Courage for Tough Times
Marti Wibbels, MS, LMHC
In Joshua 1, God repeats “be courageous” four times: Be strong and courageous….. Only be strong and very courageous…. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Only be strong and courageous (verses 6-7, 9, and 18b, ESV).Merriam-Webster defines courage as mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty. Courage, then, is not the absence of fear but the choice to move beyond its inherent danger and difficulties—with serene confidence in God, with us.
By consistently choosing to live in God’s deliverance, we can move beyond the three hazy stages of tough times: 1. The tough time begins, 2. The tough time continues, 3. The tough time ends (but you can already see another one on its way). In all times, we need to be alert, replacing Mind ANTs (automatic negative thoughts). These pests occur in 10 different forms of distorted thinking, from Catastrophizing (expecting the worst to happen), Should Statements (internal emotional whips like “I should have done more” or “She should have…”), to Emotional Reasoning (accepting all feelings as valid indicators of reality). For more on managing your thoughts, see Chapter Two of Core Healing from Trauma.
We do need to notice what we’re feeling, but we don’t need to let feelings govern our lives. As we allow our emotions to inform rather than control us, we’ll eat when we’re hungry, rest when we’re tired, study God’s Word when we’re confused, and reach out to others when we’re lonely.
We can reframe life’s challenges with faith, replacing the “frame” of fear—self-talk such as, “This is too hard, No one cares”— with Philippians 4:13, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. We can remind ourselves: With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). Because He is with you, you’re never alone! Jesus said, And everything I’ve taught you is so that the peace which is in me will be in you and will give you great confidence as you rest in me. For in this unbelieving world you will experience trouble and sorrows, but you must be courageous, for I have conquered the world! (John 16:33, TPT).
Some of the toughest of tough times involve relationship pain—when a child is hurting or a teen is rebelling, when an adult child is estranged or when a loved one leaves. Jesus told us we’d experience trouble in the world. Amidst suffering, instead of being either naively optimistic or harshly fatalistic, we can run to God for deep hope that doesn’t disappoint (see Romans 5:3-5). Like the disciples when their boat was buffeted by waves (and not understanding it was Jesus walking toward them on the water), we might feel terrified at life’s unknowns. But we can train ourselves to hear Jesus’ calm voice, Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid. (Matthew 14:27).
When someone you know is going through a tough time, you can make a difference by noticing and showing you care. That might mean driving a friend or a neighbor to a doctor’s appointment; it could mean providing meals or household help for someone in need, making phone calls—and taking time to listen. When we’re the ones struggling, we can develop courage by choosing to rely on God, letting others know we need help, and living one moment at a time. We don’t have strength for tomorrow’s challenges, but we do—by the grace of God—have strength for today.
For additional ideas, you can work through Core Healing from Trauma, a biblical counseling workbook for individuals or groups, available on Amazon or you can watch Strengthening Your Core, a 12 - video series on YouTube. You can also listen to Marti discussing this topic on “Mornings with Eric and Brigitte” (Moody Radio South Florida 89.3 FM).