If you’re wondering what the phrase ‘take heart’ means in the Bible, you’re not alone. This commonly used expression can leave readers confused about its exact meaning and what the biblical authors were trying to convey when using it.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The phrase ‘take heart’ is used over a dozen times in the Bible to tell people to ‘be encouraged’, ‘have courage’, ‘do not fear’ or ‘take hope’ in the midst of difficult life situations.
In this comprehensive guide, we will examine several examples of ‘take heart’ in context across both the Old and New Testaments. We’ll take a close look at the original language meanings, do a thorough word study, and help bring clarity to this often misunderstood term.
Definition and Origins of ‘Take Heart’
The phrase “take heart” is an encouraging expression that has been used in the Bible and throughout history. It essentially means to “be of good courage” or “take courage.” Here is an overview of the origins and biblical usage of this uplifting phrase:
The expression “take heart” dates back to the 1300s and originated from the idea of taking something to heart, meaning to take something seriously or personally. The heart was seen as the source of a person’s confidence and courage.
Therefore, to “take heart” meant to gain inner strength, confidence, or hope from a situation in order to persevere.
The phrasing evolved from statements like “take something to heart” to commands or encouragements to “take heart.” By the late 1400s, writers were using “take heart” to urge people to be of good cheer, take courage, or feel confident in pressing circumstances.
“Take heart” and “take courage” were used frequently in the King James Version of the Bible in the early 1600s. Here are some examples:
- “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 KJV)
- “But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5:39 KJV)
- “Paul then stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience.” (Acts 13:16 KJV)
Jesus often told his followers to “be of good cheer” or “take heart” in the midst of persecution or trials. This phrase offered encouragement to remain steadfast in faith and take courage even through difficult times.
Today, “take heart” is still used to uplift people who are discouraged or facing adversity. Some examples of modern usage include:
- Take heart, help is on the way!
- Even though you failed, take heart and try again.
- Take heart, friend. This too shall pass.
The encouraging phrase reminds people to summon inner strength and hope in challenging circumstances. It persists as a way to inspire courage and confidence when people need it most.
Take Heart in the Old Testament
David Says ‘Take Heart’ to Solomon
In 1 Chronicles 28, King David was old and nearing the end of his life. He gathered all the officials of Israel and spoke to his son Solomon, telling him to build the temple of the Lord. David encouraged Solomon saying, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work.
Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished.” (1 Chronicles 28:20). David told Solomon to “take heart” and be strong, knowing that God would be with him.
David wanted to build the temple himself but God did not allow it because David was a man of war (1 Chronicles 28:3). Instead, God chose Solomon, whose name means “peace”, to build the magnificent temple. David gave Solomon detailed plans for construction that God had given him.
Despite Solomon’s youth, David exhorted him to courageously carry out this important work for the Lord. David’s words encouraged his son to wholeheartedly obey God’s command with strength and zeal.
God Comforts His People Through Isaiah
The book of Isaiah contains many passages where God tells His people Israel to “take heart” or “be strong” in the midst of difficult circumstances. Isaiah 35:4 says, “Say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.'”
This passage was written when the nation was under threat from enemies. God assured them deliverance was near. He would judge the wicked but also redeem His people. This brought comfort and hope. Isaiah 41:10 has a similar message: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” God wanted His people to be courageous despite their trials.
As a loving Father, God knew His people needed encouragement to persevere in hardship. His words to “take heart” reminded them of His presence and power. He was in complete control over every situation. By trusting in Him, they could boldly face every circumstance without giving way to fear.
Jesus Repeatedly Says ‘Take Heart’ in the Gospels
‘Take Heart, It is I’
In the Gospels, Jesus often tells his disciples to “take heart” or “take courage” using the Greek phrase “tharseo”. This phrase is used in situations where he is reassuring them in fearful or worrying circumstances.
One key example is when he walks on the water to the disciples who are in a boat during a storm (Matthew 14:27). Seeing him, they think he is a ghost and are terrified. But Jesus says to them “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” His words and presence calm them.
In this case, “take heart” means to “have courage and confidence” because Jesus, their Teacher and Lord, is with them.
Another example is when the resurrected Jesus suddenly appears to his disciples who are frightened, thinking they have seen a spirit. He says to them “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see.
For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet” (Luke 24:38-40). Jesus reassures them powerfully that he has indeed bodily risen from the dead. This gives them hope again after despairing at his death.
‘Take Heart, Your Faith Has Healed You’
On two occasions in the Gospels, Jesus also uses the phrase “take heart” in the context of physical healing miracles he performs (Matthew 9:2, 9:22). In Matthew 9:2, some men bring a paralytic lying on a bed to Jesus.
Seeing their faith, Jesus says to the paralytic “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” In that culture, physical disability was often associated directly with sin. By forgiving his sins, Jesus releases him from the root spiritual cause in order to pave the way for physical healing.
Jesus then heals his paralysis to prove his authority to forgive sins.
Similarly in Matthew 9:22, Jesus ministers to a chronically ill woman who has suffered constant bleeding for 12 years. She thinks “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well”. As she touches his cloak in the crowd, Jesus turns and says to her “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.”
At that moment, she was healed. Jesus affirms the power of her faith to receive divine healing. His words “take heart” encouraged her that God’s favor now rested upon her through Christ.
In situations like sickness where people would naturally be afraid or discouraged, Jesus often says ‘take heart’ as both a reassurance of God’s power and also as a challenge to boldly expect their breakthrough, because of who He is.
Paul Urges Followers to ‘Take Heart’ in Scripture
Paul Encourages the Thessalonian Church
In 1 Thessalonians 3:6-8, the apostle Paul expresses joy that Timothy has returned with a good report about the church in Thessalonica. Paul says, “But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you—for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith.”
Paul goes on to say, “For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord.”
Despite the persecution and afflictions the Thessalonian church was facing, their steadfast faith brought great encouragement to Paul. He urges them to continue standing firm in the faith, taking heart that as long as they persevered in the Lord, Paul could live with joy.
Paul Reminds the Corinthians ‘Do Not Lose Heart’
In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul provides insight into the challenges he faced in ministry. He highlights the hardships he endured such as beatings, imprisonment, riots, sleepless nights, and constant concern for the churches (2 Corinthians 6:4-5).
But he reminds the Corinthians that despite the trials, believers have an eternal glory that far outweighs temporary troubles (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
Paul states in 2 Corinthians 4:1, “Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.” Paul wanted to encourage the Corinthians, reminding them that despite afflictions, they must not lose hope or give up. The trials were only momentary compared to the eternal glory to come.
He goes on to say in verse 16, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” By fixing their eyes on the eternal, Paul exhorted the Corinthians to be steadfast, immovable, abounding in the Lord’s work knowing their labor was not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).
Applying ‘Take Heart’ to Our Lives Today
The biblical phrase “take heart” essentially means to be courageous, confident, and hopeful even in the face of adversity. In today’s challenging world, this timeless message still rings true for all of us. Applying “take heart” to our daily lives can profoundly impact how we deal with struggles.
Cultivating Inner Strength
When we “take heart,” we tap into an inner fortitude and resilience. Instead of being overwhelmed by hardships, we can draw on deep spiritual and emotional reserves to cope. This starts with an attitude shift – choosing faith over fear, optimism over pessimism.
As John 16:33 declares: “…In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Beyond shifting mindsets, we need to nurture our inner strength through self-care practices like meditation, journaling, spending time in nature and serving others. Building courage and resilience is crucial to surviving tough times.
Finding Meaning and Purpose
Connecting to a sense of meaning and purpose enables us to not just survive but transcend our troubles. Viktor Frankl, in his seminal book Man’s Search for Meaning, described how Holocaust survivors relied on their sense of purpose to make it through horrific suffering.
Like them, anchoring to our whys – our core reasons for being – allows us to bear almost any how.
Clarifying our life purpose, priorities and ethics serves as an inner compass during storms. When faced with an illness, job loss or heartbreak, those who have a strong “why” often demonstrate remarkable perseverance. Their sense of meaning infuses them with spiritual courage.
Building Hope-Filled Communities
“Taking heart” may start as an internal process, but external support is also vital. Humans are wired for connection. Without supportive community, it’s very difficult to keep believing during bleak times. Isolation breeds despair; fellowship nurtures hope.
That’s why building hope-filled communities is so crucial. The Bible speaks of God comforting us so that we can comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). We’re meant to create “take heart” cultures where people lift each other up through hard times rather than abandon each other.
Every hospital visit, meal delivered, listening ear and loving deed builds bonds that help us handle almost anything life throws our way.
In a fragmented world, few things are more powerful than “taking heart” together – whether that’s as friends, families, congregations or even entire movements. With inner strength and enduring support networks, we can weather just about any storm.
In reviewing the many instances where ‘take heart’ appears across Scripture, it becomes clear this is a phrase conveying comfort, hope, and courage in the midst of life’s trials.
Whether God is directly commanding his people to ‘take heart’ through his prophets, or Jesus is repeating this phrase to reassure frightened followers in New Testament narratives, the meaning remains the same.
As modern readers, we can apply this rich biblical concept to our current struggles. Whenever we face grief, fear, doubt or anxiety, we can recall God’s frequent command to ‘take heart’ – and receive strength to press on by faith.