I’m a risk-taker, always have been. I’m not afraid of heights, of travel, of new cultures and people, or dicey places more times than not. But with my heart? That’s another story.
When you grow up with emotional abuse or you’ve experienced it as an adult like I have, you become skilled at what professional folks like to call “dissociation” and/or “transference.” What that means is when faced with emotional or physical pain, you shut down emotionally and dissociate or disconnect from your thoughts and feelings; or, when you don’t want to accept responsibility for your actions, you transfer the blame someone else. Yeah. Not fun.
For me, spiritual bravery has been the single most important tool I’ve learned, alongside a deep connection with God, that has brought me freedom and healing from shutting down and emotionally retreating, or blame-shifting and refusing to deal with my own issues. With God, I have learned that:
While those tools were useful in the moment of trauma, they are destructive to a whole-hearted, healthy adult.
Broken, ineffective coping tools need to be thrown out of my repertoire.
Continuing to punish myself or others, or withdraw from others only hurts me in the end.
God has far more effective tools I can use to resolve conflict and hurt that will continually bring me into a greater place of healing, peace and joy.
God’s tools are the only ones I have found that allow me to forgive and be at peace with my enemies regardless of whether or not they’ve chosen to apologize or change.
So what is spiritual bravery? It’s being willing to be messy and vulnerable with God about what’s really going on in my heart and mind vs. convincing myself I feel or think something I don’t. It’s being willing to deal with my broken thinking and wrong choices, face my deep-rooted fears, and invite godly people into that process for wise counsel and outside perspective.
Spiritual bravery is also choosing to trust God will put my hurts to good use to help others. Of knowing that no one else has the power to make me bitter, broken and angry but me. It’s looking at who I am before the cross, remembering I am worth nothing and yet everything to the Lord. He loves me with every fiber of His being. Period. I am valued, treasured and loved. Despite my circumstances and my failings. Despite what my thoughts might try to tell me.
When my hubby calls me out on my behavior and I try to blame him for it, bravery is being willing to own that. It’s taking the time to figure out where the root of my reaction comes from so God can gently dig it out of my heart. Bravery means when someone talks to me in an angry tone, I forgo my go-to response of shutting down and wondering how long I have to listen and appease before I can make my escape. Instead, I pray. I express my feelings so they understand my perspective. I put a boundary in place if need be that says we won’t talk until you calm down. If it’s not heard, it means I respectfully leave.
Being willing to face my challenges head-on is a process and a journey. I would love to say I have arrived; I haven’t. But, like Paul, one thing I do: “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13). I’m on a journey toward heaven. It’s an arduous path, so God lavishes grace on me along the way for every misstep. Yet the closer I stay to my most amazing Father as I walk, the more direction, purpose and peace I find along the way. My rocky path becomes a highway (Proverbs 15:19). Not perfectly, but consistently. Don’t be afraid to be spiritually brave.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT Your challenges may be different than mine, or they may be similar. But one thing I do know—you have them. We all do. Negative thinking patterns, staying stuck in a victim mindset, throwing up walls of anger, self-importance and selfishness, pushing others away because we perceive ourselves as too hurt and broken are just some examples. God isn’t asking for perfection (thankfully!). He IS asking us to deal with our challenges, since that’s all we have control over, in order to experience greater joy and healing.
Where do your fears come from? What is the “why” behind them God is trying to show you? What is the root of your fear? Remember God’s word to you: “Fear not, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed. I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will uphold you with my victorious right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). Grab hold of His strength through scripture and prayer, daring to look within. You will emerge as a spiritually strong, battle-seasoned warrior who is wise and strong and free.
“Yes, be bold and strong! Banish fear and doubt! For remember, the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
PRAYER Papa, always you are good to me. You take every hurt, every heartache, every wrong choice and replace it with something rich and beautiful. You alone have the capability to truly heal me. I praise Your holy name! Thank You for lavishing your grace on my, offering me more than I could ever ask for or deserve. And thank You especially for taking the ugly things in my life and allowing me to use them for Your good purposes in the lives of those around me. How kind You are! How good! Thank you for the precious, sacred gift of getting to do life together. May I honor You with my actions. Amen.
To learn more about author & motivational speaker Barb Lownsbury or to have her speak at your next event, CLICK HERE.
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