This post has been one that I've been working on for over two months. I've never had a post that took this long to write, but looking back I can see that it has all been part of God's plan. This post wouldn't have been complete if I had posted it two months ago.
This fall I participated in a Bible study about Gideon. During the course of the study, I began really thinking about courage. Courage is defined as the mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.
"Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway." ~ John Wayne
Most days I don't think of myself as courageous. If I'm honest, most days I feel like the Cowardly Lion from The Wizard of Oz. When we meet the lion along the yellow brick road he's scared of his own tail. He tries to act tough, but when he's challenged he proves he's not as tough as he wants everyone to believe. He tells the others, "I'm afraid there's no denying I'm just a dandelion. A fate I don't deserve. I'm sure I could show my prowess. Be a lion not a mouse, if I only had the nerve." He is soon tagging along to The Emerald City to ask the good, old wizard for some courage.
Courage and bravery are synonymous. If any of you are like me, you probably don't think you have the opportunity to be brave very often. Over the last few months I've explored what it looks like to be brave in everyday life. Brave may be saying something that needs to be said, even if the words are hard to say. Bravery may be walking away from relationships or situations that may not be healthy for you. It may be a single act of obedience to something God has called you to do. For some, bravery may be asking for help when you've reached a state of hopelessness. For others, it could be choosing to fight a battle although you may be a battle weary soldier.
Over the course of the two months since I began working on this post, I have experienced all those scenarios I've just listed. When I initially began writing this, I had no idea what was about to transpire in my life. You see, I began writing this post the beginning of October after I found myself in a severe state of depression. I had never been in such a dark place. I knew God was with me and I would literally cry out to Him to remove this darkness from me. I know a lot of people think that the darkness was gone just as quickly as I prayed the prayer, but it wasn't. Through the darkness, God spoke to me and told me to seek help. I have a great team of doctors and after two plus years with them they know me and I can pretty much say anything to them. I talked it over with the first doctor on my rotation of appointments and we were able to get me back on the anti-depressants my oncologist had prescribed me last year after my second diagnosis. Most people don't realize this, but it takes about 2 weeks for anti-depressants to get into your system and begin doing the work they are intended to do. My purpose in sharing this, is so you can follow God's hand in every detail. I had a PET scan the following week and received my results the next week (2 weeks after I began the anti-depressant). The scan revealed that I have a small tumor in my right chest wall. On October 28th I was diagnosed with breast cancer for the third time in three years. I am a battle weary soldier, but I am choosing to fight this disease with everything within me! My motto this go round is, "Third Time's the Charm!" As tired as I am of the fight, God continues to remind me that when I am weak He is strong. I do wonder why I received a cancer diagnosis...AGAIN! To be honest, I don't really know how I'm supposed to respond to a third cancer diagnosis in three years. Cancer is a big unknown for me...for everyone really. I focus on what I do know, and that is what gives me courage to fight this battle!
What do I know? I know that God promises to work all things for my good and His ultimate glory (Romans 8:28). The Lord will fight for me (Exodus 14:14). God is with me always (Isaiah 43:2-3). God has a plan for my life (Jeremiah 29:11).
"God is using your present circumstances to make you more useful for later roles in His unfolding story." ~ Louie Giglio
"You can't be brave if you've only had wonderful things happen to you." ~ Mary Tyler Moore''
"Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny." ~ C.S. Lewis
Remember what The Wizard said to the Cowardly Lion when he gave him is badge of courage? He said, "You, my friend, are a victim of disorganized thinking. You are under the unfortunate impression that just because you run away you have no courage. You're confusing courage with wisdom." This is key to the other two scenarios I listed above. You don't walk away from situations or relationships because you lack courage, you walk away because it is the wise thing to do. God gives us wisdom when we ask for it, and it's up to us if we choose to follow through. He gives us wisdom to know what we need to confront head on and those that we need to just let slide right on by us. This isn't always an easy task, but I do know that God gives you the courage you need to handle anything He sets before you.
The interesting thing about the ending of The Wizard of Oz to me is that The Wizard only reassured each of them of something they all had possessed all along. As Christians we are in possession of the courage we need through Christ. If we remember this we can say what the Cowardly Lion said after receiving his medal, "Read what my medal says: 'Courage': Ain't it the truth? Ain't it the truth?"
Joshua 1:9 "Be strong and courageous for The Lord will be with you always."
As I continue to fight against my inward Cowardly Lion, I want to encourage you to do the same. Remember, God is with you always. He never leaves you. He doesn't turn His back on you. All you have to do is mention His name. I wanted to close with this quote from Winnie the Pooh that is a great reminder for me daily to be brave. I hope it is for you, as well.
"Promise me you will always remember you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, & smarter than you think.' ~ Christopher Robin