When I was young girl, the idea of bravery used to conjure up images of a valiant knight riding a noble steed armed with a shield and brandishing a sword. It was someone who was fearless, undaunted, and courageous. Bravery meant strength and never being afraid.
Now I know better.
I was pregnant with my fifth child when my four-year-old son was diagnosed with cancer. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the first time my husband and I had been confronted with serious medical issues. Most of our children were born prematurely requiring oxygen, apnea monitors, trips to the ICU, feeding tubes, etc. One of our twin sons had in fact been diagnosed with cerebral palsy the prior winter. But this diagnosis of cancer left us reeling.
Our son’s prognosis was grim. His survival rate was just a little better than a one in three chance of making it. Fifty-four weeks of aggressive chemo coupled with six weeks of intense radiation. My husband and I did what was necessary and required. We prayed. We loved our kids. We did the best we knew how.
People told me throughout his treatment that I was brave and strong … I felt anything but. I felt as fragile as a bird’s egg that could be crushed at any moment. Sometimes the weight of our circumstances left me feeling as though I might implode.
I was weak. I was desperate. I was raw and vulnerable and exposed.
I came to understand that bravery was a surrendering of myself. Surrendering my fear, my anxiety, my inability.
It required asking for help and most important of all resting in the strength of someone who is truly strong: God.
God became my portion. I had no strength in and of myself. It meant days nursing my newborn son while holding a bucket for my cancer-afflicted son’s vomit. It meant giving my son daily injections to boost his white blood cell count.
It was caring for my other four children who were suffering watching their brother shed his hair, lose his strength, and his ability to keep up with them. It meant long night vigils checking temperatures, looking out for infections, and trying to survive.
Sometimes being brave simply means getting out of bed to face the day. It’s taking the next step to keep going when all you want to do is quit, cave in, and give up. I’m not brandishing a sword. I’m not fearless. But I have One that is for me and is strong and brave. It’s from Him that I draw my courage.
1 Corinthians 12:9-10 reminded me that His grace is sufficient for me, that His power is made perfect in my weakness and that when I am weak He is strong. Bravery didn’t come from me, it came from the Lord giving me strength. From Him giving me hope to carry on.