The imparting of courage is something I have thought carefully about as a parent, as a clinician, as a follower of Jesus. Encouragement is simply not what I thought it was. I assumed it was being nice, giving compliments, giving an 'atta boy' or acknowledging another person's effort. Those things make you feel good momentarily, but they don't do anything to the well of doubt or fear that exists in each of us. I am learning again that I am in the middle of encouragement. God is taking my brokenness, pain, anger, and it is giving me courage.
The human condition guarantees that we will encounter disappointment and at some point we will most likely endure some type of disappointment that cuts us so deeply we will feel as one who should never hope in anything again - lest we have to endure this type of pain again. It is in those places, the places without answers, the places without a clear path, the places without a promise of security that we need real courage; a pat on the back or a 'go get em' is just not going to cut it. As I have wrestled with God - and this is still an active process - I am finding that He does not rush in and make everything okay, but instead allows struggle and patiently joins me as I cry out to Him. Somehow, I am finding that the struggle makes me stronger, more whole, more joyful... I can't explain that. It isn't that I have experienced a supernatural peace or am at a place where I really accept my circumstances - I am not there yet - but, the struggle is making me stronger and I know that is building my faith.
When I look at the heroes of faith in the Bible, they all struggled intensely with personal circumstances that produced some kind of doubt and struggle where they had to choose to hold on to God and trust Him anyway or give up. They are heroes because they all chose to hold on and in that choice God gave them the courage to follow him, even when they couldn't see the promise, and most of them didn't - they endured years of waiting for a promise they didn't get to see. I feel like I am in that place where my choice has already been made and now I wait. Faith is the evidence of things unseen, not the 5 year plan of your life falling perfectly into place. It requires courage to keep hoping when what you see in front of you feels like broken promises and failure. I am still figuring out what it means to trust God when that trust is not tied to my circumstances or getting the outcome that I want. But I know that He is still exactly who He has promised to be.
I could not have believed God any more that Levi would live. I really trusted God with his life. I know many others who have believed God for miracles that weren't granted the way they believed it would be. But I am not afraid of facing this pain or asking these questions without answers. God gives courage and counsel and I know it, because I have been here before. I have walked in the valley of the shadow of death and He has been there, so I know that when our greatest fears become the reality we are living - we can take courage and not be afraid. It takes a deeper well to love one another and that is what Levi's life is producing in my heart - a well that is deeper, braver, and hopefully, more able to give life to others. I am beginning to understand what James was talking about when he said "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance." James1:2-3. There is a freedom and fearlessness that comes from pain and trial. It isn't 'fake it till you make it' and it isn't 'put on a happy face', it is the imparting of courage that comes from the Lord. I can be absolutely grateful for that, because it certainly didn't come from me.
Maybe you are facing a trial today, or you are in a place of waiting on a promise that you cannot see. There is enough grace for today, to face whatever it is, to love without fear, to give ourselves away... and the courage is coming. Whatever courage is needed to approach this challenge and not be overcome - it is coming. Take heart today, your God has overcome the world.