I am something of a wordsmith who deals in language and stringing sentences together every day. There are words in English that have become lost over the decades. Some of them need to be recovered because, along with the word, the idea has become lost, as well. One of those words is “pusillanimous.” It means to have a cowardly spirit, or, more literally, it is a shrinking of the soul.
Few of us look upon humanity in this day and age as having souls which are flexible (if we believe people have souls at all). The human soul is continually either in a state of enlarging or shrinking. The soul is not a static thing; the inner workings of a person are always in flux. The Christians for whom the author of Hebrews was addressing had begun their Christian lives with souls that grew and flourished. But gradually, over time, they did not exercise faith on a continual basis, and they became pusillanimous – their souls began to shrink. The author was so concerned for them that he realized they could shrink to the point of not enduring to the end and would experience a wholesale failure of faith.
Faith is like the barbells of our Christian bodybuilding. Unless we consistently and persistently use faith, our Christian souls will slowly but surely begin to grow small, to shrink. A profound lack of courage, a pusillanimous spirit, will always be the result when in circumstances which require faith – unless we are on a daily regimen of spiritual exercise to expand the capacity of our souls.
In a time when we are aghast at the soul-less actions of terrorists, mass killers, and cyber-bullies, we must realize that the inner workings of such persons have resulted in a terrible shrinkage of soul. If we have such a small soul is it any wonder that evil actions are not far behind? Daily altruistic actions of faith will counter such withering insides and expand the inner person so that love becomes the default response in each and every situation.
Mighty God, you have created me in your image and likeness, unique among all your creatures. Strengthen my inner person and expand my soul so that it may contain a greater capacity for faith, endurance, and love through Jesus Christ, my Lord. Amen.