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Counseling and Courage: How Showing Up is Saving Me

  • Rachel Dawson
Counseling and Courage: How Showing Up is Saving Me

Every single week, I get to practice being brave.

I don’t usually enjoy it. I often dread it. It makes me nervous every time-- hands trembling, heart racing, mind whirling, the whole bit. There’s a standing appointment on my calendar, week after week, and while it might be at a slightly different hour each time, I know that once a week, for about 50 minutes, I’ll be sitting on that blue couch across from a man with a clipboard and a kind smile.

Every single week, I show up to counseling. And I practice being brave. I practice courage.

This whole showing up thing? It’s harder than I thought it would be. And scarier, too. It seems easy to just arrive at a place and be there. But when you’re arriving at a place where the goal is vulnerability and total honesty, showing up gets pretty scary. It’s intimidating. I don’t know what questions he will ask me. I don’t know what I’ll uncover in myself as I start to speak. I don’t know what God will stir up inside of me. I might weep, or maybe laugh, or find myself too stuck to even speak. It’s hard to show up. Counseling has become the thing I so rarely want, but so evidently need.

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Kyle Loftus

"When I show up, God shows up to meet me too."

"When I show up, God shows up to meet me too."

But I have come to learn, week after week, that when I show up, God shows up to meet me too. In fact, he’s already there in that room, waiting for me to come and draw near to him through these conversations with a wise and trusted counselor. I feel his presence there every time, and it gives me a strength that my own anxious, nervous, scared self lacks on my own.

It’s only in him that I’m strong. On my own, I’m the furthest thing from brave. I’m restless and prone to deflecting with sharp words and sarcasm. I’m anxious, burdened by depression, and my introversion makes me wish I could just shut the world and everybody in it out. If God wasn’t in the picture, if his presence wasn’t felt in that room, if I didn’t hear him speaking through the words and prayers of my counselor, I wouldn’t have shown up again after that first session.

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Ellyot

Nothing about me on my own is brave.

Nothing about me on my own is brave.

Yet here I am, practicing courage week after week in the realest of ways. I practice doing the things that scare me-- getting real, letting myself be seen, sharing openly about my sin and my shame, asking for and accepting help along the way, learning to truly love God and to let myself be loved by him too.

This kind of bravery-- this courage-- feels important, weighty, meaningful. It feels holy too. I know what it’s like to muster a sort of puffed up feeling just for show. I’ve done that before meetings at work, first dates, and speaking in front of a crowd. I know what they say about doing the superhero pose in front of the mirror for a few minutes to trick your brain into feeling confident and mighty. But I know that the courage I find when I admit my own weakness and let Christ be my strength is a courage that is capable of sustaining me, carrying me, embracing me, emboldening me. This is the courage that counts.

Design Credit: Rachel Dawson

"Do not forget His great faithfulness"

"Do not forget His great faithfulness"

There’s a song I often listen to as I drive to and from my counseling sessions, and the lyrics about courage help me to hold fast:

“Take courage my heart

Stay steadfast my soul

He's in the waiting

He's in the waiting

Hold onto your hope

As your triumph unfolds

He's never failing

He's never failing

Sing praise my soul

Find strength in joy

Let His Words lead you on

Do not forget His great faithfulness

He'll finish all He's begun…”

What a reminder, right?

Photo Credit: Unsplash

"I need to remember that the Lord is in the middle of all of this."

"I need to remember that the Lord is in the middle of all of this."

My heart needs to be reminded often (as often as moment by moment, some days) to keep taking courage. To keep moving forward, to keep trusting in God’s goodness, to keep believing in his faithfulness, to keep hoping for what’s to come, to keep working hard at what’s in front of me.

My soul needs to be reminded to stay steadfast – to not run when things get hard, to not shut the world out when I’m feeling fearful, to not mask my reality with a snarky comment or a filtered (and fake) Instagram.

I need to remember that the Lord is in the middle of all of this. He is with me in this process, this refining, sanctifying, heart-transforming work. He is in the middle of the waiting. He is with me in the storm.

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Shalom Mwenesi

Jesus has authority over our storms.

Jesus has authority over our storms.

It reminds me of the story in Matthew 8:24-27 where the disciples are freaking out about the terrible storm they’ve found themselves in. The waves are coming up over the edges, they’ve lost control of the boat, and they are convinced hope is lost and this is the end. And what is Jesus doing? Sleeping. The storms of our lives do not scare our Lord. He is calm in the middle of the raging seas, and he offers us peace that goes beyond anything we can understand. He has the power to settle everything that’s stirred up inside of us or all around us. Our job is to just have faith.

Photo Credit: UnsplashSarah Diniz Outeiro

"The storms of my life get wild, and I get scared, and I forget altogether who God is and what is true."

"The storms of my life get wild, and I get scared, and I forget altogether who God is and what is true."

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shown up to counseling feeling as panicked and overwhelmed as those disciples. The storms of my life get wild, and I get scared, and I forget altogether who God is and what is true. And each time, my counselor is kind to lead me back to truth, to calm me down and pray over me, to help me remember again that my God is never failing, and his presence is always near.

Photo Credit: Unsplash/John Towner

"He makes me brave."

"He makes me brave."

There are reasons for my soul to sing praises. There is strength to be found in him, through choosing joy even in the midst of the storms and the battles. There is beautiful truth to be found in Scripture that comforts me, guides me, encourages me, and challenges me forward into greater faith in my God. He is faithful. He always has been and always will be. He makes me brave.

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Allef Vinicius

In Christ I find strength to be courageous.

In Christ I find strength to be courageous.

In that room with that blue couch where I sit week after week, I’m finding that courage is changing me. It’s easy to miss in the monotony of daily life. When I stop and look back at where I was a little more than a year ago when I first showed up in that office, shaking from head to toe, terrified of what was about to happen, I realize how much the Lord has transformed me. It didn’t happen overnight (although I so desperately wished it would). It didn’t happen after just showing up for the recommended 4-5 weekly visits when I was a new client. I didn’t cross some finish line after a year or reach some magical destination where my fears are gone and my problems are solved. I’m still showing up weekly, and I imagine I will for many weeks, months, and maybe years to come. But I know that I’m being changed. I’m being renewed day by day. I am learning how to keep going even when I want to quit. I’m finding strength in Christ to keep running and not grow weary, to keep walking and not grow faint (Isaiah 40:31).

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Frank Busch

"He will finish all that he has begun."

"He will finish all that he has begun."

He will finish all that he has begun. I will come through these fires, through all the testing of my faith, and find that pure gold remains (1 Peter 1:6-7). There will one day be a glorious victory over all sin and shame, where anxiety is no more, where depression is defeated, where the scars of all my abuse, trauma, and pain are healed, where death and tears are no more (Revelation 21:3-5). 

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Jay Wennington

"Take courage, my heart. May yours find strength in him too."

"Take courage, my heart. May yours find strength in him too."

Until that day comes, I will keep showing up. I will keep relying on his strength in my weakness. I will keep reminding my heart to take courage and my soul to stay steadfast. My God is in the waiting. He’s in the counselor’s office. He’s in the storms. He’s in all of it, inviting us in to a life of peace and freedom and courage through his grace and love alone. We just have to show up in faith.

Take courage, my heart. May yours find strength in him too.

Rachel Dawson is a believer, editor, writer, social media manager, and bookworm living in Richmond, VA. She's the design editor for a handful of Christian sites by day, and is part of several other creative and community-building endeavors on the side. You’ll often find her in coffeeshops with her nose in a book and a vegan latte in hand, but she’ll drop everything to swap stories and talk about Jesus with you. She also loves the Enneagram, doodling her sermon notes, Instagramming too much, tacos, and sharks... you know, the important things. You can find her online at racheladawson.com or on Twitter and Instagram.

This article is part of our courage theme for the month of August on iBelieve. What is courage? Usually, we associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But this definition fails to recognize the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences -- good and bad. We believe this kind of “ordinary courage” is what God calls us to live into every day of our lives.

Check back here throughout August for a new story of courage as our writers tackle what it means to be faithful, courageous women in a culture that values comfort and conformity.

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Banner Design Credit: Rachel Dawson