by Ilse Marie Gomez
“Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them.” Joshua 1:6
What does it mean to have courage? What does it really mean to be brave? I’ve seen this verse on mugs and notebooks and wondered how it could apply to me. These words were first uttered to Moses’ successor as he was about to go into battle and conquer lands for his people, but I know they also represent what’s on God’s heart for me. So I ask myself, what does it mean for me, a young woman reading the Bible in the comfort of her home, to be strong and courageous? What does it mean for me to be brave?
I want to think strength and courage mean fearless and thick-skinned, but when I go back and look at Jesus that’s not what He looks like. I find that He isn’t asking me to harden my heart and grow numb to the things that could hurt me, but actually He is redefining courage in the language of His kingdom.
The brave person is not devoid of fear, in fact, they are ones who may feel it more than others. The brave person is not impenetrable, in fact, only a truly courageous person would dare to be vulnerable and open themselves up to others.
The brave person is not walking around in total self-confidence, in fact their minds are often plagued by self-doubt. The truth is, what separates a brave person from an ordinary person is as simple as a weak, "yes." What makes someone strong is not negating their weaknesses, it is acknowledging them so that they can be strengthened.
I think that’s what Paul learned when God encountered him with grace:
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
Paul saw that Christ wasn’t running away from his places of weakness, nor was he shocked by them, but He was actively choosing to rest His power on those places. He was actually saying, “The places you want to hide the most are the places where I want to show up the most.”
So with this in mind, this is how I define courage and bravery today:
To be brave, to be strong, is to choose not to run away. It's to dig your heels in just enough to start to grow some roots. There, good intentions finally become actions and politeness can become genuine kindness. There, affection can grow to true love and insecurity can find boldness. There, the weak "yes" finds a resounding echo within the heart of the Creator. Because let's not be mistaken, true bravery doesn't come when we say "yes" to ourselves, or when we decide to put in as much effort as physically, mentally, or emotionally possible into our "self-improvement." Bravery happens when self-sacrifice meets love and becomes boldness – where the whisper of the weak finds the war cry of the strong. It happens when heaven touches earth and a seemingly ordinary man gives his love to the point of death – the weakness of earth witnessing to the power of heaven.
Bravery happens when we say "yes" to HIM. He makes me brave, He makes me strong, and He reminds me that my insecurities, doubts, and fears need not be the hurdles that stop me from winning the race. In fact, His perfect love casts out all my fears (1 John 4:18), so that what is left is astounding courage rooted somewhere much more profound than my own strength: it is courage rooted in the knowledge that He is with me. He will be my shelter, He will be my inheritance. I have nothing to fear and nothing to lose, because it's all rubbish in comparison to knowing Him (Philippians 3:8). With this understanding, I can look my insecurities and accusations in the eye and tell them they are no longer welcome here. I get to stand firm in the assurance of things I cannot see and tell this world, "you haven’t seen anything yet." I can be fiercely vulnerable, authentically courageous, and boldly brave because there is a greater story at stake here.
I am no longer fighting for my life or my best chance, I am simply honored that I am part of His story and this is all for His name, not mine. I choose to say yes, even if my yes is weak, because it's not about my power or my strength, but His love.
Ilse Marie Gomez is a storyteller, coffee lover, and follower of Jesus. She is a youth pastor at Houses of Light Church where she spends much of her time teaching and empowering teens and young adults to become who they were created to be. She is committed to being a life-long learner and shares her findings with the world on Instagram and through her blog.