I'm a 23-year-old female in graduate school. I recently got out of a relationship that I know God didn't want me in, as it didn't honor Him and wasn't healthy or fruitful. However, I wasn't the one who broke things off, even though I knew it needed to end. I was with my ex-boyfriend out of fear of being alone. Also, I've been rejected by guys my age who are leading Christ-like lives.
This has opened up a whole new revelation that I'm lacking courage in so many other areas of my life as well. I want God to use me to glorify himself, and I know this weakness is keeping me from growing in my faith and reaching out to the people in my life who don't know Jesus. I don't want to go through life too afraid of rejection and loneliness to be obedient to God. How can I develop courage in my faith, actions and relationships?
I'm glad you wrote, glad you're no longer in an unhealthy, unfruitful dating relationship, and glad that God is revealing your sin to you. As painful as it is to realize all the areas where we need to change, such awareness is evidence of God's mercy. His "kindness is meant to lead us to repentance," Paul says in Romans. Your quest for courage is praiseworthy, but it must begin with repentance for those times and ways that you have disobeyed God. Then begins the process of being sanctified, including becoming courageous.
You ask how you can become courageous in your faith, actions and relationships. Those who trust in Christ for the forgiveness of their sins have every reason to be strong and courageous because He has promised believers "I am with you always, to the end of the age."
The biblical call to be strong and courageous is grounded on the Lord's presence. In Deuteronomy 31:6, Moses exhorted the people of Israel to "[b]e 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." So essential was God's presence to Israel's successful conquest of the land of promise that Moses pled with God when He was angry with the people for their disobedience, saying, "If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here" (Exodus 33:15).
Apart from Him, we have every reason to be weak and fearful. Without Him we can do nothing; we can't have fruitful relationships, make good decisions, plan our actions, or even take our next breath.
You say you don't want to go through life too afraid of rejection and loneliness to be obedient to God. But the object of your fear is misplaced. Rather than seeing your fear of rejection as justification for disobedience, you must see your disobedience as reason to fear God, and to run to Him, through Christ, as your only source for forgiveness and mercy.
Jesus said, "I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!" (Luke 12:4-5).
Jesus warns us to be reconciled to God, our righteous judge:
And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? As you go with your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him on the way, lest he drag you to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer put you in prison. I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny (Luke 12:57-59).
There's an urgency in Jesus' words throughout chapter 12 that Paul echoes in 2 Corinthians 6:2:
For he says, 'In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.' Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
Jesus told us God would wield His pruning knife in the lives of believers in order to make us more fruitful. That's what He means when He says in John 15:1-2, "my Father is the vinedresser … every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit." A big part of that pruning is cutting away our sinful, fleshly nature that acts selfishly.
Courage isn't "No Fear!" Courage is the ability to do what you fear — to press through to the goal even in the presence of fear. Courage is faith at work and conviction in action. In a classic western, it's the hero risking his life in order to rescue the woman he loves from deadly peril. He acts in spite of his fear, for love. We, too, can act in spite of fear, for love of Him who first loved us.
The way to overcome fear has everything to do with where we place our faith. Courage comes from knowing where to look when you are afraid. Psalm 56:3 says, "When I am afraid, I put my trust in you." Isaiah 26:3 says, "You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you."
Courage comes from the Latin word for heart (cor). A heart at peace, trusting in the Lord, can act boldly in the face of danger, challenge and trial. We have an infinite cause for courage because the object of our faith is infinitely trustworthy. Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid" (John 14:27).
How can you become courageous? By waiting on the Lord. Meditate on His character; His perfections. Think daily about His sacrifice on your behalf.
"Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!" (Psalm 27:14).
"Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!" (Psalm 31:24).
May the God of all grace help you do it.
Blessings in Christ,
Copyright 2014 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.