The Principled Courage of the Righteous

“I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”
          – William Henly1

The pull-quote above comes from the 1875 Victorian era poem Invictus by the English poet William Ernest Henley. It was written while he was hospitalized with a diseased right foot, having already lost his left leg when it was amputated below the knee at age twelve (an amputation stemming from tuberculosis of the bone).2 Threatened with a second amputation, Henley challenged the doctor’s recommendation, choosing instead three years of experimental treatment in an effort to save his remaining foot. It was during this three-year battle, that Henley penned Invictus.

Threatened with a second amputation, Henley challenged the doctor’s recommendation, choosing instead three years of experimental treatment in an effort to save his remaining foot. It was during this three-year battle, that Henley penned Invictus.3

Out of the night that covers me,
     Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
     For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
     I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
     My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
     Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
     Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
     How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
     I am the captain of my soul.

As I sit at my desk, writing this, I do so as a man who is relatively healthy, with only minor ailments that hardly interfere with my life in even the slightest of ways. It is difficult for me to imagine the threat of losing my only remaining useful foot.


While it is tempting (and arguably accurate) to read Invictus as a poem of bravado and arrogance, I choose to read it as a work illustrative of the indomitable spirit of humanity that God has placed within each of us. I admire a man who refuses to cower before circumstance, while my own culture is rife with self-made victims fed by a social engine that encourages dependency, whining, and blaming. Indeed, it is the very fire in Henley’s belly that inspired Robert Louis Stevenson to create the character Long John Silver, in the classic Treasure Island.4

There is a courage beyond what we can muster up within ourselves – a courage that wells up only within those indwelt by the Spirit of Almighty God. It is that temperament we see portrayed in Proverbs.

The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, but the righteous are bold as a lion. – Proverbs 28:1, NASB

It is the boldness of Joshua and Caleb who stood with God while the other ten spies cowered in fear.

Only do not rebel against the LORD; and do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey. Their protection is gone from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them.” – Numbers 14:9, NASB

Their protection is GONE. Let that concept resonate in your head for a moment.

Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God? – 1 Samuel 17:26b, ESV

And with that, young David took down the one man no one from either army dared to confront. That’s boldness!

Come and let us cross over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; perhaps the LORD will work for us, for the LORD is not restrained to save by many or by few. – 1 Samuel 14:6b, NASB

In that confidence and lion-like boldness, two young men took out an entire detachment of Philistine soldiers.

If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up. – Daniel 3:16b-18, NIV-1978

Such boldness to speak thusly to a king notorious for his foul treatment of the “underlings.”

The LORD will fight for you; you need only be still. – Exodus 14:14, NIV-1978

Spoken as the chariot-enabled armies of the most powerful man in Egypt bore down on people with their backs to the sea.

Scripture is replete with examples of those who displayed boldness in the LORD.

  • Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Mark 15:43. Bold!
  • Peter and John spoke to the crowd with boldness. Acts 4:13.
  • Later, the place all the disciples inhabited was shaken. They went out and spoke with boldness. Acts 4:31
  • The apostle Paul faced down dangers and death threats to speak boldly of Jesus. Acts 9:29, 14:3, 19:8.

And now, we walk in that same boldness.

The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, but the righteous are bold as a lion. – Proverbs 28:1, NASB

Blessings upon you, my friends.

Victoriously in Christ!

– damon
Twitter – @DamonJGray
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1. Henley, W. E., (1920). Invictus. In Untermeyer, Louis (Ed.), Modern British Poetry (p. 10). New York: Harcourt, Brace and Howe. (Invictus is in the Public Domain.)
2. Diniejko, A., (n.d.). William Ernest Henley: A Biographical Sketch. Retrieved January 6, 2015, from
3. Poeticous, (n.d.). William Ernest Henley Retrieved January 6, 2015, from
4. Flora, J. M., (2005). W. E. Henley.

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  1. Scott Wahl on February 7, 2022 at 7:25 PM

    With every great move of God and I’m referring to the awakenings you know the awakenings in our nation there came with it the attitude and the devotion and the conviction of the hearts of men and women and children to live life victoriously. In this day and age we seem to have a generation or 2 that sees themselves as victims. I pray that God restore our nation to a righteous standard of living victoriously basically in the presence of Holy Spirit and that he would break through and break down the walls of victimization is victimization in the nation. It’s time to quit raising self indulgent childrenIt’s time to quit raising self indulgent children. God is a God of breakthrough. We need a generation of children to rise up and claim their authority in Jesus. Is we need a nation of generations younger and old who recognize and realize that it’s it’s time to put away the is the push that we find with purpose driven living while we forget living presence centered and ministering to God. Mary had it right she had the better. I’m proud of you Damon you’re a real man. You are a great father and brother and Uncle and friend. You have held to the faith and you continue moving with the God most high. Shalom. I love you. I hope to see you someday.

  2. Damon J. Gray on February 7, 2022 at 7:35 PM

    Oh Scott . . . you have landed right on top of a grievous hot-button issue of mine – the victim mentality. I blogged about that one here:

    It’s great to see you here. Be well my brother, and thanks for commenting.

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