The following post was written as one of the daily devotions in my second manuscript. Many of you may already know the story of that defining moment in my life. Do not let that deter you from reading on, to be inspired by God’s Word as interpreted in this post. Read and Be Blessed.
“ Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”
Joshua 1: 9
On the twenty ninth January, 2013, I received gunshot wounds to my face, chest and shoulder. The wounds were life-threatening.
My face had been shattered. Blood gushed from my chin, warm, fresh and cloying. The tranquility of the night exploded into panic, chaos and turbulence. Glass fragments were scattered everywhere; some were embedded along my upper left arm and my face.
Fear produced an acrid taste in my mouth. Resounding gunshots resonated loudly in the stillness of the night, rivalled only by the screeching of the car tyres as the driver of my car made a getaway.
We sped off along the familiar streets, which somehow appeared eerie on that night. My friend, the driver, asked in horrified disbelief, if I was sure I had been shot. I do not remember how I was able to speak. I do remember telling him to look at the blood pouring forth from my chin, in a never-ending flow. He started to scream out.
Strangely I remained quiet. Many thoughts filled my mind. I was aware of being scared to touch my face and scared to move my mouth. For a moment I thought about the destruction of my face and if I would be able to deal with it.
Just as quickly as all fears and doubts clouded my conscious mind, so too they were removed and my mind was refocused on remaining calm. I knew that too much movement would precipitate too much blood loss.
I knew my life depended on staying as still as possible. I also knew that in that stillness I had to turn to God.
As I have repeatedly mentioned in my first book, From Lion to Lamb, my comfort and strength came from the scripture, John 3:16:
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”
How do you think you would have coped in the face of such calamity?
Many persons have since commented on my strength and courage. I accept the compliment at the same time reminding them that my strength and courage were never inherently mine: they were granted to me by the grace of God.
What do we mean when we refer to strength and courage? What situations require extraordinary strength and courage and what can we do to develop such qualities?
Strength is regarded as the ability to stand firmly either physically, mentally or morally. It could also be linked to emotional staying power and stability. It is considered to be an inherent quality of a person.
Someone is either strong or weak by other’s perceptions in relation to themselves. If someone loudly and openly makes their opinion on a topic known, they are regarded as strong.
On the other hand, someone may quietly state their position and remain fixed on that idea. Such a person may still be strong. Quiet but strong. Alternatively, someone who is secure in their value and worth, may listen to other ideas, and issue a new opinion as a result. This is not a weak person but a mentally strong individual.
The manifestation of strength by someone in the face of fear or a dire situation requires courage. Courage and strength are interchangeable, used as synonyms of each other.
However, being able to lift a heavy object may require physical strength but it does not require courage if the object is safely located in your home or a church for example.
If the object is in a room of a house which has been caught on fire, then attempting to lift it from that room requires both strength and courage. Some may argue that it requires only physical and mental strength; others may deem the person crazy to attempt to run into a blazing building!
So strength may encompass courage but courage does not necessarily mean strength. Different situations require us to display strength and/or courage.
As just discussed, sometimes all that is needed is the muscular strength. This strength is needed in physical situations which pose no threat; when a threat is involved, then physical strength and courage are needed.
Perspicacious activity requires mental strength and perseverance. For example pursuing a medical or engineering degree requires and develops mental strength; perseverance when a loved one has just passed away or become seriously ill will call for both strength and courage to face each day.
Such situations also highlight emotional and spiritual strength. In crisis times sadness and grief could become overwhelming and threaten to engulf your being. Keeping your focus on daily activities and responsibilities during such times calls for emotional strength: harnessing negative emotions using positivity.
The underpinning force behind strength and courage in seemingly impossible situations is spirituality.
The highway of life is interspersed with smooth road and bumpy areas. Coasting along the smooth roads makes it easy to slip into indifference about accountability to a Higher Authority.
It takes spiritual strength to maintain values and virtues and to acknowledge that there is more to life than having a good time.
Having to slow down for road bumps, potholes and obstacles, in times of abject fear, wanton destruction, and life-threatening conditions, causes some persons to lose hope and submit to defeat; other persons stoically persevere holding onto something which grants hope and optimism. That “something” is spiritual courage.
In Joshua 1:6-9, the words “be strong and of good courage” are repeated three times. There are numerous other references in Deuteronomy and the Psalms as well as others.
How do we develop the strength and courage that was given as a mandate to Joshua? Fortunately God provides the tools necessary for all His directives. In Joshua 1 He furnishes guidelines by which we can develop those qualities needed to persevere and to withstand danger, fear or difficulty.
When Joshua was called by God to complete the journey to the promised land that was started by Moses, God first gave him this reassurance found in Joshua 1:5: “as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”
God told Joshua that no man would be able to oppose them successfully. We also have that reassurance. Whatever may be your predicament, you can have the comfort to face it confidently knowing that God will always be with you.
Your obligation is to follow His commands and always keep praying and giving thanks.
Against the backdrop of God’s promise to never leave, Joshua was directed to keep focused, never turning from God’s laws, neither to the left nor to the right.
Another guideline to developing strength and courage for all of us is to resist the temptation of people, situations or things which could result in straying from God’s laws. Instead we are to follow His commands like a beacon guiding us to eternity with Him.
We can only follow His laws if we know what they are. We can only know His laws if we do as He directed Joshua to do in the book of Joshua 1:8. In this verse Joshua is directed to meditate day and night on the word of God. In so doing Joshua will be able to internalize scripture which would reveal God’s precepts.
Developing strength and courage to face whatever obstacles may arise in our lives requires that we read and study scripture at every opportunity so as to store His word deep within our hearts.
Finally Joshua was told that if he follows what God instructs him to do, he will be rewarded with the inheritance of the Promised Land to divide amongst the people. This is encouragement for us to stay the course, stand on His word and submit to God’s will: fulfilling His requirements has an eternal reward. Attaining that divine goal requires staying power or strength and courage which can only come by following His guidelines.
Life is full of temptations. Carnal thoughts, deeds, things and people abound; it is easy to choose the carnal over the spiritual. God has provided for the insufficiency of human strength through guidelines. Following these guidelines makes us strong and of a good courage to be victorious in any situation.
Be strong and of a good courage,
when temptation and strife flourish.
Recall God’s faithfulness to Joshua,
And know that He will be with you forever.
I can tell you that today as I write this conclusion I am outraged. The murder statistics in my tiny “paradise” island of Trinidad are rising alarmingly. Cowards are toting weapons in every area of my country.
Strength and courage to me is not some muscular (or not) felon carrying a massive tool of destruction, believing that the bigger it is, the braver he or she is.
True strength is being able to control negative feelings of hatred, anger, malice, envy, avarice and intolerance of any kind.
True strength and courage to me is epitomized in someone who can face the depths of despair and hold on, in desperation, to respect for life, the values of forgiveness, humility, compassion, love for others and peace.
True strength and courage is an autistic young lady who inspired all around her by her apparent joie de vivre, who always had a smile to share despite her situation…
Tell me please, what does strength and courage mean to you?