Modern Fortitude

The word fortitude popped into my brain this week. Not a word I use much. Sounds rather Puritan and stuffy, not characteristic of the fun and spontaneous image I like to curate.

I love words but sometimes when they come to me, even I don’t know exactly why or by what path I retrieved them. Why fortitude? A word I rarely use. A word most people rarely use these days according to my brief internet search.

I’m not even reading Jane Austen right now. Jane is a likely person to use a word like fortitude, but I’ve been reading twisty, suspenseful thrillers the past month or so.

According to the internet, a bastion of truth, the word fortitude has gone from 0.0013% usage in 1840 to 0.00013% usage today. Its darkest days were the 1990’s where it dipped to 0.00006%. I’m not awesome at math but I know another zero after the decimal is a big decline.

It begs the question, was fortitude ever really popular?

Is it popular now? I’m not sure fortitude will ever rise to the best lunch table at the local high school, but current circumstances guarantee a rise in usage. Just this blog post should raise the graph line a speck!

So, what does it mean? I actually had to look it up. Even though I am using this word to describe what I need right now, I’d been going on intuition more than precise definitions.

For-ti-tude: courage in pain or adversity.

And, there it is folks. What we need for these times. This is what I am asking God for these days…courage in pain and adversity. Fortitude.

Because we are all in some degree of adversity having experienced radical changes in our daily life and behavior from how we greet people to challenges figuring out how to live and work the way we were used to living and working.

I think of the British with their reputation of the stiff upper lip. Is that what it means to have fortitude? Many times that is what is expected of those that display fortitude. Literally, they’re lip doesn’t tremble because tears are imminent.

They don’t cry.

Well, I’ve failed then. I’m not courageous in pain or adversity.

Ha. You must know me well enough, I hope, to know that I reject this flat, emotionless view of fortitude.

Fortitude, I believe, is equally displayed in the tearful, plodding act of living out the life God gave us for this day. This day, this year, it is a pandemic, political strife, relational divisions based on ideologies, and all the collateral damage that lies in the wake.

Its not doing just what your emotions tell you to do, but walking forward in life by faith that God through His Spirit can give you just what you need for what His path for you entails.

Notice, I say His path for me. Not my path for me though the sweetest days are when my path for me and His path for me are one and the same. Those moments, because lets be honest, they’re usually not days, are full of meaning and purpose and joy even as they can also be filled with pain and adversity.

So, yes, I am in need of fortitude, not the stiff emotionless upper lip variety but the continuity of courage that life always requires, no matter the season.

But when times are universally difficult, hopefully words like fortitude can give us a sweet reminder to rely on Jesus to provide the courage and hope we need to walk, often tearfully, through pain and adversity.