“Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!” Psalm 31:24 (ESV).
What does it mean to “let your heart take courage”? It means letting go of what you think you can or can’t do (or what others have told you you can or can’t do), who you were and maybe even who you are afraid to be and allowing your heart—your true self—to become courageous and strong. To take courage to fully trust God for the future and for providing what you need going forward.
I confess there have been numerous times in my life when this has been difficult to do. When things are out of sorts or just plain painful, it’s a real challenge to take heart. Even though the LORD has time and time again provided answers or orchestrated things so that life-pain is eased or even alleviated, I’ve too often been fearful, sad or even mad rather than strong and courageous.
The Bible often mentions our hearts. It refers to the innermost part of who we are. Our soul, our self, our makeup. Our hearts have been challenged way beyond normal over the past year and a half. We’re now emerging out of the COVID-19 dominated way of living and are perhaps, just perhaps, entering into a time of restoration. What (or who) we depend on for providing us with true rejuvenation is the question we must face. Are we simply renewed because restrictions are lifted? Are we revitalized because we can now go places and do things we missed doing? Or are we renewed (made strong) because we have waited upon the Lord and our hearts have become stronger in him? He has seen us through. He provided a way. He lifted us up time and time again.
If COVID-19 hasn’t resulted in life-long lessons about trusting God and taking courage in him, then we have missed a critical opportunity for deep spiritual growth. As believers, we should be releasing from the cocoon of this pandemic with new vitality founded upon knowing that God has lovingly brought us through one of the most dynamically painful times in world history. But true renewal will ultimately come through wholly realizing that we need Jesus to refresh our souls. We need to allow him to restore heartfelt courage.
I recently spent a couple of days in a prayer retreat. It was a good time to simply be with Jesus so that he could speak into my soul. It was a time of being in his Word and letting those verses sink in. But it wasn’t enough, I need even more of that. My wife, Janna, is studying Elijah’s walk with God through a Priscilla Shirer book. Janna’s spending hours each week allowing the Lord to enrich her faith through these lessons. As the promo for the curriculum says, to “journey through the life and times of the prophet Elijah to discover how the fire on Mount Carmel was forged in the valley of famine. And how the emboldened, fiery faith you desire is being fashioned by God in your life right now.”
Emboldened. Fiery. Faith. Fashioned. We as God’s people need this. We need this now! Now is the time for rekindled fiery faith—hearts that have taken courage. The world needs us to have this kind of faith. It’s this kind of faith that does whatever it takes to bring the message of salvation and redemption to the broken, faithless, godless, strife-filled planet in which we live. The lull, the drudgery of COVID-19 is ending. The time for passionate spiritual warfare on behalf of the many who are currently being lost in the battle is now. By means of those whose hearts are strong and courageous.
Don Morris is the USMB national director. He and his wife, Janna, live in Edmond, Oklahoma, where they attend Cross Timbers Church.