By Dannah Gresh, Founder of True Girl
Who's the most courageous person you know? Got a name? What is it about them that makes them so courageous?
Defining courage can be complicated, but we’ve got to clarify what it means. Or we’ll never be able to plant this quality into our sons and daughters.
My daughter, Autumn, is the bravest person I know.
She lived in China and spoke only mandarin when we met her and adopted her at the age of nearly 14. Yes, she became a part of our family when she was a teenager! That’s kind of unusual, right?
Before we could bring her home, she had to stand ALONE before a judge in a Chinese court of law and declare that she wanted to be adopted. Then she had to get onto an airplane, which she had never been on. She was with people who could not speak her language—her new family. And she was flying away from everyone and everything she had ever known.
Though I could not speak her language, I knew she was afraid. Her tummy was very upset. As a tummy processor myself, I understood. But other than her stomach’s betrayal, my brave daughter came into my home and my heart courageously.
So what is courage? Is it the absence of fear? Thankfully no! My Autumn got from China to the United States afraid and courageous. And I’ve told friends before, I live afraid. But I try to be courageous.
One of the greatest fears I’ve ever had to overcome was my fear of speaking in front of a live audience. God seemed to call me to speak publicly after I wrote my first book, in spite of the fact that I’d told friends I would never do that. The invitations kept coming. I didn’t want to say yes, but I was called to share a testimony of God’s work in my life—and it seemed, He wanted me to use not just pen and paper but also my voice. So I’ve learned to courageously address an audience. Afraid.
I try to live courageously because God tells us through His Word over and over again to be courageous. The Old Testament contains challenges in Joshua and Deuteronomy to “be strong and courageous.” And again, the admonition shows up in the New Testament.
Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong.
I Corinthians 16:13
Here’s a how I define courage in my new Bible study for tween girls:
Courage is doing the next right thing even when it’s hard and you are afraid.
Life Lesson #2 from Miriam: Do the next right thing.
You’ve probably heard me say that a time or two. “Do the next right thing” is a big phrase in our ministry offices. It’s the key verse behind our Born to Be Brave ministry that helps fathers and sons confront the emasculation mentality our culture throws at them. We try to teach them courage while culture tells them not to be too strong…or too much…or too powerful…and while the media feeds them this lie that courage is what astronauts, NFL football players, and great historical figures somehow possess.
But courage actually isn’t that complicated.
When we first meet Miriam on the pages of Scripture, she was babysitting. Think about that. For a girl her age, that was a pretty mundane and normal activity. Except, the baby who was later named Moses, was at great risk! Any old Egyptian who found him was legally allowed to toss him into the Nile River and drown him.
So, his mom built a basket to hide him. But for some reason, she couldn’t stay to watch the baby nap. Big sis Miriam—who remember was probably no older than 12— stuck around! And here’s where we start to see courage.
First, let’s remember that Miriam “stood at a distance” when she watched baby Moses. Perhaps this was so she would not attract attention to the spot where her brother was. Or, could it have been that she was a little afraid? That’s not hard to believe. So, this courageous girl was not lacking fear. She was just doing the next right thing even though it was hard and even though she was afraid.
And then came more opportunity to choose either fear or courage.
Now the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her young women walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her servant woman, and she took it. When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby was crying. She took pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews' children.” Then his sister said to Pharaoh's daughter, “Shall I go and call you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” And Pharaoh's daughter said to her, “Go.” So the girl went and called the child's mother.
Miriam is as cool as a cucumber, especially for a tween girl. She is the liaison between a brave, faith-fueled birth mother—who as far as we know was never found out—and an adoptive mother who had the power to keep that baby boy alive!
Ok, so I’m thinking back to my twelve year old self. I for sure could not have kept my cool like Miriam did. I might have hid when the daughter of Pharaoh showed up. I might have run to my mom when she picked the baby up. And I sure would not have thought to go ask for a nurse maid. But Miriam just does the next right thing.
Acting courageously for the Christian is synonymous with obedience to God. Let’s go back to one of those Old Testament passages that I mentioned earlier.
Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Do you see the co-mingling of courage and obedience in that passage? I’ll say it again, courage is doing the next right thing even if it’s hard or we are afraid.
Do you know who else was afraid when my daughter Autumn was on that flight to America? Me. Her adoptive mom was shaking in her ever-loving shoes!
I saw a photo of Autumn when she was twelve years old. My friend Troy VanLiere texted it to my husband Bob. Troy had just been on a trip to China to help learn more about and promote international adoption. Autumn approached him and the group he was with. Through a translator, she bravely said, “I need a family.”
Troy flew back to the United States with visions of Autumn in his head. He was burdened. But he and his wife, Donna–my best friend–were in the process of adopting a boy from Guatemala. So, they could not adopt Autumn. As he prayed about it, Troy felt led by God to ask us to adopt her.
We knew almost immediately that the answer was yes. Many years earlier God had placed adoption on our hearts and we told the Lord we would welcome a child into our home if he showed us which one. Now, He was pointing to our daughter and we wanted to obey the Lord.
But there were many things that made us feel insecure. How could a girl that age integrate into a family? What was in her past? Would she be able to learn English quickly enough to go to high school? How would we communicate with her until she did? And could we afford it?
As we obeyed the Lord and did the next right thing in spite of our concerns, God provided. For example, we needed $25,000 very quickly to pay for all the costs of adopting Autumn. A private donor gave us $12,000, but we still had a $13,000 need.
We proceeded with paperwork and began to pray for God to provide the money we needed. That very week, we got a phone call. Our new accountant noticed that we'd been paying the IRS incorrectly for the past several years. That sounded like bad news.
“You don't understand,” said the accountant, “the IRS owes you money. In fact, they owe you $13,060.”
And that was exactly what we needed to adopt our new daughter. Only God could use the IRS as a savings account!!!
I do not know what’s making you feel fearful or insecure right now. I don’t know what difficulties the Lord is asking you to persevere through, but I know this. He wants you to “be strong and courageous.” Don’t be overwhelmed with the big picture. Just do the next right thing.
Ready to go deeper into life lessons from Miriam? Here are some tools for you and your daughter!
For Your Tween Daughter!
Do you have a daughter who might like to go deeper in the story of Miriam? True Girl has released an all-new study on the life of Miriam for girls ages 8–12. Miriam: Becoming a Girl of Courage. Together, you’ll explore the biblical meaning of courage and five of the most important lessons a tween girl needs to know to live heroically in God’s eyes. You can even sign up to go through the study online with Dannah Gresh and the entire True Girl lead teaching team!
Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, Dannah’s co-host on the daily Revive Our Hearts podcast, explores the life of Miriam to give us an example to follow and a warning to heed. In a series titled Remembering Miriam, you’ll learn from Miriam's successes and failures, and along the way see a beautiful picture of God's mercy and restoration. One specific episode highlights the faith and courage of Miriam’s mother Jochebed. Check it out. It’s called Faith to Be Fearless.
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