Friday, January 18, 2013

Thoughts on courage

My patriarchal blessing talks about having courage, but I haven’t felt very courageous lately, so I decided that I needed to study what the scriptures say about courage to see if there was something I could do to gain it.

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Tim. 1:7)

The world says courage means to be scared but to have the nerve to do the scary thing anyway.  It seems to me that the above verse says that the Lord’s way is to do away with the fear entirely.  I aspire to that.  I also like that Paul seems to break courage into three parts: power, love, and a sound mind.

Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives; yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them. (Alma 56:47)

            When I read the stripling warriors didn’t fear death even though they had never fought, it is easy for me to think that lack of fear came from their ignorance.  And yet we know even after having had a lot of experience with the ugliness of battle, they still threw themselves into it with as much a will as they did before they knew anything about it.
 Courage has to start in the mind before it manifests itself in the body, so I've been looking for instructions on how to think courageously that will help me act courageously.  I noticed that encapsulated in that verse was a profound insight on how to think courageously.  “They did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives” shows us that the stripling warriors worked to focus their thoughts more on their goal and their motivation than about the possible cost to their lives.  The mind has to think about something all the time, and if you are about to do something scary, occupying your thoughts with the goal you are trying for more instead of the discomfort you are about to suffer will help you act courageously. 
Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest.  (Joshua 1:7) 

In light of what we now know about how focusing our thoughts on the goal more than the cost, this verse shows me an important thing to focus on—observing to do according to the law, or in other words, keeping the commandments.  There’s a neat promise that is attached to it—that if we don’t deviate in any way from keeping the commandments, we will prosper in whatever we do.  Does this mean that we won’t have failure?  I’d like to think so, but based on what I’ve learned about the word “prosper” and how it is used in the scriptures, it may mean that we’ll always grow from our experiences more than that we will always succeed.   But then, looking at it from another perspective, it seems to me that there will be far fewer failures if we’re carefully keeping the commandments than there would be if we weren’t.

I also see that if we are careful to keep the commandments, then we can have confidence God will be with us. 

And your whole labor shall be in Zion, with all your soul, from henceforth; yea, you shall ever open your mouth in my cause, not fearing what man can do, for I am with you. Amen. (D&C 30:11, emphasis added) 

If our whole labor –or whole heart and soul—is in Zion, then we will be focused that cause, which will outweigh any consideration of what sacrifices our penalties at the hands of man that we may incur.

When the Lord is with us, with all His might and grace, what opposition can count for anything?  What can man do in comparison to God?
 Here are some other scriptures about courage that I've been considering.  Is there anything that sticks out to you about them?  What do we learn from them that can help us have courage?

And it came to pass that I spake unto my brethren, saying: Let us go up again unto Jerusalem, and let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord; for behold he is mightier than all the earth, then why not mightier than Laban and his fifty, yea, or even than his tens of thousands? (1 Nephi 4:1)

When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses, and chariots, and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them: for the Lord thy God is with thee, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. (Duet. 20:1)

Go thy way and do as I have told you, and fear not thine enemies; for they shall not have power to stop my work. (D&C 136:17) 

Therefore, be ye strong from henceforth; fear not, for the kingdom is yours. (D&C 38:15) 

Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:29)

Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause?
Go forward and not backward.
Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory!
Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad.
Let the earth break forth into singing.
Let the dead speak forth anthems of eternal praise
to the King Immanuel, who hath ordained, before the world was,
that which would enable us to redeem them out of their prison;
for the prisoners shall go free.
(D&C 128:22)

  Tell me about some times when you've been courageous.  What kinds of things require your courage today?


Ramona Gordy said...

I love D&C 128:22, the rallying cry;"Shall we not go on, with so great a cause"
I sometimes feel like the cowardly lion, searching for that heart of courage, but wait, I have it, that new heart that was a gift from the Savior.
Now, it's up to me to know how to use it. Lately one courageous thing I have purposed in my heart is to effect a personal change in my whole life. Change 3 tiny habits, change how I look at people;change what I eat,change how I approach the sacred things of God.
There is a popular saying,"Let go and Let God", but does that mean a bungee jump type of letting go or rather a "be of good courage approach" and just step off, knowing that God will catch us in some form or fashion.
I gave a book of Mormon to a coworker. I offered all that was to offer, my testimony, a call out to missionary's, a ride to church, but in the end, all he wanted was the Book of Mormon.
He may not join this church; he may just put the book on a shelf for a while. But courage was with him for taking it and for me in giving it to him and then letting it go, and let God work on his heart.

Bonnie said...

Last year, early in the year, I went to the Lord and asked why a certain, long-standing situation continued to be a problem. The answer that I got was very quick: "I want you to learn courage." I am a forthright person, an extrovert a fair amount of the time, and I've weathered some serious storms. I never thought of myself as lacking courage.

Since that time I've paid attention to my tests. They have forced me to face inner demons from which I would have shrunk gladly. Just as Romona mentioned, I found the scriptures in Deuteronomy and Joshua in which Joshua and the people were encouraged to "be strong and of a good courage" useful. They became a mantra for a while.

I have learned the power of prayer and fasting. Everything I faced has been a miracle to overcome, and I still have more miracles to come. My heart is more steady than it once was.

Michaela Stephens said...

Ramona, I think your decision to change things in your life is certainly courageous. It takes courage to take initiative and not wait for good things to happen to us, but instead to go out and try to make them happen. Giving a Book of Mormon to a coworker is an excellent example of that.

Bonnie, I agree, our tests ask us to face our inner demons. I also have found prayer to be helpful. Maybe I should try fasting a little more.