Strength + Courage
A few months into attending a new church in Oxford, Mississippi, and only several weeks into being a Sunday volunteer, I got a call from one of the pastors. Not really sure what to expect, but I definitely was NOT anticipating what he actually had to say.
“Sarah!” he exclaimed, “Great to talk to you! Wanted to call because I have a role I think you’d be perfect for!”.
“Okay...”, I thought — probably just a different type of beginner serving role.
JP: “I think you would be an excellent college girls' small group leader. What do you say?”
My Brain: "Uh….. you have the wrong number? College girls terrify me? No heckin’ way!"
My Mouth: “JP, I don’t think I am cool enough to lead a group of college girls.”
JP: “Well, no but you are ALMOST cool enough and that’s what makes you perfect for the job!”
Then, the Holy Spirit proceeded to speak words out of my mouth before I even had the chance to say no. “Sure, JP! Sounds great! I’d love to be a part of that”. The next step was to attend college GroupUp where I would randomly get paired with five or six college girls to lead for the coming semesters. Five? I could probably handle five.
God gave me ten.
Ten girls later… it was one of the best decisions I have ever hesitantly made. My heart melts as I think of those girls with loving fondness, and I look back at all I learned in that time with great affection. But... let me tell you, I was terrified.
I felt unequipped, unworthy, and vulnerable.
Hindsight — 20/20, right — there was nothing to be apprehensive about but at the moment I felt anxiety born out of three major thoughts:
I felt inadequate: I was fairly new in my faith walk, and I definitely didn't have all (or probably any) of the answers I assumed a leader should have.
I felt inauthentic: When I was an undergraduate, I was a hot mess. I was definitely not the person you wanted to be friends with and often the girl you’d be shaking your head at (or maybe wanting to shake something at), so leading a group of girls at this life stage seemed like taking up a role as the biggest hypocrite on the face of the planet. After all, how could I walk with them through their seasons when I had been so awful during that time in my life?
I felt exposed: This wasn’t just an “I don't want to be vulnerable” reflex but a professional one. These girls attended the university where I was employed and had the potential to spread intimate knowledge about me. A good small group shares honestly and a good leader shares her struggles and mistakes. This would be personal information I would want to be held with integrity and confidence.
Reflecting on it, I believe my “yes” brought blessing to those girls. I was definitely an imperfect leader but even if it was only a home-cooked meal once a week, I know they received something from our group. That blessing would not have happened if I had not faced my insecurities and lived up to God’s call to be “strong and courageous”.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. —Joshua 1:9
In thinking about Joshua, he must have been terrified. You know — when you watch a competition and one participant kills the challenge? Then the next competitor is at a disadvantage, thinking (and if they are witty, saying) “Well dang, how do I follow that?”. This had to be Joshua's experience! H-E-L-L-O... how do you follow MOSES?!
But, if Joshua had let his uncertainties get in the way, the entirety of Israel would not have received their blessing. Moses laid the groundwork, but it was because of Joshua’s leadership (and of course, God’s power) that the Israelites received their blessed Promise Land.
Seriously... leading ten girls in a college town was nothing like leading the twelve unruly tribes of Israel (in case you didn't realize that) but it was still terrifying. In Joshua 1:9 God encourages Joshua, “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.”
However, flip back to Deuteronomy 31: 7-8, and we see Moses encourages Joshua as well. Moses is the ultimate cheerleader! If I had to bet my last five dollars, I’m sure there is so much support given to Joshua because he was probably feeling terrified, inadequate, and maybe even unworthy.
"Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” Then Moses called Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and of good courage, for you must go with this people to the land which the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall cause them to inherit it. And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed." —Deut 31:6-8
This is the point I am trying to drive home — You can know a path or a next step is God’s will for you and still be terrified of it (no matter how big or small). Nonetheless, you are called to be strong and courageous. You CAN choose to be strong and courageous because God has already told you He’s got you. Do not lean on your own strength, knowledge, skills, or whatever makes you think "I've got this" but on the truth — God will never forsake you and He will go before you in the mission he has placed on your life (Deut 31:8). Think about who could be missing out on the blessing of God because you let your fears control the ground He is asking you to tread. Instead, stand firm under the sovereign guidance of God’s call and know He has already laid the groundwork of your mission. You can be strong and courageous because our God is our strength and courage.
Sarah Nobles is on the Hey Ladybirds! Team and Biological Scientist at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - yes, you can be a scientist and love Jesus! She lives in Decatur, GA with her husband and son where they love hiking, baking, and a good game of Catan.