I have adapted some words from a prayer for the title of this book. It is a prayer in the Lutheran Book of Worship (Augsburg, 1978) called A prayer for Courage, and it says:
Lord God, • You have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
The prayer was actually written by Eric Milner-White (1884 – 1963) a British Anglican priest, academic, and a decorated military chaplain who included it in his “Daily Prayer”, 1941, 1959. It was first picked up and used in a Lutheran Hymnal in 1958 and today it is used by many groups, yes, as a prayer for courage.
I first heard the prayer in the winter of 2016 as a post communion prayer at the Holy Trinity Lutheran church n Buffalo, New York, where I sojourned for three months on a journey I and many of my friends thought would have taken only a couple of days. It would say something to you too if, contrary to your planning and expectations, you found yourself on a personal fourty year hiatus in the desert.
When we prayed this prayer in that church in Buffalo, it spoke volumes to me, and it has continued to be a powerful message since then. It indeed reminds me of the Israelites’ 40 years in the desert on the way to the promised land as well as the story of all the patriarchs before them.
The prayer inspired me to consciously look at the bigger picture and the Power that is at the center of all being. There is a Force, Power, God who is in control. This Force, or Power, or God, works for our good, that is what I have learned.
I looked back to the time when I began to blog regularly on a simple Google Blogger that I titled, JOYFUL IN HOPE, PATIENT IN AFFLICTION, FAITHFUL IN PRAYER. These are St. Paul’s words in Romans 12: 12. Then I moved on to a higher platform on WordPress, and titled the blog, HOW TO FIND PEACE AND JOY EVERYDAY and a tagline, WITH GRATITUDE AND HUMILITY (which actually suggests a response to the How). I still write the blog regularly in addition to short thoughts and quotes on Facebook. My mind and aspirations seem to be filled with this idea of Joy and Peace. I cannot escape it, even in the wilderness, or perhaps, especially in the wilderness. And the two are interconnected.
Looking at my own life especially over the past ten years or so, another passage from St. Paul seems to be speaking to me directly: “Hard pressed on every side, but not crushed, perplexed but not in despair, persecuted, but not abandoned, knocked down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor. 4: 8- 9). 2
Is it possible to experience joy and peace in all this? As I reflect on this, I discovered that what I have tried to share in my blogs fall into what The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu in a book published in 2016 (The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World) call the 8 Pillars of Joy: Perspective, Humility, Humor, Acceptance, Gratitude, Forgiveness, Compassion and Generosity. The first four relate to the mind and the last four, the heart. How have these principles shaped my life and my world in view of my experiences over the past 10 years or so? How can we help one another on this journey of life? And how can we thereby contribute to a better world?
That is what all this is about.
And why is all this important? Well, for two reasons: One, life has a purpose. You have heard that many times, I’m sure. We all have a given purpose or reason for being here on earth. We live to discover the purpose and to live it, and until that happens we are restless, unhappy, unfulfilled. Indeed joy results from finding fulfillment in life.
Second, the world is good, contrary to any views that say, because we are here temporarily, we simply need to focus on the life to come as we escape from this evil and corrupt life. No, everything was created good and we have responsibility to work towards its restoration. That is our common purpose.