2. Courage and the Brain

Desiree and I were at Knott’s Berry Farm enjoying some father/daughter time about 20 years ago.

She spotted the parachute drop and wanted to ride it.  This was a few years after I fell and crippled up my hand.  I had no interest at all in being up high for any reason.

A noisy silent debate ensued in my mind.

“It is perfectly safe.  Millions of people have ridden on it.”

“Yeah, right!!!  It is ‘way too high up.  Not happening.”

“So you want me to look like a sissy in front of my daughter?  I gotta ride this thing.”

“You don’t gotta ride nuthin’ that high.  Discussion over!”

“Look, I don’t have to enjoy it – just white knuckle it up and down to save face.”

“FACE?  Who cares about your face when your stupid neck gets broken.  DON’T DO IT.”

Similar pointless diatribe and defense continued as I got in line with Desiree and stepped into the little basket.  I was wearing sun glasses, so I could close my eyes on the way up and still pretend to be a man.  I got a death grip on the bar we were leaning up against as I listened to Desiree’s chatter about how fun it was while they winched us up to the top.

It was at least 400 miles up while the silent argument in my head reached a shrill intensity.

“Open your eyes, you ridiculous pansy.  Your daughter is enjoying it.  You are perfectly safe.  Just do it already.”


As the winching process slowed, I knew we must be on the verge of the ghastly drop to infinity and beyond.  At that precise point, my daughter was crowing her delight at the view and I mustered enough mojo to open my eyes for an infinitesimal fraction of a second.

The view from 400 miles up was so horrifying I almost passed out in the basket.  I managed to tighten my death grip and hold my breath until the wretched invention arrived at the bottom where I staggered off the ride in rough shape while Desiree skittered on ahead, oblivious to the purgatory I had just endured.

I pondered for weeks the depth of the scar on my psyche from the two second fall from the roof that caused me to be afraid of all heights.   It had been a few years already, but clearly sheer terror was on standby, ready to demonstrate its prowess if I ever decided to challenge my feelings with my will.

The impotence of will and logic when faced with the scar of past disaster also captured my attention for a long time.

Against that backdrop, I pondered God’s clear, unambiguous command to Joshua.  He did it both ways.  First, he forbade a couple of kinds of fear, then He commanded a couple of kinds of courage.

I did the word studies with care and came up with no escape clause.  This was absolutely a command.  This was absolutely to be an act of Joshua’s will to simply switch off the fear and switch on courage.

I thought back to the day that lived in infamy at Knott’s Berry Farm and was tempted to mutter, “Yeah right!  Just switch off the fear.  Simple.  Done!”


So I circled around that conundrum.  After my grousing was done, it was a given that God is not the God of futility.  He does not give commands to the will that absolutely, positively cannot be executed by the will.  There HAD to be a different frame to put around this hard data.

It eluded me day after day while you awaited my next blog on courage and many of you wrote me cautionary e-mails about people who lived in fear that they could not control – like I didn’t know about the dynamic.

Then this morning it all came together.  God had me look at all the passages in Scripture where He gave that command.  Then He drew my attention to the people and people groups He gave the command to.

In every single case, it was individuals who had a massive exposure to the immensity of God BEFORE that moment.

It all clicked.  This is a message I presented in slightly different form in the PTSD album.  If you have not listened to it, now is the time since this will lay the foundation for the year’s focus on courage.

It is about the brain, not the psyche.  When your brain has a strong neurological highway to the emotion of the awe of God, then they CAN choose between the highway to fear and the highway to awe-based courage.

But if you have not spent enough time in the presence of God to have that huge awe-based neurological pathway, you CANNOT choose to have courage instead of fear.

So once again we are back to lifestyle.  How we live our lives is going to determine our ability to choose courage.

During the next few months we will explore all the ways that God designs awe lessons that will grow our brain pathways to prepare us in advance for the challenges we will face.

I shared this with Megan and she immediately upped the ante.  She said that God would probably design training that is specific to the design of the individual.

Sounds like fun!!

My mind is racing joyously, scrolling through all the courageous people in Scripture, looking for what God did to get them ready.

We will start with an easy one in the next blog and then build from there with more challenging stories.

Lifestyle.  Love it.  Growing the brain is an essential part of our spiritual walk.

Copyright January 2015 by Arthur Burk

From the Rockies, where I am doing a training


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16 Responses to 2. Courage and the Brain

  1. Moonsun says:

    Thank you for your inisight. I am going to download the PTSD album now to build the foundation for what’s coming. Very excited where this is going to lead… Through your teachings, I am learning a lot about living the “lifestyle”, making the 1,000 little steps rather than fast-fix christianity. It makes more sense in my Christian walk that God wants us to make those small steps and make the lifestyle changes rather than looking outside for the quick fix. It makes me feel very empowered that I can look inside myself and find what I need…. Thanks Arthur, and many many blessings!!

  2. Juanita says:

    Arthur. My human spirit said that I should say thankyou. Busy with the PSTD album that you are talking about in your post above. After the validation blessing my spirit jumped with joy and said that it was the first time ever that those words was said. The validation was a huge step.

  3. Andrea says:

    Yes, yes, yes, YES! My spirit is absolutely doing a joy dance over this!

  4. Josie T says:


  5. jane62 says:

    Wonderful! Also a good reminder to look for God’s re-framing. I thought of Job who didn’t ask the right question because he just didn’t have a big enough view of God, and wondering whether listening to your Job series again will enlarge our awe of Him?

  6. Paul says:

    Amazing! In the final analysis, it’s about CHOICE! Thank you Arthur, for sharing this powerful revelation of truth…so look forward to future posts on this subject! (P.S. Loved the back drop that laid the foundation for this teaching…you’re such a great story-teller!)

  7. Corinna says:

    Great reading. Thank you so much. It does resonate. However, i thought of all the people who have performed courages acts, who were extreme courageous in the face of adversity but they were not Christians. My thoughts also take me to consider that there are people who are naturally more fearful whilst others are naturally courageous – not even adding the Christian dimension. Does this not point to the make-up of the heart?

  8. Serina says:

    WOW, so many life changing revelations! Thank you for sharing those with us and for training us to change our lifestyles, so that we can become more dangerous. Am sure it will be also challenging…

  9. Narola Grady says:

    Arthur, I really relate to this example. Looking forward to the materials that you develop as tools for us to use. Thanks in advance!

  10. Sonia says:

    WOW! This is huge! About the brain and not the psyche?!!
    I was not aware that I had an area of my brain where I do the AWE of God until you asked in the session on brain research. I would love to have seen the screen that day because I was overwhelmed to discover this incredible storage in my brain that day. I am so thankful both for that day and these new challenges on courage. I look forward to either revisiting some situations and having them reframed or new scenarios explored.
    Yes an adventure awaits and I celebrate you working hard to get this ready to share 🙂
    Blessings on your weekend Arthur!

  11. Melissa C. says:

    Arthur, it brought me to tears when I read that my brain can have “a strong neurological highway to the emotion of the awe of God” and I “CAN choose between the highway to fear and the highway to awe-based courage”. That is something I can get excited about. As I faced another attack yesterday, just more of the same I have been dealt multiple times, this time I had so much more courage and so much less fear. I know that as this current trial plays out that courage will win – and now I know why! Thank you for this timely message, I treasure what is to come even before it is here!
    Lifestyle changes often sound so tediously painful, but this one lights me up. I can even be truly thankful for this challenge so God can train and grow and mold me in a new vein of His choosing. Courage . . . not something I would have selected to work on any time soon, but here we go – I expect the ride will be exhilarating!

  12. Ashley says:

    LOVE IT! Just yesterday, I encountered this dynamic, where I was facing something my psyche absolutely had no interest in facing, but character chose to “go there.” As I chatted with God, rather frantically, in the moments leading up to this rather foreboding event looming on the horizon, it occurred to me to scroll the database for where God had shown up in a similar way before. I found something solid, an encounter with the God Who Saw THIS Comin’. Then courage rose up and succinctly told fear to “drop the mic,” while courage (I’m certain) made haste to my kidneys and adrenals to do damage control/clean-up exhortation. And God showed up. Beautifully. Like He does.

    Looking forward to the journey of courage! Keep it comin’!

  13. Sherry says:

    Awesome! I’m looking forward to this one (and so is my brain). Twenty years ago I was dealing with a life threatening brain issue, but the Lord let me know He was going to heal me. I was in the word all the time, talking with him all the time and I had great courage through my healing experience. But, the last few years I have gone through a different type of stress (ptsd) and I could not find my courage or put away the fear, no matter who said what.
    And when I do find courage, it is only found when in the word or in His presence. Still finding my way out of this one, but I agree with your analysis and I am watching for the AWE of God.

  14. Rosa says:

    Ah, be still,my heart. I love this. I cant even say why, but it strikes quite a chord. Choosing courage is a big deal for what is ahead.

  15. This is great. Looking forward to the ideas. Pathways in the brain are certainly a great angle. I admit I am much cheered as I just let out an absolute howl at paragraph #15….I laughed so hard and so long while simultaneously wondering how it can be funny that anyone was soo soo scared. Sick and twisted??

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