At the end of 2015, I thought about the word I wanted to mark my 2016. I wanted a word for the year to lay claim to throughout and to refer back to on the discouraging days. And although that word was in clearly in front of me as 2016 approached, this is the first time I've announced it.
Uncertainties marched into 2015 with us, so my word for last year was able. I clung to the truths found in Ephesians 3:20-21, "Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen."
We needed provision in every way--a job, a home, a church, friends, a car, furniture, community. All I could do, all we could do, was trust in the God who is able. We didn't know how He would provide, but we knew He would. And He did. In some ways it wasn't what we necessarily prayed for or wanted, but His provision is so good. I'll always look back to that year as a marker of my God who is able.
So as 2016 approached, I wanted to lay claim to it. As we thought about our photography business and my writing career and making friends and building community, the word that kept coming to mind was courage.
Certain passages and the truths in them consistently replayed in my mind as I looked to 2016.
Deuteronomy 31:6 "Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”
Joshua 1:9 "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Psalm 31:24 "Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!"
Courage. I need the constant reminder to have courage. The word for courage in these passages is the Hebrew word 'amats. It means to be strong, alert, courageous, brave, stout, bold, solid, hard.
I cringe when people take Scripture out of context. So please don't think I am just picking random Old Testament passages and saying the circumstances are the same and the results will be the same. The principles found in them, though, are consistent throughout Scripture and are still very true for the believer. God calls us to live boldly for Him and has promised to always be with us.
I can be courageous not because of who I am, but because of who He is and what He promises. I can be courageous because His strength is made known in my weakness. I can be courageous because the God who calls me will equip me. I can be courageous and strong and bold and brave because He is with me.
Little did I know I would need to cling to that call to courage more than I expected this year. We found out we were pregnant as the New Year rang. And although it was a much more joyous occasion than the first time, I knew anxiety would quickly and continually sweep in. Pregnancy and birth and postpartum were all so hard with Katherine. Pregnancy takes a toll on me physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It's hard for me to admit that, because it makes me feel weak and less than. But it's a very real struggle for me. So thinking about facing it all again can quickly make my mind and heart anxious. I never want to complain, especially in light of the struggles of others. I do know I have to admit my own struggles though, because otherwise I struggle in silence. And struggling in silence only enables more struggle. Claiming this year for courage was so needed and definitely continues to be.
When I thought I was claiming this year for courage in being vulnerable to make friendships and build community, proactively chasing dreams, and praying bold prayers, I was actually claiming it for so much more. It wasn't just for new friendships and new opportunities but also for new life. And in it all, fear and anxiety, worry and insecurities try to take over.
I'm reminded the call to courage isn't an absence of fear, but it is choosing to press on despite fear. It is not letting fear keep me from living. It is seeing the fear and hearing the insecurities and then choosing to persevere in the calling anyway. The fears are acknowledged, but the calling is pursued. Courage doesn't always look adventurous or glamorous or even miraculous; it is often masked in the everyday routine. And courage looks different for each of us. Our stories and seasons are all different, but choosing courage in our unique paths honors the Lord. And when we choose courage instead of fear, laziness, or insecurity, we can rest and rejoice in the promise of God's presence.
As I continue on in my year of courage, I look forward to seeing what God has in store. Just as last year is significantly marked, I know this year will be too. And it will testify to God's goodness and faithfulness. It will testify God works things out for my good and His glory. It will testify God is with me.
Sarah loves Jesus and her family and is passionate about addressing the urgent spiritual and physical needs around the world. She is the wife of Spencer and mama of Katherine and Claire, and they live in Nashville, TN. She runs a photography business with her husband and writes in order to offer encouragement and invite others to choose grace, joy, and gratitude in the adventure and the mundane. She loves traveling and reading; she will choose unsweet tea over sweet and bootcut jeans over skinny; and she is all sorts of awkward with small talk but thrives with deep conversations.