In the 2000 movie Bounce, Ben Affleck tries to encourage Gwyneth Paltrow, who is struggling to face life as a new widow with two small children. She tells him how scared she is to move forward in her life. Ben answers her fears with one of my favorite lines: “It isn’t brave unless you’re afraid.”
Unless you’re a person who struggles mightily with fear, you may not grasp the magnitude of this statement. For me, this line unlocked a new reality: bravery doesn’t mean accomplishing feats without feeling afraid. Real courage is performing challenging feats in spite of our fear.
I have spent the majority of my life thinking I was a coward because I am afraid of so many things. I fear my children dying horrific deaths. I fear speaking in public and would rather die than sing karaoke. I fear losing my job. I fear cancer. I fear losing my husband. I fear breaking my leg skiing. I fear snakes. I fear disappointing God. My ultimate fear: that I will prove to be a complete coward if I am called upon to rescue another human being and cannot rise to the challenge. I fear I will choose to rescue myself instead.
How can we find courage to face the world, trusting in God’s wings of protection, when all around us prayers go unanswered and bad things still happen? Psalm 91 paints a vivid picture of this tension. It also provides God’s best answer for our fear: “I will protect those who trust in my name.” By bathing my mind in the reality that God is faithful no matter what life circumstances come my way, I find courage to face everything that makes me afraid.
Sherry Surratt, CEO of MOPS International and author of the forthcoming book BraveMom, knows what I’m talking about. In her article, “What Does Your Brave Look Like?” Sherry admits to being less than courageous—like me. Being a mom takes more courage than anything else I’ve ever been required to do in my life. And most of the courage that’s required of us is to trust that God is good, and that he has our children’s best interests at heart.
Amy Simpson, a beloved colleague and contributor to TCW, is one of the most courageous women I know. After years of living under the specter of her mother’s schizophrenia, Amy courageously wrote about her experience of growing up with a mom who struggled with profound mental illness in her book, Troubled Minds. In choosing to courageously expose her family’s heartache and struggle, Amy has given a gift to the church in understanding how to minister to people with mental illness. In “Want to Live Fearlessly?” Amy offers another gift—the benefits of a life coach. If you’ve ever wondered how to get better at doing life, be sure to read her piece.
Annie Downs rights a beautiful story of her quest to face down her fears about her weight. In “Exercising Bravery,” she talks about how discipline helps us be our best version of ourselves—it’s practice that makes us brave. This is sweet relief to me who has always feared that courage is something that’s only called upon out of the blue. In fact, we’re called to be brave every day in the choices we make, both big and small.
Speaking of brave, I recently made a courageous choice. I decided to leave my post as editor of Today’s Christian Woman, a job I love and hoped for my whole life. In a wonderful display of God’s great provision, I was offered a job at another company—a place where I can continue to tell stories of God’s faithfulness in and through his people, the church. Although it is hard—and scary—to say goodbye to you, our readers, and my friends at Christianity Today, our parent company, I know that God has opened a new door for me to walk through boldly.
So with this editor’s note, I’ll say farewell. It has been my great privilege to serve as your weekly guide through each issue of Today’sChristian Woman. As I step aside, please allow me to introduce you to Kelli Trujillo, your new editor for Today’s Christian Woman. Kelli will be familiar to many of you. She’s been a long-time friend of Christianity Today, contributing for years as an editor and writer to many of this ministry’s publications, including as a regular contributor and managing editor of Today’s Christian Woman resources.
Kelli’s been a work-from-home mom for years, and she’s following God faithfully in accepting this new role as editor of Today’sChristian Woman. Please welcome her as she, too, walks bravely into a new chapter in her life.
One of my favorite poems about courage is by Mark Twain. He writes:
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails.
When my husband and I moved onto a boat with our kids nearly a decade ago, these verses had special meaning. Before embarking on our yearlong adventure at sea, our kids would taunt my husband Dan and me, taking bets on whether we’d ever actually leave the dock. Each day we’d monitor the weather to see if it was safe to leave port. But every day the fog would roll in, thwarting our plans once again. We were tied up in the marina for weeks. Finally, the fog cleared and the weather held. We threw off the bowlines and sailed away from that safe harbor.
Up to that point in my life, leaving the dock was the scariest thing I had ever done. Our hope is that the articles in this issue will help you leave whatever dock you’re tied up to. What’s holding you back from living life to the full? Throw off the bowlines! Explore. Dream. Discover.
Marian V. Liautaud