The most moving moment of last night’s State of the Union address came before the address began. When U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords entered the House of Representatives chamber unannounced, a few in the crowd began to applaud. Others spotted her and joined the ovation. Soon the entire chamber was united in appreciation for her courage and perseverance. A veteran Washington reporter described the moment as one of the most moving he had ever witnessed.
A little more than a year ago, a college dropout named Jared Loughner opened fire on the congresswoman and the crowd gathered to meet her in Tucson, Arizona. Six people were killed, including a nine-year-old girl and a federal judge. Giffords was shot in the head, but is making a remarkable recovery. She will resign her office this week to focus on her therapy.
If the tragedy had never occurred, Rep. Giffords’ presence at last night’s address would likely have gone unnoticed by any but her most loyal constituents. She would not have received personal attention from President Obama, nor would she be the focus of this essay. Her courage may be the most enduring legacy of her political service. Her example will inspire victims of tragedy who would not otherwise know her name.
Walt Disney noted that some men make difficulties, while difficulties make some men. You never really know what you can do until you must. Pain reveals the truth about our character. C. S. Lewis was right: “Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” Winston Churchill added, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” Such courage is your most powerful witness to a skeptical culture.
Think of the pivotal figures of biblical history. What common theme unites them? One built an ark when it likely had never rained, enduring the scorn of the masses. Another stood before Pharaoh with nothing but a rod in his hand and faith in his heart. A shepherd faced a giant; prophets spoke God’s word at the peril of their lives; fishermen died for their Lord; the Son of God could have called ten thousand angels to his side but chose to suffer a horrific death for us.
Why do you need their courage today? The Lord who empowered and sustained them is ready to do the same for you. When David was captured by the Philistines, he prayed: “When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?” (Psalm 56:3-4). Is God waiting for you to make his prayer your own?