One thing we owe to Our Lord is never to be afraid. To be afraid is doubly an injury to him. Firstly, it means that we forget him; we forget he is with us and is all powerful; secondly, it means that we are not conformed to his will; for since all that happens is willed or permitted by him, we ought to rejoice in all that happens to us and feel neither anxiety or fear. Let us then have the faith that banishes fear. Our Lord is at our side, with us, upholding us.
–From Meditations of a Hermit by Charles de Foucauld
I often pray to God for courage; but, not the kind of courage you might be thinking of in the context of our world. I do not pray for the courage that we equate with strength. I pray for the courage to believe completely and fully in the presence of God in my life. I pray for the courage to have a fearless and unshaking faith and trust in God. Perhaps it seems odd that minister-types don’t come naturally equipped with an unflinching faith and an unquestioned trust that God is with them; but, we too are human and we too are often afraid. When I pray for courage, I am praying for trust. I pray for the trust to know that God is with us no matter how often we try to rationalize his absence or suggest that he isn’t listening. Even so, it is dishonest to suggest that people of faith are never afraid…we are often afraid. We are afraid because we are not perfect and we are not capable of the truest faith modeled to us in the person of Jesus Christ. We are afraid because we live in a world of loud voices telling us to be afraid, telling us that our only hope is found in nations or nationalism. These voices, trying hard to be louder than God, echo across televisions and social media in an endless stream of terror-invoking cynicism. They are the voices of human brokenness on full display 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
I often pray to God for courage, the kind of courage that embraces vulnerable empathy and humble service amidst the cries of selfish ambition and idolatrous individualism. I pray for the courage to be faithful to God’s work, God’s call to mission, and to be liberated from the lack of trust that puts my own needs and my own privileged worries ahead of the needs of others. I pray for the courage that creates a freedom from fear, fear of bills and paychecks and personal lives, etc. Trust in God is a challenge more than a given in ministry and in life. So much of our programming begs us to trust only those things we can see and believe only those things we can prove as though our rattled hearts might be calmed by tangibility. Courage is comfort and comfort is a spiritual state, not a physical one. Trusting in the grace of God may be intangible; but, it is also eternal and, once trusted, cannot be taken away.
I often pray to God for courage, the courage to trust God and to surrender those things which I cannot control, or handle, or know. Trusting in God means that mystery is always present and absolutes are far away. Trusting in God is an exercise in touching the greatness of a larger truth that humbles and inspires the faithful. The courage to trust is a pathway to the Divine that begins with a simple prayer and ends in a Kingdom yet to come. I pray for the courage to trust in God through all things and in all things, even in the moments of darkness when God seems so far away. I don’t have the magic formula to give you; but, I would encourage all of us to do a little more praying for courage and a little less surrendering to fear.