Thursday, December 10, 2009

Farsighted courage - don't die of a broken heart

In Max Lucado's book Fearless, he talks about the need to have 'farsighted courage' vs. simple optimism. I like what he says here, because I think it describes me to some extent (not that I've gone through anything like the person here). But perhaps optimism is over-rated. And just because someone is not a rah-rah type doesn't mean they're necessarily a pessimist either. Check this out from p. 157:
Author Jim Collins makes reference to this outlook in his book Good to Great. Collins tells the story of Admiral James Stockdale, who was a prisoner of war for eight years during the Vietnam War.

After Stockdale's release Collins asked him how in the world he survived eight years in a prisoner-of-war camp.

He replied, "I never lost faith in the end of the story. I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade."

Collins then asked, "Who didn't make it out?" Admiral Stockdale replied, "Oh, that's easy. The optimists... they were the ones who said, 'We're going to be out by Christmas.' And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they'd say, 'We're going to be out by Easter.' And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanskgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart."

Real courage embraces the twin realities of current difficulty and ultimate triumph. Yes, life stinks. But it won't forever. As one of my friends likes to say, "Everything will work out in the end. If it's not working out, it's not the end."

Though the church is winnowed down like Gideon's army, though God's earth is buffeted by climate changes and bloodied by misfortune, though creation itself seems stranded on the Arctic seas, don't over-react. "Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. Don't worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes" (Ps. 37:7).

Good stuff. Not that optimism is bad or anything... but purely pollyanna stuff is. As Max says later, "We gain nothing by glossing over the brutality of human existence." But there's something to be said for hanging in there. We're all going to go through those phases where it seems nothing is working out... That just means it's still being worked out. Max quotes Dorothy Bernard, who says, "Courage is fear that has said its prayers." I know some good people who need a dose of courage right now. I hope they will continue saying their prayers.