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How I learned to face down my cowardice

 Unsplash/ Patrick Mueller
Unsplash/ Patrick Mueller

I was having bad dreams.

In those dreams, I was a soldier on the battlefield. But I didn’t feel brave; in the darkness, I was slinking back from the front line in fear. 

This troubled me, especially since I was a young man in training to be an Army officer who would lead soldiers in combat. It was a crisis of confidence. I began to seriously doubt that I would have courage under fire when the moment of testing came.

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Then came the infamous Attack of the Jawa.

You know what a Jawa is — that little, robed, hooded creature with lightbulb eyes featured in the original “Star Wars”movies. Sure, a three-foot Jawa might be cute, but a sword-wielding, six-foot variety was my foe. I’d best explain…

My fiancée, Lizzie, her little sister Melissa, and I were visiting Lizzie’s friend in the wilds of Upstate New York. As we chatted at the kitchen table after dinner, there came a sudden crash and terrifying howl from the rear entrance of the house. I jumped in fright, but since I was facing away from the source of the commotion, all I saw were Lizzie’s eyes. They were wide with abject terror. 

I have no memory of what I did next, but the next thing I knew, I was locked in mortal combat with a Jawa.

Having no cognition of my actions, I had risen, turned, and raced toward the threat. Now, here I was, gripping the creature’s wrists with its menacing sword raised above my vulnerable head. I was glaring right into its beady, glowing eyes.

“Is this for real?” you ask. You know, I was starting to ask the same thing.

That’s when the absurdity began to become reality — you’ve probably figured it out already: It was a horrendous, practical joke. Our zealous host had dressed up his neighbor in full Jawa attire, right down to the lightbulb eyes, and had him come crashing in to give us all a thrill.

Some thrill — we were all traumatized!

Now, isn’t it just like God to use a ridiculous circumstance like this to help His child overcome his fears?

The prophet declared the word of the LORD:

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

“With you,” He said! Note the pretext of this powerful declaration (vv.8-9). It is the promise to God’s chosen, Jacob (Israel) who are the descendants of His covenanted friend, Abraham. We who are in Christ are grafted into Israel with Abraham, our father of faith, so we share in this promise by grace (cf. Ro. 4:16; 11:17).

Do you see how relational God is with His own? Certainly, we have fears, but we need not be paralyzed by fear, because He is with us to deliver.

The Scripture continues in affirmation (vv.11-13) that though we have enemies, they will be disgraced and ultimately perish. Again, this is because our God is with us. Revel in the reality that our God is so personal that He is holding your hand as He helps you…

“For I, the LORD God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not; I will help you!’” (Isaiah 41:13).

Need a biblical model of courage and fortitude? Look no further than the mighty warrior, Joshua. Now, look even closer at his heart and see that he also had fears to overcome. Why else would God say to his young champion, over and over…

“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).                                                                                  

God’s man was a weak man, like me. He had fears, like you. He grew dismayed, just like the flock he was leading. He was even known to whine on occasion.

“Alas, LORD God, why have you brought this people over the Jordan at all…to destroy us?”

Like us, Joshua needed frequent reminding that God was with him. The relationship makes all the difference. Recall what our LORD Jesus told His chosen, but fearful, disciples.

“I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

Attack of the Jawa: Epilogue

Looking back, it’s fascinating to reflect on how differently the three of us reacted to being assaulted by a Jawa.

Bill responded with what the Army instructors had drilled into him: Attack directly into the ambush! Lizzie froze in place but feared for her fiancé as she watched him run to his death, yelling after him, “Billy come back!” 

And what did young Melissa do? Melissa dove under the table and covered her eyes! But as the crisis abated, she reappeared, happy to be alive, but fuming mad at … Billy! You see, when she heard her sister pleading for me to “come back,” she thought I was running away — a coward, abandoning the women in peril!

Remember? That’s just what those bad dreams were about — being cowardly in the face of the enemy. In the attack of the Jawa, I most certainly feared, but that fear was more motivating than paralyzing.

God was with me and used the incident to help me face down the cowardice that was gnawing at me. No more bad dreams!

I don’t mean I became fearless — I don’t think anyone can claim to be fearless — but that’s not what courage is.

Courage is overcoming your greatest enemy — fear.

Courage is knowing the One who is with you — forever.

As a Chaplain on the Christian Care Ministry/Medi-Share Spiritual Development team, Bill Adams helps to strengthen employees in their faith through rich Biblical teaching and compassionate care. Bill is also known as a bridge-builder within the Jewish community and an advocate for Israel among the church. He and his wife, Lizzie have 7 grown children and soon-to-be 15 grandchildren.

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