A New Year's Call to Faith and Courage
by Rev. Fr. Michael Baroudy
There is something in us all which makes us crave independence, have no dependence upon anyone - not even God! But whenever that happens in history an upheaval results throwing people out of gear completely. Our time is no exception: history is being repeated under our very noses. Do you realize the upheaval, the emotional upset and chaotic, confused thinking taking place at the present time? People are admittedly confused, fearful. They have left the moorings and are drifting on a tidal wave of frustration and despair. I have survived two world wars and have witnessed some terrible experiences, but never have I seen people more upset, and bewildered than now. People in their bewilderment are asking, what shall we do? Wherewithal shall we find the power to withstand the strain and cope with the predicament?
The answer is found in the theme of this article — THE CALL TO FAITH AND COURAGE. This, I believe, is the supreme need of the hour. Whatever else we need, and there is no end to man's need, is to recapture the vision and the faith that becomes people whose religion is founded upon these great principles. These principles are the particular and peculiar heritage of Christianity without which there can be no meaning or significance to living. There can be no worse thing happen to anyone than the loss of vision and of faith. Our time calls for courage which many people seem to lack. Fear is becoming an obsession with a great number of people. While they profess belief in God, while they do not deny faith in the goodness of God, they are unable to control their fears much less get rid of them. If people realize that fear and worry are their worst enemies, they would have a long way toward stabilizing their lives. If they could take themselves by the hand, so to speak, and consider that only as they are strong in their religious belief could they master their difficulties.
Some time since, I saw a very significant poster. In that poster entitled, "Faith and Courage of our Fathers," Uncle Sam is seen down on his knees praying with a heavenly light streaming down upon his head. It touches a tender spot in our hearts when we recollect that Uncle Sam represents all Americans. That poster takes us back to the fundamentals when the clear-sighted, crystal-visioned Fathers, who were the founders of this Republic, stressed their need to God who was to them the basic principle of their national life. There could be nothing more inspiring than that, America on its knees in utter humility and confession of sins, seeking and finding the light of heaven in time of emergency.
In the twenty-seventh Psalm which I consider one of the greatest documents on faith and courage, the sacred writer gives an ample reason for his magnificent fearless attitude toward life in time of tension. "The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?" Can any of our readers repeat this significant, faith-inspiring statement and mean it? If you can, you shall be fear proof and worry proof. The writer here is defiant of fear because he has an ample reason for that. He found by personal experience heretofore that God was a sufficient Savior. Probably he learned that the hard way. Most of us will not learn any other way. When life's machineries run smoothly and well, when things seem to come our way, the human in us makes us feel proud, we become healthy and wealthy, but in most instances not wise. God becomes so distant and far removed from our lives. We spend our time and our means on the things that satisfy us most. As a rule sinners will not turn saints in fair weather but rather in foul weather. In fair weather, when life smiles favorably on us God is lost sight of, He is then expedient and useful, but not indispensable.
The sacred writer gives us an accurate version of God, because God to Him was more than a name or passing acquaintance. "The Lord is my light and my salvation whom shall I fear, the Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid." He has taken God into his complete confidence until he was able to say when life's dark day comes, "The Lord is my light and my salvation."
In the gathering gloom and dense darkness of a world gone mad, we need to have the light of His Eternal Spirit to dispel the gloom and banish fear from our souls. Sometimes we make the mistake in believing that God has forgotten us because in the past we seem to have given Him no thought. But we should ever remember that God bears no grudges: He is a God abundant in mercy, rich in love, more ready to receive us back than we are to turn to Him. To be conditioned against fear and to realize God's penetrating light upon our way, and to have His peace infiltrate our souls, our thoughts must dwell on God's goodness and love.
Up late the night before, the family was a bit off schedule. But Mr. Dickson was a methodical man. His years as a business executive had taught him to get things done, even if he had to cut a few corners. So he read his portion of Scripture that morning, followed it with a sincere but hasty word of prayer, and dashed off to his office. His "duty" was done. It was as routine as reading the weather forecast The day was fraught with trials and tribulations which kept him on edge. His secretary, however, kept serene throughout his storming. Finally, as much annoyed with her calm as with his temper, he asked, "Miss Brown, how do you do it?"
"My memory verse for the day was, "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee." She had read only one verse that morning, but she had memorized it, and it had been hers for meditation and strength and comfort.
As we carry the word with us in our heart and memory, returning to it constantly, we find there is always time for meditation, always time for communion with our God.
The twenty-seventh Psalm concludes with this inspiring, soul-stirring statement, "I had fainted unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart. Wait, I say on the Lord."
Here we are offered the choice between faith and fear, between waiting and hasting, for we will either take time and wait upon God to see us through the difficulty in His own time and pleasure, or we will rush and fret and faint: we want our way to prevail.
There has never been a time as the present when we need to be found in earnest prayer and meditation, waiting upon God, and that should mean that fully surrendered we should pray, as our Lord had prayed. "Father, if thou wilt let this cup pass from me, not as I will, but as thou wilt."
Next to remorse for what is past, fear of what may come can be one of the most fruitful sources of mental torment. Only God can measure the vast volume of anxiety in human hearts today, as men face forward. Will there be another period of lean years? Will there be an atomic war? These are unanswered questions. There is something better, however, than to know the answers. It is to live one day at a time with your hand in the hand of God.
A fault of too much religious living is that it is a thing of fits and starts. It is concentrated on Sundays or special seasons of revival, instead of permeating each passing day.
A Christian layman tells of the help he received from reading the review of a book entitled, "Why Not Try God." It was at a time when trouble was hulking large. He felt depressed and humiliated because he had to admit he was the slave of worry instead of its master. He went to church regularly and found some degree of inspiration in the services, but during the six days between Sundays his spirit sagged.
"Why don't I try God every day in the week?" he asked himself. He struck upon this simple formula which wrought wonders in his life. Whenever some cause for worry or fretfulness presented itself, he quietly focused his thoughts on God and said. "I'll turn this over to thee." Two things he discovered from this method of "trying God regularly instead of only on Sunday." First, many of the things he was tempted to worry about never happened. Second, those that did, turned out to be not nearly as bad as he had feared. He had learned the secret of turning his life into a veritable pageant of triumph.
Publication of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
pp. 5, 9