2017 was a tumultuous year. For some of us, the change and upheaval were fun and exhilarating. For others, they knocked the wind out of us so badly that we’re still trying to catch our breath.
After a year like that, some of us are riding into 2018 raring to go, full of hope for more breakthroughs and ready to take on the world. Others of us are experiencing anxiety bordering on post-traumatic stress, wondering if we can survive another roller-coaster ride like the one we just staggered off of.
Wherever we fall on the spectrum between these two experiences, however, there is one thing that we all need as we head into this new year: courage.
Courage comes from the word heart. Our heart is our center, the seat of our deepest values, beliefs, affections, and motives—the core from which everything in our life flows (Proverbs 4:23). When our heart is healthy and thriving, courage flows from us. We act like powerful people who step through our fear and tackle challenges to protect and pursue what we love. But when our heart is sick and wounded, courage seems tough to find. We end up living in retreat mode, sacrificing a life of hope, dreams, and risk for a life of survival.
I don’t know what you’re sensing about 2018, but my gut tells me that there may be a few more Level 5 rapids up ahead of us in the coming year. Some may be caused by loss and catastrophe, and some will be caused by growth and blessing. Though the latter will probably be more enjoyable, both will create stress that we must navigate well in order to survive and thrive. Both will require courage. So here are 4 keys to finding the courage and wholeness of heart we need to face the waters ahead this year.
1. Lock into His Presence
When Joshua received his commission to lead Israel into the Promised Land, he was repeatedly told, “Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). When we truly believe in and are aware of God’s presence with us, fear goes and courage rises.
As Bill Johnson teaches so well, practicing awareness of the presence of God is not a mysterious or difficult exercise. All you have to do, Bill says, is to turn your affections to Him. Thank Him for who He is. Review the testimonies of what He’s done in your life and the lives of people you know. Turn on some worship music and get loud praising Him. Read Scripture until you hear His voice. Listen in prayer as much as you speak. Allow Him to speak words of life to every place of disappointment, pain, and discouragement until your heart becomes whole again.
The more we live in the awareness, “He is with me,” the more courage will flow from our hearts in 2018.
2. Lock on to Your Identity
In the film The Return of the King, there’s a moment when Gandalf is standing at the gates of Gondor just as they’ve been smashed by a massive, flaming battering ram shaped like the head of a wolf. Before the enemy rushes in, he tells his men, “You are soldiers of Gondor! No matter what comes through that gate, you will stand your ground!”
No matter what comes through the gate at us this year, we need to be able to stand our ground. And we’re only going to be able to do that by reminding ourselves of who we are. Courage is part of our identity.
For many of us, the voice of the accuser managed to intimidate and shame us into forgetting who we are this last year. As a result, we lost heart and started acting like cowards. But, as the prodigal son discovered, we can recover our identity by taking the road back to the Father. Remembering who He is will help us remember that we are His sons and daughters, and that everything He is, we are to be too. As we hear Him call us by our names, we receive the courage to be who we really are.
3. Lock on to Your Purpose
This is the time of year when we make resolutions about the kind of change we want to see in our lives. One of the main reasons most of us end up giving up on our resolutions is that we get distracted from our purpose. Purpose is bigger than a goal. Goals are great—without them, nothing gets done. But unless our goals are anchored in our purpose, we will either give up on them, or our motives for achieving them will be off and we won’t actually get the results we want.
There are many words we can use to describe our purpose, but here’s one that I think will especially help us to remember in 2018:
We are all called to be overcomers.
We are called to overcome:
- Fear and hate with love.
- Darkness with light.
- Sickness and disease with healing.
- Despair with hope.
- Mourning with joy.
- Anxiety and conflict with peace.
- Addiction with freedom.
- Bad news with good news.
- Division with forgiveness, reconciliation, and unity.
- Death with life.
- Every time we remember this purpose, it will call on our courage.
4. Lock in with Your People
The enemy knows that besides God, our greatest source of courage is one another. It’s why he attacks our relationships so intensely. He knows that if he can divide us and get us to try to live in a prison of shame and isolation, our hearts will never be strong or brave enough to overcome anything. This is why we MUST courageously continue the fight for our connections more than anything else.
When I’m rafting down a river, whether I’m hitting white water or smooth water, what I care about most is who is with me. I want to be in the boat with people of courage, people whose hearts are alive and whole, people who know whose they are, who they are, and why they’re here. And I want to be a person of courage in their lives. I’m pretty sure that’s the only way we’re all going to get through this crazy ride and be smiling at the end of it.
So, whether we’re running or limping, let’s move forward into 2018 with courage. Let’s live in His presence, remember who we are, remember that we are called to be overcomers, and be relentless in keeping courageous connections with people.
Happy New Year!
P.S. If you haven’t seen, we have lowered the prices for all of our Life Academy courses for the month of January. Start out your year strengthening yourself as a friend, leader or parent. We’ve also kicked off a new year of Culture & Conversations, my private learning community with a 33% discount! Learn more here.