A Way to be Brave

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Read Psalm 27:4-6

Last week, we talked about what we were scared of. We named the things, the people, the situations that shrivel us up in fear. This week, I want to talk about stepping into fear in the confidence of bravery. But probably not the bravery you’re used to.

When I think of bravery, two paths come to mind. The first is a confident kind of bravery. This is the kind we see most often when we watch tv or movies, or what we read about in books. Typically, there’s some kind of prophecy, some kind of assurance that a hero is the hero. They may lose hope in the beginning or harbor some doubt, but, eventually, we see their bravery manifested in their claiming of victory. They grip their sword tighter, embrace their powers, upgrade the super suit, and they charge headfirst and fearless into the victory they believe they can achieve.

The second is what the psalmist writes in this week’s passage. I want you to picture your favorite, bravest hero. Mine, at least at the moment, is probably Shang-Chi. What’s their epic moment of victory? For me, it’s when Shang-Chi rises from the dead on the back of a dragon, dripping wet and ready for battle. He assures his victory and restores peace to Ta Lo. Whatever moment it is for you, I want you to reimagine it as though the psalmist has written it as they have in verses 4-6.

Your hero, instead of charging into the bloodshed of battle, asks to “live in the house of the Lord” and “behold the beauty.” There are no dragons or wands, no mystic rings or robotic suits. Right after the music swells and your protagonist has declared their confidence in winning a war, they wax poetic about their longing to stare at something beautiful, to dwell in a peaceful house as a beloved. They go on to win the war, but here’s how they do so: by being hidden. At the peak of the action, the height of the danger, your so-called hero hides in a shelter, is concealed under a tent. And then, when the enemies have fallen and the victory for your character is attained, they emerge from their hideout and sacrifice an animal, sing simple songs of praise.

How much money do you think Disney is going to make off of that movie? How many action figures of that protagonist do you think are going to sell? On both paths of bravery, the main character has an enemy, in both cases the enemy falls and the hero claims victory, but only one of them is an exciting story. Only one of them feels brave. If I were to ask you to characterize a leader who at the peak of their crisis, hid in a cave, would the first word that comes to mind be brave? Or would it be cowardice?

Psalm 27 is asking us to be brave, but it’s asking us to be brave in a counter-cultural way. It’s asking us to be brave by fleeing, asking us to lead by submitting.

As you reflect on your list of fears from last week, think about what it might mean to face them by being hidden from them. What might it look like to be so dependent on God that when everything is as bad as it could possibly get and everyone is looking at you to do something, you embrace a hug and wait for the storm to pass?

And when it does pass, how do you think you will react? Will you throw your hands up in ecstatic victory? Or will you bow your head and slaughter a lamb?


As I look around our current Church, I see many brave Christians. I see people suiting up for battle and chopping off heads and cussing each other out in comment threads. I see them claim the victory they know is coming, and I see them proudly wipe their brow with sweat when they’re done. I see this in myself.

Earlier this month I watched someone I’ll call Lisa, a Christian influencer on Twitter, reply to a gay pastor and influencer, who I’ll call Michael, denouncing him for his sin. She suits up for battle and quotes Romans 1 at him (an attack he never saw coming, I’m sure). He responds and she blocks him. He blocks her back. Now his followers (including me) and her followers are fighting. Everyone’s competing in all out war. We’re all trying to be right, to save souls, to profess our faith.

When I take off my helmet at the end of the day, like I’ve done so many times before, I’m reminded yet again how worthless it feels. I never feel like I’ve won. I also don’t feel like I’ve lost. I just feel like we all got really bloody, threw a lot of punches, and are now headed home much more sore than when we left. The battle line hasn’t moved a centimeter. No progress; just bodies. I see everyone – Lisa, Michael, myself, being brave in this story. I see us fighting for truth and for mercy and for rightness. But I see three people on a battlefield, each of them prominent. I don’t see anyone hiding.

Of course, these battles happen outside of the Church too. We see this in Christians suiting up to do battle for their political agenda. We see them cussing out non-Christians, slaying government leaders, pointing swords at the throats of their enemies and declaring victory in God’s name.

Make no mistake, we do see battles in the Bible. We hear of violence and war. But when I think about victory in the Bible, I think first of David felling Goliath with a tiny rock. To be honest, he does wind up decapitating the giant and parading it around on a stick (at least that’s how I picture it), but the peak moment of conflict is really quite boring. The giant is only decapitated after he’s dead. That isn’t the victory; him falling is.

I also think about how the walls of Jericho collapse. They don’t fall over after repeated hits from a catapult. They fall after some marching and trumpet blowing. Again, destruction comes. There’s massive bloodshed and looting. But again, the height of the moment, the actual victory, comes from something quite bland.

If your fears are these large and esoteric theological questions, your charge to save the human race, can you, just in the quietness of your own self, ask if God is asking you to decapitate your enemies while they are breathing? Or is God asking you to hide? Is God telling you to surrender? To fling a little worthless stone as you charge against a giant? To blow into a mouthpiece while a fortress mocks you?

And, perhaps even more importantly, is your primary goal not to win, but to dwell in the house of the Lord forever? To want to see beauty more than you want to see the victory?

I’m asking myself these questions too. I can only hope that the confidence we harbor in victory is equal to the confidence we harbor in grace. As we fight against ourselves, each other, and the demons we face daily, I wonder if we might one day be brave enough to hide at the peak of our vulnerability. I wonder if when we win, we might sing a simple song of joy before we boast. I wonder if we might try to seek the beauty before we seek the victory.


Scripture quotations are based on the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Bryce Van Vleet is the #1 selling author of Tired Pages and Before We All Die Let’s Have One Last Chat by the Fireside. He also hosts the podcast Death in Dakota and sells poetry art here. You can support him by clicking through blog posts or donating (scroll to the bottom of the page).

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