The following is adapted by permission from Barbara Rainey’s book, Growing Together in Courage:
Have you ever watched a class of preschoolers walking to the playground? The children hold on to a rope so that none of them will get separated from the group; then they follow their teacher as she leads them outside. They move together in a line, each child following the person in front.
Through the centuries, millions of Christians have gone before us. They are faith ancestors, people from previous generations whose lives still influence us today. And we, like a group of children, are holding on to the rope of faith, following those ahead of us and learning from their words and actions.
Catharine duBois lived in the 1600s in what is now the state of New York. In the midst of a terrifying event, she responded with such courageous faith that her story still inspires her family eight generations later. One of her descendants, who became a magazine editor, wrote this about Catharine:
One day in 1663, Minisink Indians swept down from the Catskill Mountains, killed several inhabitants of the little settlement now known as New Paltz, New York, and took a number of women and children captive. Among them were Catharine duBois and her infant daughter, Sara. For ten weeks they were held captive in the mountains while search parties looked for them in vain.
Certain they had avoided reprisal, the Indians decided to celebrate their success by burning Catharine and Sara. A pile of logs was arranged, upon which the bound mother and daughter were placed.
A most human response at this moment would have been for Catharine to scream at her tormentors, curse them for her suffering, or even curse God. Instead, she burst into song, turning the foreboding Catskill forest into a cathedral of praise.
The Minisink Indians, of course, had not asked her for a song, but they were so captivated with Catharine’s singing that they demanded another song, then another, and then still another. And while she sang, her husband, Louis, and his search party burst upon the scene and rescued her.
Catharine could not have known that her decision about how to die would tell her succeeding generations much about how they should live. Nor can we know how some decision today will affect generations to come.1
Two hundred years later, there lived another Catherine—Catherine Carmichael—whose daughter Amy desired to become a missionary in India. When Amy, at the age of twenty-four, wrote her mother to ask if she had “given her child unreservedly to the Lord” to do his will, Catherine wrote in reply:
My own precious child; yes, dearest Amy, He has lent you to me all these years. He only knows what a strength, comfort and joy you have been to me. So, darling, when He asks you now to go away from within my reach, can I say no? No, Amy, He is yours—you are His—to take you where He pleases and to use you as He pleases.2
Catherine Carmichael could have lived in fear that Amy would never return home from India, or that some great tragedy would befall her. But Catherine rejected such fear. She, like Catharine duBois, voiced faith in God’s promise: “Fear not for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you” (Isaiah 41:10, ESV). The protection of their own lives and the lives of their children was best left in God’s hands.
When any difficult choice is before us, fear will whisper—or even shout—the what-ifs in our hearts. But God knows how easy it is for us to fear, and so he promised to be with us always. His presence gives us courage.
Questions about courage
Are you ever afraid? Recognizing fear and naming its source are essential in overcoming fear and becoming courageous.
- What fears are keeping you from courageous faith?
- Can faith and fear coexist? Why or why not?
- How does knowing that God will never leave you nor forsake you help you be brave?
- A Welsh preacher named Martyn Lloyd-Jones once said, “Faith is the refusal to panic.” How did the two women exhibit a refusal to panic or to give in to their fears? How can you?
Remembering that God is always with you will help you fight your fears (Isaiah 41:10).
Can you think of a “faith ancestor” you would like to meet someday—a Christian who lived in an earlier time whose life still influences you and your family? Who is the person, and what would you like to discuss with him or her?
Praying together for courage
Father, the one who hears his children, what a wonder it is to know that your son, Jesus, is always before you representing all who call upon you in his name. As he represents us in heaven, may we bravely reflect him on earth, and while he pleads our cause, may we give him praise in every situation, especially when we are most afraid, for in that moment of faith we will be strengthened. (This prayer was adapted from Arthur G. Bennett, ed., The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions [Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2002]).
1. Gilbert V. Beers, “A Theology to Die By,” Christianity Today (February 6, 1987): 11, quoted in Dennis Rainey with David Boehi, The Tribute: What Every Parent Longs to Hear (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1994), 59–61.
2. Gene Fedele, Heroes of the Faith (Gainesville, FL: Bridge-Logos, 2003), 228–29.
Adapted from Growing Together in Courage, ©2010 by Barbara Rainey. Used with permission of FamilyLife Publishing.