Josh Irby

Live from Sarajevo

3 Key Factors when Facing a Challenge

Sometimes, life is just plain difficult. Challenges loom. Fear overwhelms. Hope dwindles.

In those times, quitting is a natural response. However, these three factors can help us face our fears and tackle our challenges head on.

Credit Christopher Sessums (Creative Commons)

Credit Christopher Sessums (Creative Commons)


When difficulty appears, a fog descends on our minds. What was clear last week, we now question. Nothing feels certain.

In those times we need clarity.

During the summer of 2009, I moved my family of four from suburban Atlanta to Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. There were some foggy points in the transition. We regularly questioned our sanity.

One Saturday we held a moving sale. In preparation, my wife and I prayed for the day. Taylor specifically asked God to  cause people to pay more than sticker price for our things.

When she prayed those words, I thought, “Have you ever been to a garage sale? That’s not how it works. People bargain you down, they don’t bargain you up!”

The morning progressed with few surprises. On our front lawn we exchanged  a garage full of possessions for the change in strangers’ pockets.

In the afternoon, a man came by looking for a grill. Of all our possessions, I was most sad to part with my Weber grill. We spent so many evenings around that grill hanging out with friends and enjoying good food. He asked why I was selling. I told him about our move. He made me an offer (fair but low) and I accepted. He paid me and left to go get his truck.

Something about that day made the move more real to me. With the reality came fear. With the fear came the fog. Why am I selling my possessions? Why am I giving up this life I enjoy with friends I love? 

An hour later, the man returned. After loading the grill in the bed of his truck he came over to thank me. He slipped a $100 bill in my hand and said, “What you are doing is important. Here is a little extra to help out.”

I couldn’t wait to tell Taylor. Someone had actually paid more than we had asked. More importantly, I was reminded of our purpose and the lighthouse of clarity cut through the fog of our fear.


Not only do we need clarity—what we are doing and why it is important—we also need confidence in who we are.

When I played basketball in high school I was a good shooter but I struggled with confidence. I didn’t have the mentality of great shooters who believe that every shot they take is a good one.

For the first stretch of my senior year I struggled to find my place in the offense. I didn’t take many shots a game and therefore wasn’t contributing as much as I could. Then, our lead scorer was injured.

I remember the huddle right after he was taken off the court. The coach shifted us around to different positions then looked at me and said, “Shoot the ball.”  That night I scored a career high and we won the game. For the rest of the season, I continued to shoot and score. Whenever I backed off, coach reminded me, “Shoot the rock. You are our shooter.”

When things get difficult we need to remember we were made for times like these. This confidence in who we are allows us to perform under pressure and give our best in the worst of situations.


Clarity and confidence is not enough. Without courage, we will remain risk-averse and avoid the challenges facing us.

I have always feared public speaking. It goes back to when, as a kid, I started laughing uncontrollably during a play and never delivered my lines. While I have overcome the urge to giggle, I still get nervous every time I speak in front of people.

When I published a book in Bosnia, I was invited onto a talk show. Sitting in the studio awaiting my time “under the lights” I felt like that embarrassed 10-year-old again. I just knew I would start laughing uncontrollable in front of a TV audience.

As I waited, I reminded myself of a truth that has seen me through many speeches and interviews. This is not about me. I am not on TV (or at the podium) to defend or create my own story. I am there because of a bigger story—one in which I play a small part. I don’t need to worry about my future or my reputation because I am not the hero of the story. I just need to play my part and let the real hero play his part.

Courage comes when we realize failure is not the end and we cannot destroy our life as easily we think.

Supernatural Clarity, Confidence, and Courage.

These three factors are necessary for facing life’s challenges. However, not all clarity, confidence, and courage are equal. We can, through mental gymnastics, convince ourselves we are clear, confident and courageous. There are many websites to help you on that quest. But that type is weak.

The clarity, confidence, and courage that propel you through even the most hopeless challenges is the kind that comes from outside yourself. The supernatural version. The kind originating with your Creator.

Purpose from God produces supernatural clarity.
Identity from God produces supernatural confidence.
Perspective from God produces supernatural courage.

Eventually we begin to internalize what we are hearing. We find ourselves charging courageously into the fog, confident the one who tells us to “shoot the rock” can work our strengths and weaknesses into a better story than we can imagine.

What has helped you grow in clarity, confidence or courage? (Let me know in the comments below)


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