Pilgrim Road Blog Photo

Pilgrim Road Blog Photo

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

31 Days of Courage: When Courage Fails

In May of 1431, a young woman of great courage and faith experienced what we all will: a failure of courage.

Joan of Arc is famous for her outstanding feats as a French soldier, in an age when women were considered on a level with dogs and dust.  She had an intimate and powerful relationship with God, and ultimately it was this great strength that was used to kill her.

For reasons mostly political, the Anglo-Burgundian military of England captured the “Maid of Orleans” to make an example of her.  She had encouraged and fearlessly led the French army to victory after victory against their forces as they quarreled over the rightful holder of the throne, and they had had enough. (I don 't pretend to understand the complicted politics of that time...what was English and what was French was a mixed up mess). Using trumped up charges to get her off the grid, Joan was imprisoned, badgered, tormented and broken down by her captors.  As is unfortunately often the case, religious leaders became the bad guys in this story.  Those medieval Pharisees took wickedness to new heights as they brutally stripped a teenage girl of any human comfort.

During one of the many sessions Joan of Arc was forced to endure, she was asked this question:

“Do you know whether or not you are in God’s grace?”

And this uneducated peasant girl, beaten down, persecuted and exhausted, gave a stunning answer that would boggle even the most learned theologian:

“If I am not, may God put me there; and if I am, may God so keep me. I should be the saddest creature in the world if I knew I were not in His grace."

As religious men had  tried to trap her Savior, so they did to her.

Finally, after multiple trials, with the chief charge being “cross dressing” (Joan clung to her soldier clothing to protect herself from her guards’ constant threats of rape) she was presented with a document to sign, recanting her call from God and the accompanying visions. 

She signed the paper.  Her courage failed her.

And it has failed us, under a lot less pressure and with a lot less to lose.

What are we to do then?  When courage fails, as it has for people like Moses, King David, and Peter the Apostle, is there still hope?  What is the remedy for courage lost?

There are 2 things that come to mind.  One I will address in today’s post, and one in tomorrows’.  

Today, the very words of Joan of Arc give a clue to the antidote for a heart lost to fear and failure:

“I would be the saddest creature in the world if I knew I were not in His grace.”

Greater than any failure of courage, or any act of courage, is the power and might of the Grace of God.  His grace to poor, weak mortals like us only makes more brilliant the wonder of his condescension to the likes of mankind.  Motivated purely by love.  Expressed and demonstrated by the unfailing courage of the Son of God.  Fully man, carrying the weight of all the world, he went to the stake without hesitation. 

Eventually Joan of Arc, in misery and sorrow, but clearly with supernatural assistance, recanted her recanting.  She received the grace in which she trusted, and with her hope firmly placed in the atoning death of Christ Jesus was burned at the stake as a heretic.  She was the same age as my daughter.

In one moment, courage failed for Joan of Arc, but it was grace that prevailed.  Grace trumps failure.  

Grace trumps all.

Remember that when your courage fails.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


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