One of my favorite prayers is this sending prayer:
O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Evangelical Lutheran Worship, p. 304)
I shared my love of that prayer with a friend once and she said, “Oooo. Good courage. I like that.”
I like that too and have been thinking about what makes good courage so “good.”
As we journey into the season of Lent, we intentionally reflect on the “ventures of which we cannot see the ending” and the “perils unknown” and the fact that God is present with us throughout that journey. During Lent, some people abstain from a joy such as food, drink, Facebook, or TV and others take on a practice to focus their self on God such as more regular prayer, Bible study, or community service. The purpose of these disciplines, I think, is that by the Holy Spirit’s work, we might more fully see that God is the source of all goodness and that God’s love continues to support us wherever we go. What leads us through the challenges of our lives is not food, drink, money, Facebook, or TV, but it is the grace and lovingkindness of God.
Being courageous means that you trust in something more than the things that might dissuade you from doing what you set out to do. A police officer is sometimes heralded for her courage. She trusts in her fellow officers, her duty to protect others, and her training more than she fears failure, violence, or death- even if the fears themselves are great.
Good courage for Christians is having faith that the God who creates us and loves us is more reliable and powerful than any and all fears that we might have.
Driven by the Holy Spirit, Christ journeyed into the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:9-13, Luke 4:1-13). He did not know the ending of that venture, this first step in his ministry was an untrodden path, and he did not know the perils that lie ahead of him. But he went on ahead with good courage, trusting that the Holy Spirit’s hand was leading him and God’s love was supporting him.
We too are driven out into the wilderness. We may not know exactly where we are headed. We cannot the see the endings of our financial troubles, our rocky relationships, our troubling health, or our grieving hearts. In the face of all these fears, we pray boldly and defiantly that we might have the good courage to move forward and trust that God will see us through. We do not know if God will solve our problems in ways that we hope for- that God will quickly provide a new source of money, that God will inspire forgiveness in a friend, that God will heal our weakening bodies, or that God will heal our wounded hearts. We do not know the ending of those paths. We can, however, be confidant that whether our ills are healed or they care not, and whether our troubles are eliminated or multiplied, God is with us. God is leading us and supporting us. God will hold us up and embrace us.
Christ walked with us on this earth to share in our joys and our hurts. He walked the untrodden paths of fear and pain that we walk everyday. He stayed on that path with us even when it led him to the cross itself. With Christ as our friend and savior, we can go out with good courage.