The Long Courage
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, for when I am weak, I am strong.
—2 Corinthians 12:9–10 (NIV, abridged)
MARY LUTI | Often the work of justice seems like repeatedly pushing the same boulder up the same hill. An air of futility haunts everything we do. As the late Paul Farmer said of his work in Haiti, we’re fighting “a long defeat.”
The moral arc of the universe bends towards justice, but every gain is fragile and reversible. The vast, tenacious mystery of evil won’t yield to us politely just because we’re right and good. There are limits to our power and virtue.
To admit this isn’t negativity or defeatism. It’s the foundation for a ministry that’s truly God’s. For unless we embrace weakness and futility, we’ll start believing that the world’s betterment hinges solely on us, that we are its saviors and heroes. Unless we accept inability, even our most principled efforts will become just one more arrogant attempt to force a vision on the world. Unless we relinquish the solace of outcomes, when we don’t see grand results, the work will turn bitter and leave us soul-fatigued and bitter, too.
But when we humbly embrace the long defeat, we will receive what John Shea calls “the long courage” to fight another day, and another, and another, anyway. For when you really know that you can’t win, you really start believing that Love can.
PRAYER “... Give me, Broken Lord, the long courage for compromised truths, small justices, partial peaces. Keep my soul in my teeth, hold me in hope, and teach me to fight the way farmers with hoes defeat armies and rolled up manuscripts survive wars.” (John Shea, “Prayer for the Long Haul,” The Hour of the Unexpected)About the Writer:
MARY LUTI is a long-time seminary educator and the author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles on the practice of the Christian life.

Source: “Running from Empty” | 2023 Lent Devotional by the Stillspeaking Writers’ Group, made up of United Church of Christ ministers and writers who collaborate on resources for people in the church, outside the church, and not sure about the church.