How to Take Courage

MINDFULNESS, WINTER

I read a favorite Psalm this morning and noticed the familiar words: let your heart take courage. The imperative feels simple enough, as though courage lurks somewhere behind the bowls on the kitchen shelf. We only need to grab it. Yet perhaps on the tail of a volatile election or a year of living within a global pandemic, amid the age of cancel-culture, digital surveillance, shifting economies, violent winter weather, and blaring cultural questions about authority, truth, and justice, our hearts feel a little leary of grabbing anything at all. We begin our small endeavors with fresh gusto only to find them disrupted by something outside of us. In our weariness, we need these words more than ever. Courage, dear hearts. Let your hearts take courage.

Still, the more obvious question is how does one take hold of a heart that is lost? How do any of us strengthen a heart wearied by it all? Here are a few of my own.

Find time to be alone and strengthen yourself in God. | The ancient King David tucked away in a cave to strengthen himself in the Lord, and our bedroom closet or bathroom may serve us just as well. The early morning at the kitchen island works most consistently for me right now, but perhaps an evening, naptime, or lunch break works better for you. The point is to find the time daily. Read the Bible, read the stories and wisdom of saints, journal the thoughts rising in your heart, pray. Treat the time like a meal for your spirit, necessary whether we feel hungry or not.

Put down your phone. Connect with someone trustworthy in person. | If we are to recover the part of us that is most human, we must willingly put aside the parts of us that are not. The lines between our digital and real lives have never been more blurred, but a weary heart is a red flag for our need for uplifting human contact. There are so many lovely people, ideas, and encouragements on the internet that it seems the most obvious place to search for courage. Yet more often, when our hearts feel weary, we may find our social media to be more a source of comparison or a reminder of what we lack. Our discernment for what we actually need wanes and we may find ourselves sifting mindlessly through quite a bit distracted from our original purpose. I write this from experience. When you notice the nagging pain of a weary heart, set your phone down and seek an in-person connection with someone you know in “real” who will help build your heart again.

Go for a walk outside. | Lace up your shoes and open your door. Bring whomever along or don’t. When my children were little, I’d bundle them in a sling or a stroller a couple of times a day. We still walk now, sometimes to process things together, other times to recover our own hearts as we walk side by side. Leave behind your podcasts and playlists. Look up as you walk. Listen. What do you see? What do you hear? Learn again how to pay attention.

Light a candle. | A flickering flame is always an apt metaphor for the spirit. I light them anytime I write or read, especially in winter or in the dark. I light them when we eat or during our school mornings when hearts feel sleepy or sour. There is something intuitively restorative about a flame standing up against the world around it.

Look for what is good, beautiful, and true. | This was Saint Paul’s admonition, not mine, but I have experienced the wisdom of it across all the years of my adulthood. Our hearts grow tired sifting through the muck of life, whether our own or culturally. Turning your attention to Beauty, Goodness, and Truth shifts our perspective on how we see our life and the people in them. If you’re struggling with where to begin, make a list. Write down things you know are good, beautiful, or true. Look and listen for the three in your home, in your conversations, in your walks, or in your reading today. See where that leads you.

Be curious. | Curiosity can work wonders on a tired heart. What have you felt curious about lately? How might you look at life differently right where you are today with a quest toward discovery?

The world needs your strong heart more than ever, friend. Grace to all who are weary today.

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Comments

  1. This is beautiful and full of wisdom. Thank you for the encouragement.

  2. This right here!!! You’re words are so good, my friend. I agree with Leia, “a deep breath” indeed. Well done 💋

  3. Reading this felt like taking a deep breath. Thank you for your encouragement and prompts today Bethany!

  4. A well timed word for this weary hearted soul…thank you…the Holy Spirit used you to speak a breath of fresh air into my heart tonight.

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