The song, "Rise Up," by Andra Day ripples through my mind as I share these powerful words from friend Jo Saxton about courage. Read on as Jo challenges our understanding of just where we can find courage in our days.
Rise Up! Really?
By Jo Saxton
Sometimes courage comes from unexpected sources.
God's people suffered twenty years of oppression under Jabin, a Canaanite king and his powerful army. The ongoing brutality decimated their communities. The Israelites even abandoned their own roads for their safety (Judges 5:6). Despair, pain and fear were their daily reality. Their future was stolen, their hopes and their spirits crushed. The Israelites cried out to God for mercy. For help.
Courage didn't come from the Israelite army. They knew they were no match for Jabin's army. This time courage came through the women in the community.
In the days of Shamgar son of Anath,
in the days of Jael, the highways were abandoned;
travelers took to winding paths.
Villagers in Israel would not fight;
they held back until I, Deborah, arose,
until I arose, a mother in Israel.
Courage came through Deborah, a judge in the land who listened to the broken lives of her people on a daily basis, hearing their problems, dealing with their drama. It came through her walk with God, a faith that caused her to rise up and call the military to face their oppressors. It came through Jael, a woman prepared to do what Israel's strongest military officers couldn't - defeat Jabin's commander Sisera and change the course of a nation's history. Their courage gave a broken people a new song. Their boldness created a new future and left a legacy.
Courage sounds so noble, yet reality reminds me that it can actually feel vulnerable.
Courage means that in the face of struggle when it makes sense to give up, I rise up. It means that after I cry out to God on my knees, I stand to my feet and do something. Relying on his help and mercy, I rise beyond my fear and despair, my heartache and confusion, knowing that change has to start somewhere.
Maybe today that somewhere begins with me. Like Deborah, I can use my influence to make a difference. I can sit with the broken and hear their stories, empower the weary to realize their call. Like Jael (whist I have no intentions of attacking someone with a tent peg!), I too can rise up to meet the opportunities that come my way.
On any given day, on every single day our news feeds, local, national and global can overwhelm us. Injustice, oppression, brutality, pain. Communities without hope, futures stolen. Sometimes it's not just the news feed that overwhelms. It's news about our friends and families, our own lives. Our spirits are crushed; we cry out for help.
Still even in those moments can we find that courage in unexpected places? Not from political systems and powers, we need a deeper source. Not from our personal skills or confidence, but from a prayer for help that sounds more like a broken hallelujah than a victory cry.
I'm learning that those prayers help me when I'm tempted to give up. They help me stand up, speak up, rise up.
Where do you need the courage to rise up today?
Jo Saxton is the co-host of Lead Stories podcast, pastor, speaker and the board chair of 3d Movements. She is the author of More Than Enchanting: Breaking Through Barriers to Influence Your World exploring the topic of women and influence. She lives in Minneapolis area with her husband and their two daughters.