As I sat down with my mocha, I saw a quote on the sleeve of my cup. "The only courage you ever need is the courage to live the life you want". Oprah Winfrey
Hmmmmm . . . Chad and I discussed this and as it turns out, we disagree with Oprah on this one. We decided that more often than not, "The only courage you need is the courage to live the life you have".
I'm not saying that it's wrong to make a change, but I do believe it's wrong to view what I want out of life as the superior virtue. I am learning, in fact, that at the end of the day, "what I want" may be entirely irrelevant.
I submit to the God who spoke the universe into existence. I worship the Eternal King of Kings who became flesh and dwelled among us. I serve the Savior who bared His back to the cruel Roman cat of nine tails and offered His hands and feet to be pierced for my transgressions. I bow before the Lord who crushed the power of death by emerging from His own grave ALIVE and now can offer me this abundant, eternal life as a free gift. I'm not seeing where my personal preferences play into any of this at all.
My dear suffering friend has personal preferences and I do too, but I also read in my Bible that some of my preferences are out of line. God, who designed everything and everyone, has an order to His creation; a way that things work best. It is tempting sometimes to think that because this or that doesn't feel good or seems really inconvenient, or is straight up painful, somehow this "thing" is bad for me. It's not working. It's not what I want!! But sometimes God's best hurts. Sometimes God's best really hurts.
The first example that comes to my mind is from my own life. Eleven years ago Chad and I had an 18 month-old and we had decided to add another Treasure to our family. I got pregnant on my birthday and fell in love with that baby the minute I knew he was coming. Everything went well . . . right up until it stopped going well. I started bleeding; there was no heartbeat; our much-loved, much-wanted baby was dead in my womb. Tears were shed; decisions had to be made; and I prayed. Oh how I prayed. "Lord, I know it is you who make every person's heart beat. Please, oh please, Jesus, make this baby's heart beat!"
We waited, we checked for a heartbeat, we executed plan A, and then finally we resorted to surgery. I awoke lying in a pool of blood hearing a voice I recognized as my own sobbing the anguish I felt all the way down deep into my bones: "But I WANTED this baby!!" I cried and cried and bled and cried. This was not what I wanted.
I thought I had been trusting the Lord, even in the midst of this terrible pain, but it soon became clear that I didn't really even know what it meant to do that. I played the role of a trusting Christian, but deep inside my heart a black anger was taking root. I was angry at God for letting my baby die when He could have made him live, and I was angry at Him for other things in my life that were painfully difficult during that same time. That was the dark night of my soul.
My grief and anger drove me into a deep depression that the hormone shock of a miscarriage supported miserably. It was a perfect storm. For the better part of a year I had to force myself to get out of bed and after awhile, I had to force myself to stay alive. Every day I wanted to kill myself more and more, but thankfully the Lord had already given us Micah. Even though I wanted desperately to escape my agony, I knew I could simply never abandon my son like that.
I began to view my existence as a pit. A deep pit . . . one so deep that no light made it all the way to the bottom where I was trapped. All around the pit was barren desert for miles. I was completely and utterly alone. Occasionally someone who did not understand me at all would appear at the mouth of the pit and shout something down to me that sounded trite - or straight up hateful. The darkness of that pit fed the lies until they swelled and threatened to crush me, yet it snuffed out and swallowed up truth whenever it came. How can I possibly describe the darkness of that time? The dreadful heaviness? Depression is like carrying around a wet king-sized quilt wrapped around your eyes and anchored to your heart.
It is very clear to me now that I was in dire need of professional help - both chemical and psychological - but even though I did not get it, God carried me through that time. In fact, I believe unequivocally that it was the agony of that experience that prepared me for coping with Daniel's cancer like nothing else could possibly have prepared me. Nothing short of the death of a child could have taught me what I needed to know about God: He is God and I am not - and that is a GOOD thing!! He can always be trusted because He will only, ever, always do what is best for me! I am always safe in His arms regardless of the storm that is raging around me. He can handle the storm.
In the face of the possibility of losing another child, all of this was critical truth to have on board. I absolutely had to have these sturdy strands tightly woven into the fabric of my faith before the Leukemia clouds darkened the sky again. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if I hadn't suffered so deeply from my miscarriage, cancer would have crushed me utterly. But I did! So I didn't. God is so incredibly good.
So, Oprah, do I think "The only courage you ever need is to live the life you want"? I do not. As it turns out, sometimes the life I want isn't even available!
I mean, I guess it takes courage of some kind to declare bankruptcy but it takes even more courage to make arrangements, work hard, go without, and pay your bills.
I guess it takes courage of some kind to say to your spouse, "I'm unhappy and I'm leaving," but it takes even more courage to stick around and figure things out; not just for your kids, but because all those years ago you said you would.
I guess it takes some kind of courage to quit your job and find a new one, but it takes even more courage to reconcile with a difficult colleague, submit to an unfair boss, and show the love of Jesus no matter what.
At the end of the day, what do you already know you need to do? What new thing is the Lord asking you to do? What old thing is He asking you to keep on doing?
Ask Him for the courage to do those things,
and that, my friend,
is all the courage you will ever need.