Take Courage, My Heart

I cannot believe some of the things that I have done.

When I was younger, I was crippled by fear and people-pleasing. My fear of the unknown was, at its root, the belief that every opportunity was nothing but a potential for disaster. All I knew was that people disliked me. All I knew was that I wasn’t strong enough. And it consumed me and weighed me down on my insides as if I were a giant sandbag.

And yet I’m here, still in the process of letting fear go, but with good and pleasant memories. These are memories of closing my eyes and stepping forward, starting to feel lighter and lighter. These are miraculous times when surely no person thought my tiny baby step worthy of applause, but I knew He was clapping His hands. These are small seeds sown in that place where obedience is fueled by hope and expectation. I don’t really know if obedience is fueled by hope or if hope is fueled by obedience, but I do know that they come hand-in-hand, and I cannot master one without embracing the other. When I do this, events begin to hold value, and relationships become exquisite. My eyes are turned upward and outward instead of inward. I know now that no amount of gazing inward will bring me joy or peace, but every time I have asked him to replace doubt with joy and peace, He has done so. Jeremiah 29:11 has kept me going.

Each seed has produced a stem off of my branches, and each stem continues to grow, always reaching toward the One that has surely fulfilled my every need for as long as I can remember. That is who He is — one who has never left me alone but gives me exactly what I need, one who doesn’t force anything out of me, but who is simply excited to see me come alive. I can safely say that places are prepared before me, that my future is in someone’s hands, and that I am taken from glory to glory. Is this not a father’s greatest joy, to love his child unconditionally and take pride in the act of doing so? How else could I respond to His trustworthiness but to trust Him?

Treasure your adventures with God. Whether your adventures take you to your own back yard or on unexplored planets, treasure them, for He treasures them. He doesn’t treasure them because they make good Facebook posts. He doesn’t treasure them for what they mean to others. Our stories certainly can touch others, but before they can do that, we must let ourselves sink deep into this realization — He doesn’t see us as a means to an end. There is hope for others in our stories only if there is hope for us in our stories. And His track record consists of pure, breathing, vibrant hope for all times, whether in the valley or on the mountain. For as concrete as our pasts are, His goodness will be all the more unchanging.

Hope in the future: this is not positive thinking, this is not self-help, and it not anything that this world has invented. If you’re in a dry spell and don’t know why or how you ended up there, He will provide an answer… yes, even if the time is not right now. He is not a God of confusion. He is not a God of deferred hope. If you obey but lose your vision for a moment, cry out to Him, and He will answer. You are all He has time for; He is your biggest fan. Let Him strengthen you in the secret place, in those roots deep within you, and let Him restore in you that which seems to be stolen away. Don’t be discouraged by the places where you’ve slipped before — He caught you, did He not? Choose to depend on Him, and you will know the sweetness that is His security and faithfulness.

Take your mistakes and unpleasant memories, everything that brings you shame, and lay it at the feet of Jesus. He has made you for so much more than that. He will wipe your tears away.

One day you will look at the mirror and say what you could not have said before, that you are fearfully and wonderfully made. It takes strength and courage to say those words, but don’t resist them; ask for fresh faith to declare it loud and clear, for He is not through with you yet, and that is the Truth. It is this revelation that comforts and restores the soul, that renews and transforms the mind. That is what our God does. He’s not dead — He’s alive. And He hovers over us just as He did in the beginning, while we are formless and void and covered in darkness, and says… “you are alive.”

It’s easy to believe that there’s nothing remarkable about us. It’s easy because we are not all that impressed by us. And yet He approves. He’s not a frustrated God, He’s a merciful God, and He died knowing full well we would never be able to deserve what He did. Accept His mercy, and be healed of your fear. Accept His abundant grace, and be healed of your disappointment. Accept His kind discipline, and watch Him walk you through transformation that you could never produce or even dream of. It’s true, He will not tolerate sin in us, but not because He is a taskmaster — it is because sin is a crippling, poisonous prison that results in our destruction every time. He who created us would not tolerate our destruction, even if it meant He Himself was to come between it and us.

He is our Champion.

He breathes victory into us.

No moment is too small for Him to use; within His heart are endless possibilities. So keep pressing in.

He enjoyed doing the impossible far too much to not continue to do it over and over and over again, and He chooses to do it in us! He takes our self-image of mediocrity and says no, that’s won’t do. Let’s do something new together.

Treasure every seed that He has sown in you. Ask Him to restore memories of what He’s done. Sit at the feet of others who have been brought to victory and celebrate them with a resounding “do it again!” He wants to do it again. He is full of pleasant surprises.

Don’t be dismayed in the midst of the process. He is faithful to complete every single good thing that He has begun in you.

Even if you don’t think much of yourself, He thinks much of you. Dream with Him. You are not broken pieces; you can do more than you think you can. You have not been given a spirit of fear — you do have a spirit of power, love and a sound mind. This, this thing that intimidates, will be worth it… you’ll see. Courage builds upon courage.

When I say that I cannot believe some of the things I’ve done, it is because I never thought that I could be useful for anything. And yet nothing is impossible with God, which He shows us in both the big and the little, in the public and the personal, in the joy and in the sorrow. I have chosen to do things precisely because I feared them, and not because I found something sufficient within myself, but because He spoke — I am sufficient. Sometimes it’s a still and small voice, but it always resounds and drowns out the words of your enemies. So let hope arise! That thing you want to do but don’t feel strong enough to do? You can do it! Be still and know that He is God — He doesn’t not demand perfection out of you. Sing loudly that “I will climb this mountain with my hands wide open.” Even if you don’t sing, sing — it’s good for you.

Let Him breathe in you and stretch you and mold you. Take whatever He gives you. You won’t be disappointed.

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