Courage Is Hope
“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. I give to you not as the world gives. Don’t be troubled or afraid.” - John 14:27
You have a terminal illness. We all do. We are going to die. We don’t think about it often when we are young, maybe not even when we are older, but it’s still true. We are fragile and, even if we don’t ponder this often, this knowledge of our death is a deep place inside of us that we go to make decisions. It’s often the root behind many of our choices. Do we make those choices in fear or in courage?
Our lives always hang in the balance. And, as Christians we fight every single instinct to freeze, run away, or become a hunter. Most of us don’t encounter moments where we are making literal decisions to run away from a bear or kill an animal to survive. But we do make life or death decisions, decisions that can lead us toward hope or toward sorrow, every day. Do we protect what we think of as ours out of fear or do we live in courage, embracing the upside-down world Jesus talks about? How do we, like Jesus, turn everything upside down? With courage. Courage doesn’t mean we aren’t afraid, but it does mean we believe in Jesus’ offering of real peace in the middle of fear. We stretch our arms wide, and embrace the hunter, embrace the darkness and fear, to become light.
We know from scripture that Jesus doesn’t show up in the light, safe, and clean. He shows up in the mess; in dirty stables and at dinner tables of outcasts, with sick people others don’t want to touch and wealthy people facing death and despair. He shows up naked and beaten on a cross; and in empty tombs that still smell like death. We have to go to the dark places in ourselves and in the world to find the life that Jesus offers. Sometimes we even have to wait in the dark, tired, and with foolish people. We are waiting and watching, and working together to keep each other strong and courageous.
Curling into a ball of just you or just the people like you, doesn’t make fear go away. The way to make fear go away is to face it; to walk through it so it is on the other side, behind you. Jesus’ peace doesn’t banish fear, but it allows us to move through fear toward hope. Living as a people that are facing and entering their fears takes practice. Dying takes practice. The Gospel of Matthew tells us we practice dying to ourselves by feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, taking care of the sick, and visiting those in prison. Entering the dark will begin to change you and give you the courage to enter more places of fear.
A lot of what Jesus asks us to do that will open these floodgates of justice and righteousness are simple and mundane tasks. We are surrounded by darkness if we just look around. You can enter the bear’s den at home, at school, at work, at prayer, even in your churches.
- Can you take one step today that helps you practice fighting your fear of death and lets you grow in facing the world with an attitude of hope?
- What is a practice you are putting off?
- Do you need to forgive someone? Are you an addict?
- Have you ever visited a prisoner in person or in a letter?
- Do you give food to the hungry?
- How can you do one thing today to love an enemy?
- The more we enter the darkness, the more we encounter the Risen Lord, and the more we see and become the nightlights.
- Will you worship God truly with me?
- Will you go above and beyond songs and offerings and a false sense of security?
- Will you go to the dark with me to find Jesus?
- Will you light those flimsy lamps?
- Will you get so tired with me that we fall asleep with the waiting?
- Will you stay in the dark with me? I know for sure it’s in the dark that we see the light!