I shouldn't like the film The Perfect Storm as much as I do. On a lot of levels, it doesn't give us much to like. The characters are not entirely loveable or admirable, their values and reasoning are questionable, and the ending is, well, all wet. Still, the picture I have in my mind of the Andrea Gail climbing the face of sixty foot waves at full throttle grabs at something deep in my soul. Perhaps it is because it just might be the perfect image of the virtue of courage.
As a stand alone virtue, courage does not get as much attention in the Bible as do faith and love. But there are, of course, places where the need for courage is powerfully underscored. One of these is at the opening of the Old Testament book of Joshua. Here, Joshua, the young leader of the Hebrews and successor to Moses, is standing on the banks of the Jordan preparing to take the land of promise at last. God counsels him to "be strong and courageous, because you will lead this people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous..." (Joshua 1: 6, 7).
In a sort of New Testament parallel verse, Paul exhorts the Corinthians to "be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love" (I Corinthians 16: 13, 14).
Faith may see the vision. Reason may discern the obstacles. Hope may rally the resources. Love may inspire the devotion. But is is courage that shoves the throttle forward in the face of whatever and ruthlessly drives us into the possibilities for better or for worse.
I am reminded by my son's recent engagement that it takes courage to get married. I am reminded by my wife's recovery from her devastating accident that it takes courage to roar back from the brink and pull down a bigger piece of life. I am reminded by my own new call as a Christian leader that it takes courage to defy convention and break new ground. It seems that courage is required if one is to step out and experience anything truly worthwhile.
"Rise up; this matter is in your hands. We will support you, so take courage and do it" (Ezra 10: 4).