CourageMiss Hurricane Carla was a flirt.

She winked at Galveston, whistled at Palacios, waved at Corpus Christi, waltzed with Port Lavaca, and walked away with Rockport, Aransas Pass, and half of Matagorda Island. Her previous escort warned us that she was a wicked woman . . . but few fishermen believed those rumors that blew in from the fickle waters of the Gulf. Not only was she wicked, she was expensive and mean. That mid-September date many years ago cost us 400 million dollars . . . and forty lives.

One of my closest friends lived through that ordeal. He spent two terrible days and sleepless nights in his attic, surrounded by rattlesnakes, water moccasins, and other sassy visitors who had been flushed out of their habitat. Does he have the stories to tell! I would compare his courage—and the courage of hundreds like him who endured the dangers of Carla’s rage—to anyone who has courted one of death’s sisters and lived to describe the romance.

COURAGE. It has several names: bravery, valor, fearlessness, audacity, chivalry, heroism, confidence, nerve . . . and a few nicknames: guts, grit, gristle, backbone, pluck, spunk.

But whatever the name, it’s never met its match. The heights of the Himalayas only encourage it. The depths of the Caribbean merely excite it. The sounds of war stimulate it. The difficulty of a job motivates it. The demands of competition inspire it. Criticism challenges it . . . adventure arouses it . . . danger incites it . . . threats quicken it.

COURAGE. That’s another word for inner strength, presence of mind against odds, determination to hang in there, to venture, persevere, withstand hardship. It’s got keeping power. It’s what kept the pioneers rolling forward in those covered wagons in spite of the elements and mountains and flaming arrows. It’s what makes the amputee reject pity and continue to take life by the throat. It’s what forces every married couple having trouble never to say, “Let’s terminate.” It’s what encourages the divorcee to face tomorrow. It’s what keeps the young mother with the kids in spite of a personal energy crisis. It’s what keeps a nation free in spite of attacks. As Thomas Jefferson wrote in his letter to William Stevens Smith:

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.

COURAGE. David had it when he grabbed his sling in the Valley of Elah. Daniel demonstrated it when he refused to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s statue in Babylon. Elijah evidenced it when he faced the prophets of Baal on Carmel. Job showed it when he was covered with boils and surrounded by misunderstanding. Moses used it when he stood against Pharaoh and refused to be intimidated. The fact is, it’s impossible to live victoriously for Christ without courage. That’s why God’s thrice-spoken command to Joshua is as timeless as it is true:

Be strong and courageous! (Joshua 1:6, 7, 9)

Are you? Honestly now—are you? Or are you quick to quit . . . ready to run when the heat rises?

Let it be remembered that real courage is not limited to the battlefield or the Indianapolis 500 or bravely catching a thief in your house. The real tests of courage are much broader . . . much deeper . . . much quieter. They are the inner tests, like remaining faithful when nobody’s looking . . . like enduring pain when the room is empty . . . like standing alone when you’re misunderstood.

You will never be asked to share your attic with a rattler. But every day, in some way, your courage will be tested. Your tests may not be as exciting as a beachhead landing or sailing around Cape Horn or a space walk. It may be as simple as saying no, as uneventful as facing a pile of dirty laundry, or as unknown as a struggle within yourself between right and wrong. God’s medal-of-honor winners are made in secret because their most courageous acts occur down deep inside . . . away from the hurricane of public opinion . . . up in the attic, hidden from public knowledge.

Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983), 397–398. Used by permission.