Author Ava Pennington
Author Ava Pennington

My “One Word”: Courage


New year, new word. For the past several years, I’ve adopted “one word” to focus on as a substitute for resolutions. I choose a word to apply across multiple areas of my life. I say “I choose,” but most years I have the distinct sense that the Lord chooses the word for me. Some years, I have confirmation early in December. Other years, it seems as if New Year’s Day dawns before I know for sure.

This year, my one word came early, but I avoided it for several weeks. It made me uncomfortable. Challenged me. Convicted me to strip away the platitudes I might use to describe my faith. Caused me to ask myself if I truly believe what I say I believe.

My word for 2021 is courage.

It wasn’t my first choice. It wasn’t even my fifth choice. But after it appeared again and again, I knew it was my only choice.

I can think of three reasons I might need this word in 2021, and none of them are appealing at the moment.

I might need courage in frightening circumstances. A diagnosis. A loss. A broken relationship. A spiritual battle.

Or I might need courage to move beyond my comfort zone. A challenge to grow in an unexpected area or an opportunity to share my faith in a hostile environment.

Finally, I might need courage to lead others where they are reluctant to go or to grow as I teach, either in Bible studies or in writing.

Regardless of whether I accept my word for the year, the events for which I’ll need courage will still unfold. Either I accept the equipping of my heavenly Father and stand on the promises of His Word, or I face the future in denial while relying on my own limited strength.


Promises to claim


So I will presume to appropriate God’s promise to Joshua:

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9 ESV).

And I will appropriate God’s promise to Israel:

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you” (Isaiah 43:2 ESV).

I will say with the psalmist:

“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14).

And I will remember the words of Jesus to His disciples:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27 ESV).

What will 2021 bring? I don’t have a clue. But as Joni Eareckson Tada once said:

“Faith isn’t the ability to believe long and far into the misty future. It’s simply taking God at His Word and taking the next step.”


Do you adopt “one word” in place of resolutions? Share it in the comments!


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  1. FlowerLady

    Thank you again dear Ava for this encouraging and inspiring post. God’s continued blessings on you. Rainey a.k.a. FlowerLady

  2. Dee Gassaway

    I will treasure this post.

    “COURAGE” has been ringing in my spiritual ears for the last several months and I am listening.

    I thank God for His Spirit, being revelatory and for this confirmation.

    Keep letting God use you Ava and be enCOURAGED!

  3. Jane Roach

    Thank you, Ava. Your word is timely and appropriate for our day and the year ahead. May many join us in making this their word for 2021.

  4. Herbera

    Thank you Ava for this reminder! As I read this, I asked the Lord for His Word for me and instantly, the Holy Spirit made it so clear to me “ TRUST “, it’s like His assuring whisper to my ears reminding me,” My dearest one, no matter what the world and surrounding come against your belief and stand, just remember One thing, “TRUST” Me no matter what! Be still and know that I AM GOD! Psalms 46:10

    “TRUST” for 2021! That His word for me!

    God bless you through and through! May His hands be upon you and flourish you throughout and give you all the courage for your life! .

  5. Ava Pennington

    Good word, Herbera. “Trust” was my word for 2019!

  6. Barb Winters

    You’ve got this! I haven’t chosen a word in a few years but this year I felt compelled to go with Sabbath. I purchased a few books on taking a Sabbath each week and I’m working through the books. Saturday has become my day of rest.

  7. Ava Pennington

    Hmm…that’s a good word, too. And one I need to implement even if it’s not my word for the year!

  8. Melissa Henderson

    I don’t choose a word each year. Maybe I will choose a word next year. Thank you for sharing your word and the verses about courage. God is so good.

  9. Jessica Brodie

    Courage is such an important concept. Sometimes we mistakenly think we are courageous or brave if we are fearless, but real courage is the faith to rise above our fears and do/believe/act/be IN SPITE of our fears. Love this!

  10. Nancy E. Head

    I’m holding on to one question and a request directed to God. What do you want me to do today? Help me honor you.

  11. Janice D. Green

    Yes, courage is a very good word for 2021. As Christians we may need an extra helping of courage daily as we face the challenges that are confronting us.

  12. Yvonne Morgan

    I love your word choice, Ava. Courage is something we all need, especially in these trying times. I pray that God gives you all the courage needed for this new year.

  13. Melinda Viergever Inman

    Courage is a great word choice, Ava, especially in a time of pandemic, social upheaval, and rioting in our nation’s Capitol. Courage is needed as we face the future, even if that means facing tomorrow. These times are unprecedented in so many ways, and yet the Lord has chosen us to live during this time. We will need courage to face the challenges of our nation and the challenges we face personally as we combat this virus and the turning of many away from faith. God bless you, Ava, as you courageously face this new year!

  14. Carolyn Goodson

    Beautiful and timely. A word of strength, a word of trust, a word of faith… We all need courage right now. As a nurse, as a grad student, as a mom.. to name a few, I need courage. I have clung to these verses and more this year. You have always seemed very courageous to me Ava as you stepped boldly behind the podium to teach at BSF each week. You are an inspiration to many and if courage is the place He’s calling you to, then He will equip you to go there( I learned that from someone I know 😉💕)

  15. Ava Pennington

    Thank you for your encouragement, Carolyn. I’ve seen you exhibit courage over these past years, too!

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