Courage is not the absence of fear- Truth vs. Feelings

It’s taken me a while to get around to writing a serious post! The last few weeks have been such a rollercoaster of excitement, exhaustion and seemingly-Everest sized mountains to climb over. (To put this into context for anyone who doesn’t know, I just moved to Berlin for an exchange year, as part of my university degree).

I’ve felt so many different emotions that it’s hard to keep up with myself. This seems like my first year of uni all over again- the same meeting dozens of people and asking them the same questions, the same wandering around uni looking lost, the same new-ness and nerves.

I believe new-ness is good. My second year was wonderful, but also relatively comfortable. One advantage of being a chronic over-thinker is that you end up knowing yourself pretty well, and I was sure it was time for a new situation. Yet good isn’t always easy. When all of your old life is stripped away (even for a temporary period), you have no safety net to fall back on. (But then, safety nets can also be spider’s webs in disguise, can’t they?).

I think big life changes have the power to make you re-evaluate not only yourself but everything your life was built around before.

Coming to grips with my feelings- understanding, accepting and working through them- has been a hard process. Feelings can be wondrous, and allowing yourself to feel, to be affected, is a necessary thing.

But feelings can also be dangerous.

Something I’m learning here is how vital it is to recognise when truth and emotions are distinct and separate. This is a complex idea to explain- surely a genuine, sincere emotion cannot be untrue?

But what if the root of that feeling has no solid foundation? How true is it then?

I often feel like a timid, shy person here- because I’m new, because my German is not very good, because I am by nature quiet and this quietness often comes across as timidity. I feel like my confidence spends most of the time hiding somewhere in the back of my soul, cowering under blankets and wishing all this new-ness and scariness would just go away. It is true that I feel like this, but this feeling is triggered by transitory experience. It does not mean that at the core of my being, I am this way. I am not defined by it.

This is the kind of philosophical musing that could be chewed over for hours, but here’s the basis for my reasoning:

I believe that Jesus really is the ‘way, the truth and the life’. Jesus is Truth. He is the ‘same, yesterday, today and forever’. He is concretely dependable; my circumstances can alter a thousand times but He never does.

If Jesus, the living embodiment of Truth, lives in me, then my identity is founded in utter security.  Through Him, I can refuse to allow feelings to deceive me and negatively affect my choices.

Joshua 1:9 says this:

‘Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.’

God doesn’t intend for us to live in fear, because it is so detrimental to our lives. In fact he commands his children to be courageous. But the fact is, sometimes we do get scared. This is human and I don’t believe for a moment that God wishes to condemn us for it. Instead I think this verse is an encouragement of the most wonderful kind.

Here’s a well-known saying by Nelson Mandela, and one that I like to keep in mind –

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

If courage is the triumph over fear, then simply learning to trust God despite our feelings will result in victory. Even victory over that fear itself.

With every feeling, positive or negative, long-term or transient, we have a choice. We don’t need to let negativity influence our decisions or the way we see ourselves. For every lie that the world seeks to tell you, God has words of truth, of life and hope, to replace it.

Choosing truth over feelings is a daily thing. It’s ‘taking every thought captive’, something a good friend used to talk about a lot. Every time I say yes to life and no to fear, I free up space in my life for God to work out his purposes (which are going to be so exciting!).

I just wanted to encourage you: you are amazing. You have the capacity for wonderful things and no amount of feeling otherwise can negate that truth. Don’t let fear hold you back.

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