I am not an expert on being brave. I don’t have a secret potion, a magic wand, or five easy steps that lead to bravery. However, for the last several years, I have considered myself a student of what being brave looks like—a brave aficionado, a connoisseur of courage. I’ve become a collector of clues to a deeper understanding of brave and a rabble-rouser inviting others to join the cause.
The journey began when my daughter ignited my curiosity around the word brave and changed the way we looked at life.
When Brooke was nine, she was having a particularly difficult day. Always a worrier and prone to processing every thought out loud, she found the world especially overwhelming. I couldn’t seem to find a way to help her get to the other side of her increasing angst. She had worn me out with her growing list of worries, complaints, aches, pains, and fears, and I told her I didn’t know what else I could do for her. Whatever it was, I couldn’t fix it. I had no more answers; I was done.
Sensing my frustration, she looked at me with her big blue eyes filled with tears, and said the words that have continued to be our mantra to one another:
“Mommy, I just need you to tell me I’m a brave soldier.”
So I did. As she grew up and faced down some increasingly difficult circumstances, I said those words over and over until she learned to claim them for herself. Naming her brave and affirming her courage allowed her to access an inner strength previously just out of reach. As a young adult, she has continued to surround herself with people who are similarly willing to encourage and affirm her hard-won courage. For Brooke’s nineteenth birthday, I gave her a bracelet with the words Be Brave etched into a silver cuff—a tangible symbol of my words to her when I am too far away to speak them out loud. I wear an identical bracelet as a reminder that I, too, am capable of courage.
The transformational power of being named brave originates with God. It is no secret to our Creator that his children struggle with fear and doubt. Knowing we would need reminders of the bravery he has placed within us, Scripture is replete with encouragement from God to live the abundant lives he has planned for us. Repeatedly, God says “Fear not!” in a myriad of ways. It is one of the most frequent commands in the Bible. In every case, God’s call for courage is connected to his presence. We can be brave because God is always with us.
In 2 Timothy 1:7, the apostle Paul reminds his spiritual son Timothy that courage is his birthright as a child of God: “God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (NLT).
In this verse, Paul reminds Timothy that God has given us all we need to live a life of courage through the power of the Holy Spirit. Because of Jesus, we have access to a spirit of power, love, and self-control. Although God has given us all we need to be brave, many of us forget and find ourselves stuck in discouragement, fearfulness, and inaction. We play it safe when God wants us to be bold, and we hide from one another when God wants us to live in community. Being brave is our inheritance as children of God, and being brave is the path to a life of meaning, purpose, and adventure. Through our connection to one another and to God, we learn to tackle our greatest fears and move closer to realizing our dreams. Together, we remember we are brave.
If the topic of being brave resonates with you, Kelly’s devotional book, Being Brave: A 40-Day Journey to the Life God Dreams for You, will be released by Abingdon Press on December 17, 2017.
Kelly Johnson is a counselor, writer, speaker, and advocate. She leads a weekly Bible study and serves as chair of the board of directors at a local shelter for the homeless. Married to her high school sweetheart, she is the mom of two college-age daughters. Kelly writes about life, faith, and her newly empty nest at kellyiveyjohnson.com.
Photograph © Leio McLaren, used with permission