A dear friend of mine gave me a framed photo this weekend that had this quote:
“Courage is the decision to place your dreams above your fears.” -Unknown
I can’t stop thinking about it. Maybe it’s because I am about to embark on an adventure (See Beginnings of an African Adventure) that is both dream-fulfilling and somewhat terrifying. Or maybe it’s because I have been pondering a lot lately on the idea of trusting in God versus trusting in oneself–and somehow the battle of courage versus fear seems to mix well into my ponderings.
It’s difficult for me to think about courage without also thinking about the God in whom I find my strength. I believe that fear always comes from the devil and never from God–same with discouragement, inadequacy, and many other feelings that keep us from living our dreams. God sends peace, hope, strength, and yes, courage. But yet that unsettled feeling we sometimes get can be God telling us–warning us–not to make certain decisions. So where do we draw the line? How do we know that it’s fear coming from Satan instead of a warning from God?
There’s a passage in the Book of Mormon that I absolutely love (well, there are a lot of passages that I love, but this particular one is relevant here :)). It’s found in Moroni 7:12-13. This is the prophet Mormon, speaking to his people. He says, “Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually. But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.” The chapter continues on to discuss the Spirit of Christ which is given to all of us to judge good from evil (what many would describe as a “conscience”).
There’s the answer. If we are doing something good, and we feel fear about it, that is the devil trying to influence us–to stop us–from serving God and our fellowmen. We should press forward, trusting in God, working to do His will, and spreading goodness and light. Hopefully those dreams we’re pursuing will positively impact the world.
Here’s where the trust in God vs. trust in oneself discussion comes in. In Proverbs 3:5-6, it says, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” I think sometimes we say we trust in God, and then we struggle with feelings of personal inadequacy–as if somehow believing in the greatness and power of deity lessens our own worth or our own abilities. I think it’s actually the opposite. I am a daughter of God. As such, I have been blessed with sense, good judgment, talents, intelligence, and many other blessings. The Lord expects us to use the judgment He has given us to make our own decisions. He never intended to make our decisions for us–guide us, help us, warn us, yes–but not dictate our every move.
One more thought on this, which comes from a discourse Moses gave to the children of Israel. Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “Be strong and of good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” When we are doing His will, we have no reason to fear.
I would define courage, then, as the ability to choose a good path, trust in God to guide you on that path, and fight against the devil’s disabling fear in order to accomplish your dreams.
But then again, maybe that’s a little too long for a quote on a framed photo.