Courage, dear heart

Be strong.

Have faith.

Take heart.

Rejoice always.

Pray without ceasing.

Sometimes you can be in a season when even the most encouraging words -even right out of scripture- can feel discouraging.

They can feel impossible, even.

This week I had conversations with several Christian friends in the middle of circumstances where I knew words like this would only fall flat. The things in their lives are really rough- hurting, sorrowful, troubling, frustrating, confusing. What I mostly wanted to do was wrap my arms around them, but I couldn’t even do that because we were on the phone.

But honestly, I could just feel the compassion of the Lord. How tender He is towards them in a tough time.

You know, all those instructions above? To take heart, be strong, have faith, etc.? When we say those things, they can sound like we’re saying, “Try harder. Don’t be sad! Just have faith!”

But that’s not the spirit of those words. The spirit of the Lord is so, so gentle when His people are in distress. When he says, “take heart,” He’s not saying, “Suck it up, buttercup!” He’s saying…

“There, there, dear heart. I know. I see. I understand. Do what you can to not totally give way to your grief, because a brighter day will come.”

This quote, “Courage, dear heart,” is something that C.S. Lewis wrote in one of the stories of the Chronicles of Narnia. If you’ve never read this story, it’s about a few characters on a ship called the Dawn Treader having adventures while visiting a lot of diverse islands. At one point in the book, they wander into a dark and terrible part of the sea where all of their worst nightmares come true. Lucy, a young woman, is in the top of the mast. Also, you probably already know this, but Aslan is the character who is the metaphor for Jesus. Now, let’s pick up in the story.

With a creak and a groan the Dawn Treader started to creep forward as the men began to row. Lucy, up in the fighting top, had a wonderful view of the exact moment at which they entered the darkness. The bows had already disappeared before the sunlight had left the stern. She saw it go. At one minute the gilded stern, the blue sea, and the sky, were all in broad daylight: next minute the sea and sky had vanished, the stern lantern – which had been hardly noticeable before – was the only thing to show where the ship ended. In front of the lantern she could see the black shape of Drinian crouching at the tiller. Down below her the two torches made visible two small patches of deck and gleamed on swords and helmets, and forward there was another island of light on the forecastle. Apart from that, the fighting top, lit by the masthead light which was only just above her, seemed to be a little lighted world of its own floating in lonely darkness. And the lights themselves, as always happens with lights when you have to have them at the wrong time of day, looked lurid and unnatural. She also noticed that she was very cold.

How long this voyage into the darkness lasted, nobody knew. Except for the creak of the rowlocks and the splash of the oars there was nothing to show that they were moving at all. Edmund, peering from the bows, could see nothing except the reflection of the lantern in the water before him. It looked a greasy sort of reflection, and the ripple made by their advancing prow appeared to be heavy, small, and lifeless. As time went on everyone except the rowers began to shiver with cold.

(a few scary things happen in here and then…)

“Look!” cried Rynelf’s voice hoarsely from the bows. There was a tiny speck of light ahead, and while they watched a broad beam of light fell from it upon the ship. It did not alter the surrounding darkness, but the whole ship was lit up as if by searchlight. Caspian blinked, stared round, saw the faces of his companions all with wild, fixed expressions. Everyone was staring in the same direction: behind everyone lay his black, sharply-edged shadow.

Lucy looked along the beam and presently saw something in it. At first it looked like a cross, then it looked like an aeroplane, then it looked like a kite, and at last with a whirring of wings it was right overhead and was an albatross. It circled three times round the mast and then perched for an instant on the crest of the gilded dragon at the prow. It called out in a strong sweet voice what seemed to be words though no one understood them. After that it spread its wings, rose, and began to fly slowly ahead, bearing a little to starboard. Drinian steered after it not doubting that it offered good guidance. But no one except Lucy knew that as it circled the mast it had whispered to her, “Courage, dear heart,” and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan’s.

C.S. Lewis,

Can’t you just tell, even from that short passage, how C.S. Lewis had known the gentle Shepherd in his hardest times?

The Lord is tender hearted, slow to anger, abounding in love. He is near to the brokenhearted. He lives with the humble.

If you are going through a dark, terrible time of your soul, the Lord is with you. He sees you. He does not chide you to work harder at your faith or be better. His voice is not condemning or accusing. (that’s the enemy, actually.)

Our God is the comforter. He is the lover of your soul. He is your loving Father, and he says,

“Courage, dear heart.”

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