Maybe you’ve seen some version of this saying: Courage is not the absence of fear, but being afraid and doing it anyway. My quick internet search shows that Google doesn’t quite know who to attribute the quote to. As of this writing, top contenders are Nelson Mandela, Mark Twain, FDR, or John Wayne. It’s a great little nugget of wisdom nevertheless, and I’m sure there are plenty of accompanying inspirational images suitable for posting on the social network of your choice.
What Do You Fear?
Fear. I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few months thinking about fear as a motivator. There’s a lot to be afraid of these days. COVID-19, political and social unrest, extreme weather events and wildfires around the country. Not to mention the smaller fears we all deal with about what’s happening in our own families, in our own cities and small towns, in our own congregations and communities. Will our fears finally push us toward the positive change needed in many of these areas?
Instead of motivating us, though, fear more often simply paralyzes us. Afraid of offending our neighbors, we might not speak out on an issue that affirms a pro-life position. Afraid of making a mistake, we might not volunteer for a new service team at church. Afraid of giving a wrong answer, we might not bring up questions of faith with unchurched friends or family. But what would it look like, in those situations, to be afraid and just do it all anyway?
So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:26–31)
Facing Fears with Jesus
In this section from Matthew, Jesus is way ahead of Mandela / Twain / Roosevelt / Wayne or whoever really said that about courage in the first place. Jesus says, “Fear not!” And I hear in those words the encouragement to go and do it all anyway, even if I’m afraid. I don’t need to let my fear paralyze me. I don’t need to let my fear hold me back from speaking or serving or witnessing to my faith. Because my heavenly Father has my eternity secure in His hands. My body and soul are safe in His care. The very hairs on my head are numbered! I don’t even have to be afraid of death, because Jesus has ultimately conquered the grave.
That’s a radical thought! This kind of “no fear” attitude is what drove the first Christians to share their faith with abandon, boldly speaking about what they had heard and seen in Jesus Christ, despite persecution and threat of death. It’s what empowered early Christians to willingly serve their neighbors during times of plague and sickness, when the rest of the world abandoned those most in need. It’s what can spur us to action now, with that same kind of “being afraid and doing it anyway” attitude, that points others clearly toward the source of our courage.
Having “no fear” is ultimately impossible if we rely on ourselves; but knowing Jesus, knowing our crucified and risen Savior, we can still act in faith and in love for God and neighbor. Fear not! Speak life. Fear not! Serve in new and challenging ways. Fear not! Share God’s Word with a family member who has left the Church and encourage him or her to come home. Fear not!
Rely on the Holy Spirit to help you during difficult conversations.