Earlier this year I was in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso as part of my work as the Executive Director of Engage Burkina. This non-profit was began to help pull more resources into this incredibly under-resourced country in West Africa to provide water, schools, and opportunities for women. Seeing projects accomplished is inspiring, but it’s the people that make the efforts worth while.
One of those people is a man named Tomas Traore. He is a Pastor and Leader for hundreds of other churches as part of his denomination. He is a Board member to this non-profit. I like him because he is shorter than I am, and because he is a powerful man of prayer. Occasionally you encounter people that just seemed to have a different wave length as it applies to the supernatural. Pastor Tomas is just such a man.
I was sharing with him the story of losing my closest friend, Andrew Pray, in a cycling accident five months previous to our conversation. With another non-profit director and partner in the room as well as the site leader for Engage Burkina, John Arnold, I began weeping as I told the story. It was an ugly cry, if you know what I mean. There was no stopping the tears or controlling the octave levels of my voice. I was hot, tired, had just overcome a special version of West African Revenge in my intestines, and grief was still much closer to me than I expected.
It was in this moment that Pastor Tomas leaned over his desk and said to me, “May God give you courage.” It was the first time I have ever heard anyone associate courage with grief. I have heard and used words like comfort, peace, and strength to those in grief. That day a light went off for me, courage has been the antidote I needed for grief.
I am used to thinking of courage as standing up out of conviction for what you believe in, or having the gumption to face a fear and those are true. By definition courage is first; “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear”.
If you have only experienced grief as an emotion, or only treated it that way, courage may not make a ton of sense. However, if you have experienced the pain of grief you understand the need for courage. Emotion can sneak up on us, and can hold us back for a moment. Pain can be sharp and sudden. Pain can be a weight. It can be a dull ache you carry with you that can constantly remind you of how the wound was caused. Pain can stop you in your tracks, make you want to turn around, and lay yourself back down. It is courage that stands you back up, keeps you moving forward, and helps you face another day.
I have observed grief from afar, from up close, and watched it emerge with my own tears. For as long as I live when I approach grief I will say to myself and to others, “May God give you courage.”