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Column: Is the Absence of Fear Courage?

by Larry Carter, President of Great Lakes Christian College, Lansing, MI

Scott Peck, in his book, “Further Along The Road Less Traveled”. Makes an interesting observation, “One of the things that never cease to amaze me is how relatively few people understand what courage is. Most people think that courage is the absence of fear. The absence of fear is not courage; the absence of fear is some kind of brain damage.”

“Courage is the capacity to go ahead in spite of the fear, or in spite of the pain. When you do that, you will find that overcoming that fear will not only make you stronger but will be a big step toward maturity. Just what is maturity? It seems to me what characterizes most immature people is that they sit around complaining that life doesn’t meet their demands. But what characterizes those relatively few who are fully mature is that they regard it as their responsibility – even as an opportunity – to meet life’s demands.”

If Peck is right then Joseph is one of the most courageous, most mature men to have graced this planet. If courage is the capacity to go ahead in spite of fear and pain – if maturity is regarding it as their responsibility even as an opportunity to meet life’s demands – then we need not look much further than Joseph. As a son, slave, prisoner, and prime minister he had the courage and maturity to meet the challenge of each moment. Because he refused to give up despite the pain of abandonment and abuse – because he always endeavored to do his best no matter the situation – Joseph found himself in a place where God could use him in a dramatic way.

I believe many of us have not learned the lessons Joseph learned. And since we haven’t, God still has us in school learning the lessons of courage and maturity. What is the lesson? David put it succinctly in Psalm 27:14 – “Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.” Whatever capacity we have to be strong and courageous must be sandwiched between the twin injunctions, “wait for the Lord.”

Waiting on God is one of the hardest things we ever have to do. But waiting on Him for our cue for our part to play in God’s great drama is a must if we are to be effective in living a life of significance.

John Gardner writes, “All excellence involves discipline and tenacity of purpose.” To that I would add, “and the capacity to wait on God.” Because it is His timing that enables us to be the right person at the right place and at the right time. It allows us to live a life of courage – just like Joseph.

Larry Carter, President of Great Lakes Christian College, Lansing, MI
www.glcc.edu

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