September 2023 · Forward in Hope

Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord. ~Psalm 31:24 (NRSV)

One of my favorite podcasters, Roger Bennett, ends most of his shows—which are about the game the rest of the world calls football, but we call soccer—with the exclamation, “Courage!” It was something he started doing during the earliest days of the pandemic, inspired by the way Dan Rather had done so at one point in the 80s and in the 50s how Edward R. Murrow had concluded his broadcasts with “Good night, and good luck.”

It may sound strange to say that one of my major positive lifelines during that time was a humorous soccer podcast, but there was something about the work that Rog did during the pandemic that was deeply humane and inspirational for me. I’ve since come to realize it was the insistence that we must defiantly discover courage even in the midst of a bleak situation. If we could find little moments of individual courage, they would collectively add up in encouragement for one another. This was most poignantly and beautifully displayed in a story sent in by a listener a bit later in that year, who having taken this message to heart, told his young child, stung by a bee, to have courage. To which the child through sniffles and tears responded, “I’m couraging.”

The verse above from Psalm 31 call us to have courage in the face of our adversities and challenges, and it wisely knows that we don’t always have it. The exhortation to “be strong,” isn’t about being ripped with muscles, never skipping leg day, and tearing phonebooks in half. It’s about having the strength to exercise patience in adversity and faithfulness to the task at hand. It’s about having the inward strength to admit our deepest needs for the help that comes from family and friends, community and coworkers, and most importantly God. When we have been strong enough to be vulnerable, then our heart can be transformed from a state of fearfulness to a heart beating with courage.

Let me be clear, though, that while we wait patiently for the Lord we are not called to wait passively. We are to take the gift of God’s strength and courage we discover in ourselves and one another and make a difference for those who need our help. This is why Saint Francis Ministries exists and that is what we are all here to do. In so doing we help others to discover their own inner reserves of strength and to face their challenges with courage they never knew they could muster. Have a courageous day!

The Rev. Andrew O’Connor is Saint Francis Ministries’ Executive Officer of Mission & Ministry.