I can’t see the crumbled Ukraine buildings, the despairing mothers carrying frightened children, or the crowded train stations … without putting myself in that place.
How would I feel? What would I do in that terror-filled, horror-filled place? Would my actions play out in bravery or cowardice?
I’ve read my share of World War II stories. Would I have sheltered Anne Frank’s family during Nazi-occupied Netherlands, for example, at the peril of my own family?
These are the questions I don’t know the answer to. Because I’ve never had to deal with war in my homeland, on my own soil, with enemy bombs falling and enemy occupation of my country.
I remember a story from a while back, told by Corrie ten Boom. During World War II, Corrie and her family were sent to a concentration camp for helping Jewish people escape by hiding them in their home.
Before their arrest, she tells about voicing her concerns to her father one day. She worried if she’d be strong enough to face the consequences, should it come to that. I won’t get the conversation exactly right, but here’s the essence:
“When you were a little girl and getting ready to visit your aunt,” her father asked, “when did I give you the train ticket?”
“Just before I boarded the train,” Corrie answered.
“That’s what God does,” responded Corrie’s father. “He gives us strength and courage just as we need them.”
Which is a reminder that my heavenly Father will provide the grace and purpose and strength to walk through hard things. Right when needed. Not a minute too late or early.
One of my favorite Bible passages comes from the Old Testament. After Moses—who guided the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt—died, the leadership mantle fell to a warrior named Joshua.
God gave instructions to the new leader for crossing the Jordan River into the Promised Land:
“Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. …
Be strong and very courageous. …
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
— Joshua 1:6-9
Did you notice that God repeated Himself three times in this short passage?
It’s almost as if He was saying:
“Joshua, choose strength and courage.”
“No really, Josh, you be strong and courageous.”
“Josh, look at me. Be. Strong. Be. Courageous.”
It must have been a pretty important point to God.
You may have heard of Amanda Gorman, youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history. I came across one of her poems recently. A portion of it reminded me of the people of Ukraine (David with his slingshot) valiantly fighting the Goliath forces and resources of Russia:
In this way, I look at fear not as cowardice
but as a call forward,
a summons to fight for what we hold dear.
And now more than ever,
we have every right to be
If you’re alive, you’re afraid.
If you’re not afraid,
then you’re not paying attention.
The only thing we have to fear is having no fear itself—
having no feeling
on behalf of whom and what we’ve lost,
whom and what we love.
What’s happening in Ukraine reminds me that I don’t need to be afraid of how I would respond in any given situation.
It reminds me that I get to choose to wrap my Father’s strength and courage around me, that He’ll be strong and courageous for me.