“Courage, dear heart.”

In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the fourth book in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, four youth and a talking mouse are aboard a ship bound for adventure. They are certain that their plans are in line with Aslan’s, who represents God in the series. They are confident of his pleasure and his guidance. But darkness looms in front of them. Until it is upon them: “Lucy, up in the fighting-top, had a wonderful view of the exact moment at which they entered the darkness” (Lewis 194).

Initially brave, with the kind of boldness that comes only from inexperience, the characters row into the impending dark. But darkness – the uncertainty of the unknown, the confusion of the unexpected, or the doubt in the disappointment – has a way of getting to us. It has a way of closing in thick and tangible. It heightens our senses until the shifting creaks and pops of life, so familiar in the daylight, become a threat. Bravado falters, and terror rolls in. Any courage that we had in ourselves fades to black. Until we remember the only One who might offer hope: “Lucy leant her head on the edge of the fighting-top and whispered, ‘Aslan, Aslan, if ever you loved us at all, send us help now.’ The darkness did not grow any less, but she began to feel a little – a very, very little – better” (Lewis 200).

Sometimes we don’t need to know that the darkness will never close in. We don’t necessarily need to know that battles won’t come or that challenges won’t loom. We just need to know that when they do, we aren’t in it alone. Lucy’s Aslan understood this. He sent an albatross to circle their ship, to shine just enough light to lead them through the darkness, and to whisper the hope that Lucy needed: “No one except Lucy knew that as it circled the mast it had whispered to her, ‘Courage, dear heart,’ and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan’s” (Lewis 201).

Our Lord is no less kind than her Aslan.

Perhaps we’ve squared our shoulders in the face of fear. Perhaps we’ve taken a deep breath to hide the tremble of our chin. Perhaps we’ve chosen stoic silence to keep the sobs at bay. Perhaps we’ve recently leant our forehead against the wall, and perhaps it’s time we whisper or shout or cry: “Jesus, Jesus, if ever you loved us at all, send us help now.” Because I’m certain we’ll hear, as Lucy did, a voice as a flicker of hope swirls around us: Courage, dear heart. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

That is the kind of courage that stands in darkness – not the kind that knows nothing of fear but the kind that has heard the voice of the Lord in the midst of it.

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