The Defining Question: Safe or Brave?


Courage-Tiananmen Square

In the previous post I shared my very favorite quote on courage. It has done so much to help me understand what real courage is and how real courage is formed. It comes from Gary Haugen in the book “Just Courage.” He says:

“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 think that is right on – each time we make the choice between safe or brave we are making a decision that affects the shape of our character. Each time we choose brave we become a little bit more courageous, and great courage is the byproduct of saying “yes” thousands of times.

It’s a bit of a circular process, but important to understand. In order to become courageous, we have to choose brave over safe. But each time we have the opportunity to choose between safe or brave, it requires courage. Simple, right?

Here are my last two thoughts about the importance of choosing bravery and becoming courageous people. These are a couple of truths about courage that I remind myself about often. Remembering them helps me clarify the stakes when I’m at one of those intersections where I am choosing between being brave or being safe:

1.) Courage punctures the illusion that we were ever in control in the first place

The reason that fear is so powerful is because it places limitations and restrictions on our life (see this post for more on that).  Fear cries out for safety, for comfort, and for security.  Fear convinces us that if we will just retreat to the safe waters, we can retain some level of control over our lives and achieve the security and comfort that the base level of our humanity longs for.

safe or brave banner

But to think like that is not just limiting; it’s to buy into a lie. We intuitively sense this, but we need to remind ourselves out loud that pursuing the idea that we can actually control our lives is nothing but an illusion.  Even if you dedicate all of your energy to controlling your circumstances and surroundings, you are left with the uncomfortable truth that there is so little in life that is actually under our control.

We have no control over the conflicts happening between major countries.  We have no control over whether a natural disaster will strike.  We have no control over whether a major illness suddenly seizes our body. We have no control over how much alcohol a person consumes or how safely they are going to drive.

Even the things we think we have control over eventually give way to reality.  A person thinks he is a good employee but unexpectedly loses his job.  A person thinks she was a good girlfriend but discovers her boyfriend cheated on her.  You thought you were a good parent but your child makes harmful choices.  You thought you were on a promising path but then your dreams are suddenly shattered.

There is very little we ultimately have control over.  We spend so much time trying to control that which we cannot control, yet ironically we don’t take seriously enough that which we can control.

When Jesus reveals himself to us in unexpected places and in unexpected ways, we have control over whether or not we respond to him in faith.  When Jesus brings us to the intersection of fear and faith, we have control over whether we choose in that particular moment to be safe or to be brave.

The one thing I can actually control is whether or not I courageously respond to Jesus when he takes me to the intersection of faith and fear.  When I choose safety, I miss an opportunity to grow in courage.  But when I choose brave, my character becomes more deeply rooted in courage.

2.)  Courage helps us enter into a fuller version of life

One of the reasons I like thinking about courage so much is because I believe it is one of the keys to fully stepping into the life that God has designed us for. In John 10.10 Jesus says just that – he is the Good Shepherd, and he has come to bring us into fullness of life.

This is the concept that drove my book project: 10.10 – Life to the Fullest. I believe that every one of us wants to live the 10.10 Life, we just don’t always know how or what to do next.

I would never pretend to have the blueprint – God never offers that to us. But what we do get is the promise that if we will follow Jesus will lead. Courage really is the most necessary virtue to a life of vibrant faith. It is what enables us to choose brave over safe.

Fear sets limits on our ability to experience fullness of life. But fortunately the reverse is true as well — faith expands the boundaries of life. Courage is what allows us to follow faithfully into the life that God has designed us for.

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