Have you asked God to reveal His purpose for you, only to face an onslaught of fear when His plan is revealed? Courtney Watson, a leader of 4word: Nashville and an aspiring author, walks through her journey to discovering a purpose so different from what she had envisioned for her life and how she had to overcome her fears and insecurities to trust in His plan.
Tell us about yourself!
I’m Courtney, an accountant by day and a writer by night. I love to laugh and I’m always ready to eat some queso and talk about Jesus, Christmas, and hockey.
Five years ago I was a college student with little knowledge of how to process my thoughts or find my purpose, and so my blog Faithful Fireworks was born. What began as a way to boldly and honestly make sense of my struggles has today become a space where women can be encouraged and reminded that we don’t have to have it all together but we have to do it all together.
In 2018 my world was turned upside down as I was faced with the reality of needing a brain surgery, and my life has felt different ever since. I spent 10 weeks of 2018 out of work and removed from the life I had just started building in Nashville, and it was during that time that the Lord worked more clearly in my life than I have ever seen before. My time since then has been spent embracing the path I know the Lord is leading me down rather than the path I expected to walk. I have changed my career path in accounting, I am writing my first book, and I have recently launched a new website to create more Faithful Fireworks as I hope to continue building on the work God is doing in my life. I can’t tell you where or when the Lord will take me next, but I have been learning to stand still and see the great thing the Lord is doing before my eyes (1 Samuel 12:16) and I am so excited to continue the journey of not finding but embracing my purpose.
How did God use the silence of your recovery time following surgery to get through to you?
One thing I’ve learned about God through this experience is that my surgery and everything that came with it was not unexpected to Him. What felt to me like an immediate switch turning on in my head that I didn’t even know was there, was to God a piece of a greater plan He was about to let me in on. During this time of “forced rest,” I realized I had never slowed down long enough to sit in the silence. For the first time, I was learning to sit in the place where God brought me without working towards a goal or my next step or doing anything that prevented me from wasting time. I’d love to tell you I did so out of reverence for God and the recognition that He was working, but the reality is that I was sitting in the silence because that is all that I could do (hence the “forced rest”). But through those days of endless silence, I felt myself beginning to unwind.
I started asking myself questions about who I wanted to become post-brain surgery because even early on I recognized that I would never be the same. I was questioning how this surgery and the 10 weeks of no work would fit into God’s plan for me. Questions like, “How will I feel when I am fully recovered? What will it be like and what will people think of me when I go back to work after so long? How in the world does this life-changing moment fit into the well thought out plan of a tax accountant? What am I doing with my life? Does any of this even matter?”
I think at some point these questions I had been asking myself became questions that I asked the Lord. In the unwinding work of the Spirit I was being shown that it’s okay to need help. I began to learn the importance of knowing where my responsibility to work hard ends and the power of God working in me takes full effect. Because the truth is that I can’t walk through this life alone. I can’t truly live in the safety net of my own plan when God is calling me to step into something bigger than I am.
Through the silence I was finally letting myself give up this facade of independence and lean into the God who sustains all things, myself included. The Lord was using His silence to break me of my independence, my need to do things all on my own without asking for help, and my need to see the next step before picking up my foot. God was working through the process all along, but it was only when I let myself ask for help and sit in the presence of the God who sustains, carries, and rescues (Isaiah 46:4) that I found the heart space to hear what He was trying to tell me all along. God knew that I would today be telling this story with my very first book sitting in the hands of a literary agent or publisher as they determine whether or not to take a chance on me. More than that, He knew that, unless I took the time to stop and just listen to Him, I would miss the blessing of those 10 weeks to reflect on how far I had come and prepare for the many changes that were coming my way.
What thoughts or emotions went through your mind when you realized that writing a book was the path God was suddenly leading you down?
I am not one of those people who always knew they wanted to write a book. I was the person who wanted to build businesses, not books. Yet in the process of finding freedom to ask God my tough questions and rely on His sustaining and healing power, I felt a stirring of the Spirit as the words “write a book” started coming to mind. It might sound crazy, but up until this point those words had quite literally never crossed my mind. I had been blogging for a few years simply as a way for me to process my own emotions and maybe help out another believer walking through similar seasons of life, nothing more. But there I was after my surgery, sitting in silence and praying more honestly than I ever had before…and I felt those words return to my mind day after day.
More than anything, the idea of writing a book scared me. Everytime that thought would come to mind I responded with things like: “I’m not a professional writer. I never had a writing class beyond the required literature courses for my undergraduate degree, and don’t you remember, God, that was the only course that broke my perfect 4.0 GPA? I’m a numbers girl, not a creative girl. I’m 24, what on earth could I have to say that would even matter at this point. I haven’t had any seminary classes, how am I qualified to write about the words of God?” To be honest, my excuses at the time remind me a lot of Moses before he left Midian to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt. (Not that I see myself leading people out of Egypt anytime soon, but you get the point!)
Fast forward a few months and I began to see how along the way that every fear-filled statement I had spoken had been countered in some way by the Word of God and the people He was placing into my life. Whether it was a woman reminding me that I am creative because I am made in the image of a creative God or a mentor proving that you can change career paths, I started to see His fingerprints and the way He was nudging me to follow Him in obedience, even though it made little sense at the time. So I sat down one day and just started writing. The fear was still there, but there was something exciting about feeling certain of something without seeing it clearly.
Part of me still didn’t believe I could do something as crazy as write a whole book, but I was writing because I truly felt this was what the Lord was asking me to do. As I wrote a few more pages here and there, I began to dig deeper into what it means to trust God as we step into a new job or a new season of life. I realized that a lot of the fears I had as I walked into the office for the first time were resurfacing as I started my new journey of writing. I began to see that fear and insecurity don’t play favorites; they don’t care if I’m a CPA or a writer as long as they make enough of an impact to keep me from trusting God’s way, especially in the silence.
What role can fear play when you have to pursue a new purpose?
Fear can do one of two things – hold you back or push you forward. Many of us probably relate to fear keeping us from taking chances. We don’t take our dream job because we’re afraid it won’t be much of a dream in reality, or we don’t let anyone get too close because we’re afraid we will lose them, or we turn down the trip of a lifetime because we’re afraid of stepping out of our comfort zone. Maybe some of us are on the other side of the fence and we chase the things that scare us most because we refuse to feel fear at all. We run and we run for whatever is scary to prove we aren’t afraid.
But what if I don’t want to accept either of those options? I don’t want to stay in my cozy comfort zone all my life because that keeps me from pursuing what is God’s best for me. Writing a book is most definitely out of my comfort zone, but I have found that I can often hear God more clearly when I’m outside of what feels safe. On the other hand, I don’t want to rush through life chasing every big scary dream. That route keeps me from pursuing God’s best for me because I’m too busy chasing every other thing I want in life. Sometimes stopping to sit in the presence of God is scarier than chasing a dream, especially for a goal-driven gal like myself, because then all we can do is watch the Lord work and realize we are afraid of the stillness.
I cannot claim to have it all figured out, but I believe we should allow ourselves to feel our fears, whatever they may be. Whether it’s stepping out of our comfort zone or stepping into the stillness, healthy fear reminds us that we’re about to do something that we cannot do on our own. The fear reminds us that we need the Lord. We need the strength and the courage that comes when we recognize our dependence on Him. In my experience, this is where the breakthroughs happen: in honestly acknowledging and sharing with God the fears that scare the daylights out of me and then choosing to take the new step He is asking me to take because He has promised us Himself—His presence, power and provision.
What tips do you have for using your fear to gain the courage to move forward?
My biggest tip would be to lean into the Word of God. That may be a cliche, but the truth is that for every fear, God not only tells you not to fear but He tells you why. This has been the biggest source of courage for me. I really, really don’t like when I’m told simply “do not fear.” I’ve always just wanted to scream when people say “do not fear” and then close their mouth like that’s all it takes to make the feelings disappear. I don’t understand why we stop there when the scriptures often keep going. We need to remember that it is the faithful promises of God that provide the basis for choosing faith over fear. We don’t have to allow fear to keep us from living out our purpose because He will fight for us (Exodus 14:13-14), He will neither fail nor abandon us (Deuteronomy 31:6), He is close beside us (Psalm 23:4), He has ransomed us and calls us by name, He is our God and we are His children (Isaiah 43:1-2). There is more to the story than the words “Do not fear,” we need to remember that.
Another tip is to allow yourself to feel the fear. For years I struggled with keeping my fears to myself because I thought they meant I lacked faith. If I could just hide them then they weren’t really there, or so I thought. But y’all, fear is a normal reaction, and it doesn’t surprise God that we often feel it. Like I mentioned above, I believe the key is to give ourselves the freedom to acknowledge the fear, bring it to light, and then let it remind us of how deeply we need the Lord. After all, we are told that His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Ultimately, I believe we are being equipped each and every day for the work God is leading us to. He already has the full purpose of our lives laid out before us, so He knows well how to prepare us for it. I think we get so caught up in thinking we need to know the full purpose and plan for our lives that we forget that we don’t actually need to know.
My final tip is to find courage in knowing that we are bookended in this moment. We don’t need to know what our future holds just yet. We can look back and see how far we’ve come and see the faithfulness of God to carry us through the fear-filled days and nights we’ve seen before. We can look forward and trust that the very same God will carry us through every day we’ve yet to see. But right now, we can know we are held on both sides—the past and the future—by a God who has prepared us for this very moment and who does not doubt that His daughter can accomplish the work He’s placed in her present.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I love that I’ve been given the opportunity to tell this story now, because I still haven’t seen how my purpose in life will play out. All I know is that the Lord has led me here: to 4word, to writing, to finding that pursuing my purpose is a day-to-day thing. Each day brings new possibilities and new fears, but each day His mercy is new and His promises are steady. Each day is a chance for us to wake up and look for God right where we are, do the work He has given us to do today, and trust that He won’t let us miss our next step in accomplishing the work He has for us.
Courtney Watson is a Certified Public Accountant with a background in tax services, currently working as a Staff Accountant for the Nashville Predators in Nashville, TN. She has been involved with 4word since 2018, leading as the 4word Nashville Finance Lead in 2019 and the 4word Nashville City Co-Lead in 2020. Most recently, Courtney is working to publish her first book for women like herself who are trying to navigate what it means to be a new professional living between the office and the altar. While her book is still in process, Courtney has launched a new website that is home to her Faithful Fireworks blog, where her desire is to encourage women to embrace the need for community and absolute dependence on God. Her hope is that in every season of life women can come together and share fireworks of faith, telling of the goodness of God in bursts of beauty, and maybe even light new faithful fireworks along the way.