Life comes at you like an ocean wave, and feeling overwhelmed by it is natural and human, said Presbyterian College’s 2022 Baccalaureate speaker. But during those times of overwhelming pressure, there are also opportunities to “body surf” with good courage.
The Rev. Craig Goodrich, senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Naples, Fla., addressed the Class of 2022 with words of encouragement drawn from the 27th Psalm and the 12th chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans.
Goodrich told graduates that it is natural to feel uncertain about the future as they look back with gratitude and thanksgiving on their college experiences.
“Will you look ahead with hope?” he asked. “Do you feel hope tonight or are you discouraged? Or the converse – is courage where we land tonight?”
Goodrich said if courage is the ability to overcome fear, then it is safe to say there is no courage without fear. But in the King James version of Psalm 27, he said, we are told, “be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.”
“Good courage, I think we could say for our purposes, is courage on a trusting God,” he said.
On the other hand, fear paralyzes – and there is plenty of external things to fear today, Goodrich noted. Internal fears – fear of failure, embarrassment, not having enough, or missing out – can cripple as well.
“Where do you need courage today?” he said. “Well, the first thing I’d say is that we need to look within ourselves. To be honest with ourselves. It may seem like an unlikely starting point to acknowledge our fear; we would rather deny or repress them. But to acknowledge our vulnerability as frail human beings – to recognize our weakness – takes courage.”
For people of faith, there also is courage in acknowledging the need to give grace and forgiveness to others – and ourselves, said Goodrich. He also said there is courage in community – asking for help when needed.
“It’s always tempting to choose security over calling on others to have a support network,” Goodrich said. “I encourage you to maintain the relationships you’ve built here with people who know you best.”
Goodrich said courage is also the quiet voice at the end of the day telling us to try again tomorrow.
“Sometimes you just need to leave the day in the Lord’s hand and start over in the morning,” he said. “Simply to have the courage to persevere. To show up. To keep walking.”
Courage can be aggressive, as well, said Goodrich. Paul described it to the Romans that the courage to conquer enemies with love and God’s mercy is unrelenting.
Still, there are times when every human is overwhelmed with anxiety and fear, said Goodrich.
“If you’re overwhelmed with time to time, there’s nothing wrong with you,” he said. “You’re human.”
But overwhelming periods are also periods of growth and opportunity, Goodrich said.
“Sometimes when the problems, tribulaitons, and trials come, there are within them seeds of growth,” he said. “On Good Friday, no one thought Easter was possible. I believe God is always working for the good. Sometimes love and courage can transform fear and foreboding.”
Goodrich said he and his family vacationed at the Outer Banks of North Carolina when he was a boy. The second of three sons, Goodrich, and his brothers, were taught by their father to body surf in the ocean.
Life, he said, can be like an ocean wave – giving everyone a set of options. You can stand still and get pounded, run away, try to dive under the tide – but they still keep coming.
“But there is a fourth option,” he said. “You realize you have everything you need. That you have more than enough. That you can turn in just right moment and catch that wave and let it carry you in an exhilarating ride to the shore. And then you get up and go back and you do it again and again and again. Graduates, I encourage you to ride those waves. And, yes, to have good courage.”