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.1