Dear brothers and sisters,
The Serenity Prayer (Adapted by SL) begins this way:
“God grant me the serenity
to not be anxious for things that I cannot change;
courage to care (be concerned) and do the things I can,
at this time of the Coronavirus pandemic;
and the wisdom to know the difference.”
We have been looking at serenity and acceptance (submission) in the Serenity Prayer (Reinhold Niebuhr), learning to not be concerned about the things over which we have absolutely no control. Now we would like to move on to the topic of “courage” – the courage to change the things that you and I can change, especially in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. I like to think of this, the courage to change the things I can, as the opposite of serenity (to accept the things I cannot change), as the courage in such a time as this, to care (be concerned) about the current situation and be concerned enough to do all that we can.
“Courage” is defined as “the ability to do something that frightens one,” or “strength in the face of pain and grief.” Similar words are bravery, valor, fearlessness and boldness. The opposite would be cowardice and timidity. When people talk about courage, they usually think of physical courage when faced with danger or moral courage when dealing with moral issues.
As Christians familiar with the stories of Exodus and Joshua, we think immediately of how God commanded Joshua to be “strong and courageous.” We read,
“Be strong and courageous, for you shall give people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success whenever you go.” (Joshua 1:6-7)
The first time God gave Joshua the command to “be strong and courageous” was for him to complete the task of conquering the Land of Canaan that God had given him and the people of Israel because it was the promise of God himself. That takes faith. The second time God gave the same command even more emphatically was for Joshua to follow God all the way while he was completing the task. That takes integrity, especially when tempted to take short cuts or the easy way out. So from this command of God we see that spiritual courage involves faith and integrity: Faith to believe God at His word and “Just do it” and integrity to persevere when the going gets tough.
Here in view of the current Coronavirus pandemic, I have taken the liberty to interpret and apply “courage” in my adaptation of the Serenity Prayer, to mean “courage to care (be concerned) and do the things I can. While “serenity” is taken to mean “not to be concerned” about things that only God can change, here we are talking about taking care to do the exact opposite, to be concerned and do the things that are within our power. This means the moral courage to do the right thing to help contain the virus, things like physical distancing and staying at home as much as we can. This means using all sorts of means like Zoom to maintain communication with our brothers and sisters despite the suspension of all church gathering and activities. This means using all sorts of means to care for people who are at greater health risks than us by doing simple things like helping with the deliveries of groceries. In sort, this means that we will have courage to do the right thing even though it is difficult. Niebuhr elaborates on what he means by this with these words:
“Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him forever in the next.
Indeed, what this means in the current situation is, despite the dark clouds that we are living under, we will live with courage in the present, seeing things from God’s perspectives and not through the lens that we put on. This courage comes also from knowing that we have the promise of peace and hope given to us by the Coming King. Above all, as Christians, we know that we can be courageous because our help is from God. The Scriptures are filled with gems to help us “be strong and courageous,” here are some of them for us at this time of pandemic:
Psalm 46:1-3 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
Isaiah 41:10 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.
Psalm 27: 1-3 The LORD is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.
Deuteronomy 31:6, 8 Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is the Lord your God who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.
Only be strong and very courageous.