Gary Haugen, President and Founder of International Justice Mission, wrote a fantastic book entitled “Just Courage” (translated in Korean above). Courage is a topic I’ve thought a lot about, and something I’ve been writing on lately (see previous posts here). It’s not one of the virtues I group up possessing in high quantities, so I’ve had to learn it the hard way. Haugen’s book is one of the many great contributors to my learning pool.
Haugen is one of those authors whose life gives him the needed credibility to write on such an important topic. He is smart and educated, and was well on his way to a life that the world would deem as “successful.” He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and had a great job as a lawyer in the U.S. Department of Justice. However, he was stirred by God about the injustice around the world as it pertains to victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. That is when he started International Justice Mission, and now IJM lawyers, investigators and aftercare professionals work with local governments to ensure victim rescue, to prosecute perpetrators and to strengthen the community and civic factors that promote functioning public justice systems.
So he is obviously someone who knows a thing or two about courage. It took courage to leave a career path that promised wealth, comfort and privilege. And it requires great and ongoing courage to take on the deeply embedded evil that lives within the brothels, corrupt police departments, and broken legal systems that IJM takes head on.
My single favorite quote on the topic of courage comes from his book, and I think about it often. Here it is:
“Here is one choice that our Father wants us to understand as Christians – and I believe this is the choice of our age: Do we want to be brave or safe? Gently, lovingly, our heavenly Father wants us to know that we simply can’t be both.”
I love this quote for the simple way it conveys two important truths:
1.) It reminds us that the call to be courageous does not come from within us – it comes from God himself. God is the one who calls us out to the deep waters of faith. God is the one who wants us to learn to stop depending on ourselves and instead to depend on him.
My favorite Bible character is Joshua, and the famous call he received from God shows us why courage is so important to God:
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1.9)
God’s desire for Joshua was not to be courageous as an to itself. Courage was the necessary requirement in order to fulfill the mission that had been placed upon him. Courage was the necessary requirement to truly learn intimacy with God – God promised that he would be there if Joshua would follow, but courage was the necessary virtue in order to accept the challenge.
The same is true for you and I. God has called all of us to join in his mission of the redemption and renewal of the world. God has called all of us to walk intimately with him, and to experience his power and provision along the way. But in order to do so, we must choose brave over safe.
2.) I also love this quote because it reminds us that courage is a choice. I did an earlier post on Maya Angelou’s quote that “One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential.” How is that potential actualized in the life of a person who longs to become courageous?
It’s a far simpler process than we often give it credit for. Haugen says is just right: “Here is one choice that our Father wants us to understand as Christians – and I believe this is the choice of our age: Do we want to be brave or safe? Gently, lovingly, our heavenly Father wants us to know that we simply can’t be both.”
God gives us the daily choice to be safe or brave in a hundred different ways. Do we give generously or clutch onto our possessions? Do we move towards the person we offended or choose to nurture a grudge? Do we reach out to that person who is spiritually searching or do we stay stuck in our insecure and isolated place? Do we choose to align ourselves with God’s heart for the hurting and the poor, or do we stay in our safe havens, plagued by apathy and indifference?
There are certainly moments along the path that feel life defining. Whether we choose safe or brave at key intervals may define an entire era for us. But we should never confuse those epic moments with what it is that actually shapes courage in the life of a person. It’s the everyday choices we make that move us towards either courage or passivity. It is how we respond to the call of the Father to be safe or brave in everyday spirituality that really sets the course.
Nobody accidentally becomes a person of courage. And its not an inbred trait. Instead, it is a reflection of your character, and your character is a reflection of conscious choices that you make over and over again.
That is why the loving question posed by our Heavenly Father has such eternal implication.
Do you want to be safe, or do you want to be brave?