hear the results of a test or a prognosis. Sometimes we need courage to let go of people and things that are detrimental to our peace and well-being. There are a plethora of reasons we may need courage. Based upon this Biblical text in Joshua 1:1-9, I would like to use this article to suggest seven ways that we can develop courage.
1. Understand that it is okay to “feel” afraid
According to the Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary and Thesaurus, the word courage means “mental or moral strength to resist opposition, danger, or hardship. Courage implies firmness of mind and will in the face of danger or extreme difficulty.”
You can “feel” afraid and still be courageous. Courage means being able to face your adversity in spite of feeling fear. Never think that you are weak simply because you “feel” afraid. It takes courage to do what is right and good when you feel fear.
When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, His “sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” (Luke 22:44) Why do you think this happened to Him? Because, He was afraid. He knew what was about to happen to Him, that He was about to be arrested and crucified. As any flesh-and-blood person would, Jesus felt intense fear at the thought of the excruciating pain He knew He would experience on the cross. But, Jesus was courageous because He didn’t run scared. He could have avoided His arrest by leaving the garden before Judas and the others arrived. He could have called thousands of angels to deliver Him, but He didn’t. Instead, He faced His fears and took them on like the proverbial “bull by the horns.” This is why Jesus was courageous, and you are courageous when you face your fears in spite of “feeling” afraid.
2. Know that God is always with you
God commanded Joshua to never be afraid “for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
God went with the children of Israel in the form of a cloud and a pillar of fire. We may not know what form God goes with us, but He is with us. He may show His presence to you in the form of a friend or supporter. He may be with you through His Word, a song, a message, or anything else that He knows will encourage you.
I subscribe to daily emails that feature Bible verses and some commentary on them. It is amazing to me that so many times when I have experienced sorrow, worry, doubt, and so forth on a given day, my email for that day would be exactly what I was needing. If I was feeling sorrow, my daily email would be about how God is near to the brokenhearted, or how God lifts up the humble.
God knows how to show Himself to you. He knows what will encourage you. For you, it might be a phone call, a song on the radio, or a gift from a child. Look around you and be alert so that you will not miss seeing God’s presence in your life.
3. Remember all the times God has helped you in the past
Remember the story of David and Goliath? In I Samuel 17, David had confidence that he would he would best the giant because he remembered how God had already given him victory before on two occasions when he killed a lion, and when he killed a bear. (I Samuel 17:37)
For several years, I have kept a journal. Every time I am going through some difficult situation and experience God’s answered prayers or help, I write it down. I can’t tell you how much this has helped me. When I face a new dilemma, I can read through my journal, recalling all the times God has gotten me through tough times, and it fills me with a confidence that God will help once again.
This is one of the reasons that God commands that we be thankful for our blessings. Not only should we offer thanks because God deserves it, but because it increases our courage.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
4. Listen to the testimonies of others
I love listening to other people tell about the wonderful ways God works in their lives. In fact, I have collected many testimonies from different people over the years and self-published a book about it. Seeing how God works to bless and help others can truly boost your courage and faith. If God can do it for others, He can do it for you.
What’s more, the Bible is packed with people who experienced great blessings because of their faith. Reading about these people can also strengthen us.
5. Read and meditate on God’s Word
When God told Joshua to be courageous, He also said this: “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may observe to do accordingly to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” (Joshua 1:8)
If you can reserve just 30 minutes of your day every day to read the Bible, you would be surprised how much it builds your courage. You don’t have to read lengthy passages. You can just take a few verses to focus on them and think about how they can apply to you. Each time you read, ask yourself, “What can I learn from this, and how can it help me grow?”
Listen to what Hebrews 4:12 says:
“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
God’s Word is living–it applies today just as much as it did thousands of years ago.
God’s Word is powerful–it has the power to step on your toes, convicting you of your sins and teaching you what is right.
God’s Word can crawl into our thoughts and the intents of our hearts, giving us the comfort, guidance, and strength that we need.
6. Focus on God and not your circumstances
The more you focus on your problems, the larger and more intimidating they appear. However, if you devote your mind to prayer, Bible study, and thinking about Godly things, you will be surprised how much your fears will diminish.
Another thing that will definitely take your mind off your problems and fears is to focus on helping others. We all know the cliche that “no matter how bad you think you got it, there is also someone else worse off than you.” When you busy yourself with helping the needs of others, God is busy taking care of your needs.
7. Trust in God’s promises
God told Joshua that He would never leave him nor forsake him. God says this to you and me as well. When we remember that God is faithful to keep His promises, we have assurance that He will be with us during difficult times.
“Blessed be the Lord, who has given rest to His people Israel, according to all that He promised. There has not failed one word of all His good promises, which He promised through His servant Moses.” (I Kings 8:56)