Tips  on spiritual growth, emotional health, and relational healing.


A Year of Courage: Living Beyond Your Imagination

Jan 9, 2018

What’s your favorite app on your smart phone?

Like many of you, I use a lot of apps on a daily basis, including Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Evernote.

Another one is the Bible App.

2018 year of courage


The Bible App by YouVersion is the most popular Bible app on the smartphone market. Launched in 2007, this app once topped the Apple App store and continually remains in the Top 100 Free Apps.

In 2017, the Bible App crossed 300 million downloads. In a Christianity Today article, YouVersion shared data on the top verses users highlighted and shared in 2017.

The most highlighted and shared verse in 2017 was Joshua 1:9. In the New International Version, this verse reads,

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


A Year of Anxiety and Fear

When I think about what happened in 2017, the popularity and relevance of this verse makes sense

This is just a short list of traumatic events in 2o17.

The mass shooting in Las Vegas and the one at the church near San Antonio. The massive fires in California and Idaho. The missile tests in North Korea and unrest in the Middle East. The march with torches like Charlottesville and the racial tensions many of us have seen. The hurricanes which struck Houston, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. The bombing in Somalia and mosque attack in Egypt. The earthquakes in Mexico and Iraq. Countless individuals of influence who lost their jobs due to sexual harassment and assault. Much more were reminded of their own experiences of trauma and abuse. And the political dysfunction rippled across our country.

In a recent article, I called 2017 “the year of fear”. Two years later, I noticed Apple News termed 2017 “the year of anxiety.”

Apple News 2017 The Year in Anxiety 2018 The Year of Courage

Millions of people were looking for strength and courage last year, amidst fear, dismay, and anxiety. They wanted to know God would be present with them amidst these crises and challenges, hence the popularity of Joshua 1:9


A Word for 2018

Several years ago, I stumbled on the trend of picking a word for the year to come. I participated in this challenge for several years, even writing about my word each year at a site where I blogged previously.

It’s been some time since I took part in this challenge, but it feels like a good time to renew this discipline.

[If you haven’t ever tried this discipline, I would strongly recommend it. To learn more, I’d encourage you to visit this page. I’m going to walk you through how I chose mine below and I hope it gives you direction in choosing your own.]

When I first sat down to think of a word, I was tempted to call 2018 “the year of hope.” I spent the fall of 2017 teaching through the life of Joshua, including the top verse for YouVersion’s app. I used a concept where I contrast the difference between choosing fear and choosing hope.

And as you saw at the top of this article, I consider myself a voice of hope. This word just made sense.

But as I sat on that word (“hope”), it seemed insufficient.


A Process for Choosing One Word

I went began working through Michael Hyatt’s Best Year Ever content over the holidays and it’s phenomenal. (If you’re a reader or you listen to audio books, I highly recommend Michael’s new book, Your Best Year Ever. It’s incredible!)

As I set my 9 goals for 2018, I found a common theme in them. I noticed my sense of nervousness with some of these ambitions. Pursuing and achieving these goals would take me beyond what I had done in previous years. I would be required to step into my discomfort zone and get well acquainted with feeling nervous, even afraid.

Instead of picking a word which contrasted to last year, I was looking for a word which would summarize my pursuit of what was truly important in this new year.

Looking over this list of goals, the word which kept coming to mind was no longer hope; it was now courage.

I love how Brené Brown talks about the roots of the word courage. In one of her best-selling books, she writes, “Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor – the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” Over time, this definition has changed, and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But in my opinion, this definition fails to recognize the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences — good and bad. Speaking from our hearts is what I think of as ordinary courage.”


The Courageous Moments of Other People Around Me

Now, courage is rooted in hope. I don’t think one can act courageously if they lack hope. But, hope is the perspective and attitude; courage is the action. And I don’t just want to have the right perspective, I want to take the right actions.

So, I began reviewing the content of the series I taught on courage. I started writing 500 words a day about courage.

And I went on Facebook, inviting other people to share their courageous moments. I posted a question last weekend, “What was your most courageous action in 2017?” And wow! The comments I received blew me away. Here are some of them below.

-Stood in front of total strangers to tell my story and got baptized
-Took a big leap in faith by taking a big cut in pay and accepting another job which allows me more time to start my new non-profit organization.
-Moved to a new city to start law school!
-Met my vows, promises, responsibilities, commitments, and obligations as a husband and father.
-Acknowledge and faced my depression and sought counseling.
-Quit my full-time job.
-Became a mom
-Gave thanks to the Lord when I was in incredible pain and near death.
– Completed all of my core and advanced addiction classes in counseling
-Rappelled 27 stories down Cityscape for Special Olympics
-Faced my fear of flying
-Walked with my parents through the illness and passing of my older brother.
-Held hands with my mom as she got her pancreatic cancer diagnosis.
-Volunteered to take on a juvenile case load along with a Justice court. I hate change.
-I picked up my electric guitar for practically the first time in 27 years and started playing in a worship band.
-Worked with Jesus to defeat cancer a second time.
-When I didn’t “feel” like it, God gave me the power to choose love.

I’m sure more have been added since I completed this post.

I have collected well over 1,000 Facebook friends since I joined while in college. And I had no idea the challenges many of my Facebook friends faced last year.

Courage mural 2018 the year of courage

Everyone is Fighting a Great Battle

This comment thread reminded me of the introduction I gave at my church’s Christmas Eve service. I shared the story of John Watson (not the one from Sherlock Holmes). Watson, a Scotish theologian and writer, received a letter in the fall of 1897 inviting him to contribute an article for British Weekly’s Christmas issue. Watson sat down and returned one sentence, words which have been attributed to Socrates, Plato, and many others over the years.

Watson wrote, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” The newspaper received his letter and printed his words with the following post-script. “No message is more needed in our day of stress and storm, of selfish striving and merciless competition.”

These words were written 120 years ago, but they seem to be just as appropriate and relevant today.

Many of us are facing a hard battle. We fought the battle in 2017 and we continue in 2018. We’ve encountered fear and it’s made us anxious and afraid. Some of us have questioned, doubted or lost our hope. We’ve considered or even flirted with cynicism. We have options in front of us – choosing fear or choosing hope.

Becoming courageous and living with hope seems terrifying as if we’re just opening ourselves up to further hope and disappointment. Hope seems naive and courage seems foolish.

Yet, here’s something to remember. We won’t do anything worth remembering or talking about without those two words. Unless we believe the future can be different from the past (hope), we’ll just run on a hamster wheel and keep doing the same old things.

Unless we choose to become comfortable with being uncomfortable, we’ll never step into the things God created us to do.


There’s a Story to Be Told

This is the point where I wish we were sitting over coffee with one another, where you could jump in and tell me about your battle and your courageous next steps. Use the comments below if you want to share with me!

But in the absence of that, I’m gonna make some guesses.

I think you’ve either been in a great battle or you’re on the edge of one. You’re likely becoming well-acquainted with fear, anxiety, anger, disappointment and maybe even disillusionment. Maybe you have a word which has come to mind as you’ve read this post. But you’re afraid to embrace it because it means you’ll have to step into the battle wholeheartedly this year.

If that’s true, I have some parting words for you today.

In 2017, I listened to a podcast where Jason Jaggard was interviewed. I first met Jaggard when he was on staff with Mosaic, a church in Los Angeles known for being an incubator for creativity and experimentation. He went on to become a successful consultant and coach in the business and non-profit worlds. I had hoped to connect with Jaggard again at the STORY conference in Nashville in the fall of 2017 but that didn’t work out.

In the days leading up to their 2017 event, STORY released Jaggard’s talk from their 2016 event as a podcast episode and it was incredible. Jaggard closed out his talk with a story involving his father. In reflecting on a miraculous transformation in their relationship, Jaggard spoke the following words, which I listened to over and over again as I tried to both capture them on my phone and process them in my soul.

These words are still rattling around in my heart and soul.


“There are things meant for you that are currently beyond your imagination.

And if you would have the courage to look foolish,

if you would have the courage to suffer,

if you would have the courage to let go of the judgments we think about ourselves and other people,

I wonder what could happen.

Maybe you are more powerful than you think.

Maybe you are more talented than you realize.

Maybe there is something for you…

A story to be told.”

-Jason Jaggard, STORY 2016


I don’t have a series of action items at the end of this article because I’m not exactly sure what your next steps are. But I’d encourage you to copy and paste Jason’s quote. I’ve even created a quote image you can download here. You could make it the background of your phone or hang it up in your office or home.

I believe 2017 is a story to be told. A story of courage. I resolve to live in that direction.

And if you follow this blog, I’ll keep you updated on that journey. If you’ve picked a word or are embracing courage as your word too, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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