Life Overwhelming You? Focus On One Word

I’m a simple guy who tends to make life complicated.

On our recent FREEDOM Tour, the team got lost because I provided bad directions. I’d like to say I welcomed the challenge. “Hallelujah,” I exclaimed. “The Lord hath provided an opportunity for growth.”

Yeah, right.

new word

The truth is, I was scared, and fear turned into angry and frustrated. I made excuses and looked for someone to blame. Eventually I vented my frustration at the nearest person, who happened to be my lovely wife, who had nothing to do with creating the route.

Ever done something like that? No need to raise your hand.

I want to learn from my mistakes. I want to respond a little better the next time something goes wrong. But “want to” isn’t a strategy.

I’m a simple guy. I need a simple strategy. Here’s mine:

Focus On A Single Word

When circumstances overwhelm me, it helps to focus on a single word that brings me back to center. I believe most of our issues trace back to fear. We need to face some real or imagined demon if we want to move forward. So it might make sense to focus on courage.

But I’ve discovered that courage is a lot easier to talk about when it’s someone else’s fear to be confronted. It’s one thing to know I ought to confront fear. It’s quite another thing to actually do it simply as an act of my own will. I have this sense that I could consistently remind myself to be courageous without much impact.

Something’s missing. I need a bigger idea.

My friend Dick Foth invented a new word for the idea I’m seeking. In Matthew 14 the disciples see Jesus walking on the water. It’s late. They’ve been rowing all night, they’re tired, and they think they’re seeing a ghost. They’re scared.

Jesus says, “Take courage. It is I. Don’t be afraid.” (Matthew 14:27)

Dick pointed out that the middle sentence, “It is I,” is the Greek construction ego eimi. It’s the same phrase Jesus uses when He says, “I am,” as in “I am the way, I am the truth, I am the light …” It’s the ancient “I am” Moses heard in the desert.

So we might hear Him making a stronger statement.

“Take courage. I am. Don’t be afraid.”

As the storyteller he is, Dick somehow morphed into talking about a Jewish friend who grew up hearing three commands from his mother: “Grow up. Get a job. Marry a nice Jewish girl.”

The man said he heard that advice so often he thought they were a single word: GrowupgetajobmarryaniceJewishgirl.

And as he always does, Dick brought us back to Jesus and suggested that we consider a new word:


That’s my word.

It’s my word because it combines courage, hope, and community. I don’t need to rely on my own ability. I don’t have to do courage alone.

It’s not a magic cure. I won’t remember it every time, just as I didn’t the day our team got lost. I probably won’t remember it most of the time.

But when I do, when I focus on the word instead of all the complications, maybe I can make life a little simpler. Maybe I’ll step out of the boat, face the fear, and move forward.


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Copyright 2008-2013 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.

Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:

Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance. Visit his web site

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