Throughout the Gospel’s Jesus is constantly encouraging his followers not to be afraid in moments of fear and weakness. The challenge of following Jesus is to be fully present and witness to the Gospel in the midst of the storms and tempests of life. To be a Christian requires strength and courage.
C.S. Lewis, the author of the Narnia series and The Screwtape Letters, fought in World War One and lived through World War Two, he understood deeply the place of courage in living out a Christian life in troubled times. For Lewis true Christianity was not about happiness and comfort, he was once quoted as saying:
“I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”
In Lewis’ Narnia, the Christ-like Lion, Aslan, comforts the Pevensie children in times of trial with the words, ‘Courage dear heart.’ Like the Risen Christ appearing to the disciples, Aslan breathes on the children filling them with hope and courage.
In the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius notes that it is proper to the Holy Spirit ‘to give courage and strength’ to the person seeking God. Courage and strength are only needed if the opposite is also true, the nature of the ‘enemy of our human nature’ is to cause the opposite, to harass, sadden, obstruct, and cause disquiet. To fully engage in the spiritual life as a Christian is to recognize that such movements are part and parcel of the Christian vocation. Ignatian discernment works as a kind of spiritual survival kit, it helps us navigate the challenges of the Christian life and locate our true source of courage and strength in times of trial and desolation.
With thanks to Rob Morris SJ for this contribution to the JISA Discernment Series. Rob is a Spiritual Director, Giver of the Spiritual Exercises, and Director of JISA Sevenhill in South Australia’s beautiful Claire Valley.