Did you ever watch the movie ‘The Wizard of Oz?” Of all the various characters that we are introduced to throughout the film – I think that my favorite is ‘The Cowardly Lion.’ When we are first introduced to him, he is doing all he knows how to be the very best lion he can be; doing everything he can to play the role. He jumps around, roars at little Toto, and growls his fiercest growl. The problem is that it is all an act. One quick swat from Dorothy and he falls completely apart. He starts sobbing. He lowers his shoulders. He backs away from the others. He holds his tail and cries out pitifully. He is a hot mess! After regaining his composure, somewhat later however, he makes this grandiose speech – ‘Courage! What makes a King out of a slave? Courage! What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage! What makes the elephant charge his tusk, in the misty mist or the dusty dusk? What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage! What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder? Courage! What makes the dawn come up like thunder? Courage! What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the ‘ape’ in apricot? What have they got that I ain’t got? – Courage!’ Have you ever given your own version of that exact same speech? Have you ever played the part of ‘having it all together’, but deep inside knew you were nothing but afraid? It is not the best feeling, is it?
In December of 2019, the Lord impressed on me the word ‘unafraid’. It had come to me at the end of a very difficult year. In January of that year, my husband changed jobs. He had been commuting about an hour away (Monday – Friday) and now was working out of the house, traveling one week a month to Washington, D.C. Because of this job change we realized that the house we were living in (that already felt too small for our family of 6) was not going to provide an adequate work environment for him long term. We knew we would need to sell our house, but having lived in it for over twelve years, there was going to be much to do to get it ready. So we immediately set out to renovate our home (while we all still lived in it and while he now worked out of it. Oh my.) Along with our decision to make ready our house to sell, we had also made the decision that we would use the year to pay off some of our dumb debt and get ourselves in a financial position for me to step away from the toxic work environment that I was in. So for twelve months he learned a new job and our family a new rhythm around that job; we took our house through massive renovations; we sold our house without an inkling of where we would be moving; found a home within weeks of our move out date; and moved. All while I was preparing things where I worked to carry on without me so my leaving would not cause any issues for them – oh and did I mention we were training for a massive marathon weekend where in 4 days we would run 48.6 miles? Love a duck! So needless to say, when the Lord pressed ‘unafraid’ into my mind – it made complete sense to me. I knew that as the year turned over to 2020, it meant figuring out a new neighborhood and meeting new neighbors (I’m an introvert and the thought of that makes me sweat even now.) It meant preparing to step away from several decades of a life working in church ministry. It meant having to find a new church. It meant figuring out what the Lord had for me next. It meant a great many changes were in store – and I won’t lie – I wasn’t handling all of the impending changes well. To put it delicately – I was a hot mess. I had no clue what 2020 was really about to bring. I had no idea the level to which I, and everyone around me, would be taken under by a tidal wave of fear.
Over the course of 2020, I leaned in – hard – to finding out what God had to say about living life holding tight to Him, and not holding so tightly to the fears that seemed everywhere; what He had to say about living unafraid. In case you were curious, He has an extensive amount to say on the subject. Out of the 66 books that lie within the pages of the Bible, 60 of them speak directly to the subject. Each Biblical character that I read about, glanced over or knew of, all have struggles surrounding some form of fear. Every sin that I saw mentioned has roots that tie back to fear. It is a vicious animal, fear. It can sneak up when your back is turned. It can consume. It can devour. It can kill if we are not careful. To me, the visual that comes to mind is the most vicious of predators – the lion…sitting in the shadows waiting to pounce.
In actuality, this is something that the Lord intends for us to think of when we process the idea of fear. It is interesting to me the amount of times that lions are referred to in scripture. In Isaiah 31:4, the LORD references how a strong lion is not afraid. Proverbs 21:8 references their boldness. Isaiah 5:29 references their strength as a predator. They are used over 25 times as examples to help paint a picture of things we should expect, ways we should act and warnings of what to look for. Their strength is demonstrated countless times in a manner of something that should be feared and that can cause fear – in Judges 14:18, Sampson is even asked, ‘What is stronger than a lion?’ Each of these instances can be countered, however, with the truth that despite all of their strength the Lord can silence them and crush them. In the same way – fear can feel like something that wants to devour and destroy you but Lord gently reminds us that He stands ready to crush fear, silence it, defeat it – if we would but trust that He will.
Too many times to count, God asks for us to ‘take courage’, to ‘be courageous’. It is something we must chose. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, ‘for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.’ We can feel just like that cowardly lion mentioned above – convinced that this is who we are with fears that are too real, too consuming. Despite that – He still says ‘take courage’.
- “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
- “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” – Deuteronomy 31:6
- “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33
As the ‘Wizard of Oz’ draws to a close, we see each of the characters come before the wizard with their requests, their needs. In response the wizard gives the cowardly lion a medal of bravery. A symbol of the courage that is assuredly within him; a reminder that any time fear wants to sneak in, he can be courageous. We have been given a very similar gift to remind us of the courage that we too can have, Christ Jesus. The events around us will continue to swirl. Situations will overwhelm, life will continue to pull the rug from beneath you…taking courage, living unafraid isn’t holding to those moments…it’s holding to Christ and becoming strong in the Lord. If this concept seems unattainable – pray. Ask Him to help you to ‘take courage’ – to have the physical courage to to stand up for your beliefs or to weather life’s storms. To take courage that no matter what – He has not left you; He will not leave you. Instead of just playing the part – begin to truly seek Him, know Him, draw close to Him, believe Him and yes, stand strong in Him. He WILL carry you through. He WILL calm your heart. He WILL direct your next steps. He WILL remind you that you are loved. He WILL silence those fears. No longer do you have to say ‘what have they got that I ain’t got’ because you ‘got’ Him! Praying this with you my friend!