“Choosing to write our own story means getting uncomfortable; it’s choosing courage over comfort.” (Brene Brown, Rising Strong, p.45)
TOUGH LIFE LESSONS SERIES
Welcome to Mindful Monday and the continuation of the series 5 TOUGH LIFE LESSONS FROM 2018 THAT WILL MAKE 2019 BETTER. My hope is that as we work through these tough lessons, we can leave the bad of 2018 behind and absorb the good to make this new year one of meaning, purpose, and growth.
Last week we dug deep into the problem of pain and suffering and how to learn to trust God even if the worst happens. I deliberately chose to start at the most challenging place because if we cannot trust God despite the difficult circumstances in our lives, it will be hard to move forward or make sense of the valleys along our faith journeys.
TOUGH LIFE LESSON #2: CHOOSE COURAGE OVER COMFORT
I first came across this phrase while reading Brene Brown’s book, Rising Strong. The tag line of the book, “If we are brave enough, often enough, we will fall. This is a book about what it takes to get back up.” caught my attention. Trying to recover from some recent falls, failures, and disappointments in my own life, I sought guidance and wisdom.
COURAGE IS A CHOICE
Courage is a choice. I get that. But a choice to do what? To skydive? To speak in front of millions of people? To quit your job and travel the world?
Yes, I suppose it takes a significant amount of bravery to do those things, but Brown connects courage to inner values like vulnerability and integrity. She argues that vulnerability–the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome–is the greatest measure of courage (Rising Strong, p. 4). And integrity is the courage to choose what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy (Rising Strong, p. 200).
To begin this process of becoming brave, I had to confront what choosing comfort looked like for me. It may look similar or different for you depending on your circumstances or season of life.
For me, comfort looked like hiding and disconnecting to avoid confrontation. It meant denying my emotions and feelings to make others happy. Comfort was choosing not to set boundaries and then struggling with the
It also meant trying to do things in my own strength inside of turning to God for help. Often the comfortable thing for me to do was not to spend time reading my Bible for answers or seeking God’s will for guidance. That was too hard and took too much time. Instead, I opted for the fun fast, and easy route of escaping through Netflix or suspense novels.
ESTHER: FORCED TO CHOOSE
I heard the story of Queen Esther quite often growing up because my mother’s name is Esther. When we meet Esther in the Old Testament, she is a young, Jewish orphan, raised by her cousin Mordecai, who beats out all the other beautiful young women in the kingdom to become the queen of King Xerxes. She was an unlikely queen who never dreamed she would someday wear a jeweled crown. She never imagined she would bear the weight of her people’s destiny by choosing courage over comfort.
Despite being lonely and away from everyone and everything she knew, Esther manages quite well in the palace initially. Then Esther hears that her cousin, Mordecai, is outside the gates. He is dressed in sackcloth, and covered in ashes, weeping and wailing. After Mordecai refused to bow to the king, a powerful politician named Haman was very offended and devised an evil plot to destroy all of the Jews. After explaining this dire situation to Esther, he pleads with her go before the king and intercede for her people.
At first, Esther refuses. After all, the king had not summoned her for thirty days. What if he was angry with her? If she simply walked into his throne room, she risked immediate death.
But Mordecai challenges her to choose courage instead:
Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the palace you will escape when all other Jews are killed. 14 If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?Esther 14:13-14 (NLT)
Humbled, the queen sends word back to Mordecai. She would step into the arena, risk her life, and use her fear to fuel her faith.
Go and gather together all the Jews of Susa and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will do the same. And then, though it is against the law, I will go in to see the king. If I must die, I must die.”Esther 14:16 (NLT)
HOW TO CHOOSE COURAGE
Although the book of Esther tells a compelling story, full of drama, suspense, heroes, and villains, it also teaches deep and abiding spiritual truths about courage. Though God’s name or a direct reference to the divine does not appear in the entire story, nonetheless, God’s presence as the source of Esther’s strength and bravery is evident.
I created an acrostic using the word COURAGE to highlight some of the key lessons I learned about choosing courage over comfort from Esther’s story.
C- CONSIDER YOUR CRISIS AS A WAY TO FIND YOUR CALLING.
When you find yourself in a crisis like Esther did it is easy to crumble and choose the easiest and safest way out of the situation. But what if you looked at your crisis as Mordecai challenged Esther? Maybe God is putting you right where you are for a higher purpose and calling.
O- OWN WHO YOU ARE BY STAYING TRUE TO YOUR VALUES.
At first, Esther hid her Jewish ancestry from the king, but there came a point in time where she had to step up and own who she was and what she believed in order to help save her people. Courage is closely connected to integrity…living out what you say you believe no matter what the circumstances are.
U- USE YOUR FEAR TO FIND YOUR FAITH.
When Mordecai issues his challenge to Esther, she first refuses afraid of upsetting and king and possibly losing her life. Then she reaches out in faith to ask her people to pray and fast for her and with her. Her fear motivated her to go to source of her faith which gave her courage to take action.
R- RELY ON GOD’S STRENGTH AND THE STRENGTH OF OTHERS.
Esther knew she could not do this alone. She sought the support and help of her people to ask for God’s intervention before she approached the king. It is courageous to reach out and ask for help.
A- ACCEPT WISDOM FROM THE RIGHT SOURCES.
If Esther would have listened to the voices of fear and doubt inside her head or around her at the palace, she would have never been able to advocate for her people. When you choose courage you have to learn to listen to the voice of truth and ignore the lies of the enemy.
G- GET IN THE ARENA BY RISKING VULNERABILITY.
Esther put herself in the most vulnerable of positions by risking her very life to go before the king and plead for mercy for herself and the Jewish people. While our lives may not be at risk when we choose courage, we do have to step into the arena and risk rejection, ridicule, and even our reputation to do what God may be asking us to do.
E- EMBRACE GOD’S WILL FOR YOU WITHOUT GUILT, FEAR, OR SHAME.
Ultimately, Esther’s choice of courage over comfort was hers and hers alone. God uniquely positioned and gifted her to fulfill her part in the
I hope Esther’s story motivates you to move from comfort to courage on this Mindful Monday. If you have stories to share of your brave moments, I would love to hear about them in the comments below!