God did not give us a spirit of cowardice,
but rather a spirit of power.
2 Timothy 1:7a (NRSV)
When I was a senior in high school, the class I hated most was public speaking. Although I’ve always liked to talk, the thought of speaking in front of a group of people made me want to throw up. My anxiety was obvious; my teacher wrote the same thing on every grade sheet: Relax. Calm down. Have confidence! Easy for him to say. He wasn’t the one who broke out in a cold sweat every time a new speech was assigned.
Then came semester finals; we had to give a ten-minute persuasive speech. Ten minutes! The words kept ringing through my head. Ten minutes of awkward silence broken only by my mumbled explanations. I would rather fail than give a ten-minute speech, I thought.
“I can’t,” I told my mom. “I can’t get up in front of all those people and talk for ten minutes.” I worried for days.
The night before the final I was a nervous wreck. Seeing my distress, my mom gave me a card with these words from Joshua 1:9b (CEV) written on it: “Be strong and brave. Don’t ever be afraid or discouraged! I am the Lord your God, and I will be there to help you wherever you go.”
The next day I put the card beside my notes and read it every time I started to falter. I was still nervous, but for once my voice didn’t shake; I didn’t lose my place; and best of all, I didn’t want to cry the minute I finished talking.
That day I got my confidence; it came from the Lord.