Brave Enough to Hold On

This post was originally published on The Road to Brave.

“Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.”
John Greenleaf Whittier

At some point in life, consciously or unconsciously, every person starts to wonder how they might live without regrets. Perhaps that is, at least in part, why we live the way we do. Why we choose the school or career paths or friends we do. Why it is a stereotype that older people pine by a window for days gone by, and middle-aged people suddenly panic and realize there’s more than they’ve been living for, and young people strive desperately after joy or fulfillment or at least a temporary burst of dopamine. We all want a life worth living, and we all want life to the full. 

Which makes sense, because that beautiful thing was what we were created for. 

Created to be known and loved, and to know and love, the One who is the way and the truth and the life. When someone cuts off the source of life by rejecting God, anything else is a cheap imitation. But when we are held fast by the God Who loves us, when He is the source of our joy and our fulfillment, then we are freed to seek not for life itself but for a life lived in wholeness for God’s glory.

And because of that truth and the hope it gives us, we are free to hold onto the things God calls us to hold onto. 

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Sometimes it is brave to let things go. Sometimes God might call us to release something that we want to hold to really tightly. Sometimes He might ask us to let go of a particular timeline, or of a way of doing things, or of an idea, or even of something we cherish. 

But other times, it is brave to hold onto things. And I think we find the difference when we keep seeking God, striving to walk step by step after Him and His heart, and submitting every corner of our lives to Him. Often we think of guidance or confirmation from God being a lack of opposition, but sometimes God instead calls us to press through something difficult or challenging. Even Paul experienced that (1 Cor. 16:9).

Sometimes to hold onto something is an act of defiance against the darkness and evil that we see in the world around us. An act of hope. An act that declares our God has the victory, and that even though this is difficult, we are not letting go because He is holding onto us. Sometimes that act of hope means holding onto things like the dreams He puts in our heart. Like a calling we can’t shake. Like hope itself. 

Our dreams weren’t meant to stay dreams. Ideas are great, but ideas don’t help anybody. God’s timeline may look different than ours, but sometimes the bravest thing we can do is hold onto an idea that God has put in our heart and take action after action to make that idea reality. Despite difficulties. Despite setbacks. Despite opposition. 

The way God created you is not an accident. Your strengths. Your passions. The things that stir your heart in the deep places. Sometimes it is courageous indeed to hold onto the dreams He has put in our hearts and to fight for them to become real. 

What stories have changed your life? What relationships? What people? What books? What songs? What ministries? It’s always a stirring thing to read stories of brave missionaries like Hudson Taylor or Gladys Aylward. But what would have happened if they didn’t press through the first few challenges they faced? If they just gave up and went back home? How many lives would have been lost? 

If someone refused to hold onto a dream…how many friendships (or marriages, or families)  wouldn’t have happened? How many books wouldn’t have been written? How many songs wouldn’t have been created? How many lives wouldn’t have been changed? 

Sometimes it is a brave thing indeed to hold onto the dreams God has given you. 

Our callings weren’t meant to stay unheeded. Intentions are great, but intentions don’t help anybody. Wanting to make a difference in a particular way, but never taking action to make a difference in that way, matters about 0% in this world. Sometimes the bravest thing we can do is hold onto a calling God has put in our hearts and take action after action to live that out. 

What stirs your soul? What hits you deeply? What drives you up out of your chair when you hear it? 

Sometimes, as young people, we aren’t really sure if we have a calling or, if we do, what it is. And often we use that as a great excuse for inaction. We don’t want to mess up something as important as a calling, so goodness knows we’d better hold off until we’re sure our compass is pointed in precisely the right direction. Never mind that sometimes we’re not really sure how exactly to define purpose or calling or whatever that thing is, or that we often don’t really believe God is big enough to lead us where He wants us without us messing it up. 

But here’s the thing. No one ever changed the world — or their little corner of it — by standing still. No matter where in life you are, there are experiences you’ve had, skills you’ve learned, lessons God has taught you, and perspectives you’ve gained that you can use to strengthen and encourage someone else. That is something you can do no matter where God leads you in the long run. And if you’re doing so prayerfully and wisely and kingdom-first-ly, often the best way to get clarity on how God made you is to just get out and try things. 

Then, as you start clarifying what it is that you most want to accomplish, and how you’re uniquely wired to love the people around you, hold onto that. Don’t just think about it. Take action after action. Realize that who and how you serve might change along the way, and embrace that. 

And finally, hope wasn’t meant to be a rare, fragile thing. 

What even is hope? Is it a vague expectation? Is it “the thing with feathers that perches in the soul” (Dickinson)? Is it a desire for things to be good? 

And why are so many people living without it? 

Hebrews 6 describes the hope we have in Christ as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul. To be honest, that doesn’t sound very feathery. It sounds a lot more rock-solid. The sort of thing that keeps us grounded in place when storms and waves are tossing us hither and yon, battering us side-to-side. 

We often conceptualize hope as a desire for something good to happen. I hope I’ll get a  job opportunity, or I hope so-and-so will get better, or I hope I’ll get married. But then when those things don’t happen, or don’t happen when we think they should, hope feels crushed. And we hate that feeling. I’ve been there (for all three, actually). I hate that feeling. Disappointment aches in deep places. It’s easier to not hope at all. 

So we start living out of a place of resignation under the guise of “realism”, and hope begins to fade. 

But what if that’s not all there is to hope? 

The song “I Have This Hope” by Tenth Avenue North has a verse that says, “I have this hope in the depths of my soul — in the flood or the fire, You’re with me and You won’t let go.” 

Maybe hope is so, so much more than a feeling. Maybe it’s that amidst the fire and flood of life in this world, amidst the lonely nights and the aching hearts and the things that cause us to cry out for justice, there is One who is love and who holds grace and truth and justice perfectly. Maybe it’s the bedrock truth that God loves us, that He is making all things new, and that He isn’t ever letting go of us.

None of us want to live with regrets or to confess, at the end of all things, “Well, it might have been.” 

But that requires submitting to the Shepherd of our souls. Realizing that because He is holding us fast, we can hold onto the dreams He has given us and fight to make them real. We can hold onto the calling He has given us and take action to make Him known in this world. We can hold onto the hope we have as an anchor of the soul in Him alone, living it out in action, sharing hope with a world and generation that desperately needs it. 

This week, may we be brave enough to hold on.