I hate rides. Maybe that’s too strong a word…I endure rides! Just ask my husband, who when we were dating took me to a Sydney theme park. He talked me into coming with him on a twisting inside-out, upside down stomach lurching corkscrew roller coaster…definitely not the ferris-wheel type ride that I was hoping to go on, but I put on my brave in order to impress him that hey, this girl wasn’t scared! As we stood in the queue and listened to the screams of those on board I carefully calculated that the ride was over in less than three minutes, therefore I wouldn’t have long enough to feel sick. My calculations were incorrect. Approximately three vomits later we were headed back home and even though those few minutes cost me dearly, my man wasn’t turned off. Now that’s commitment!
Today I’m on a different kind of roller-coaster. It’s one I never planned to be on.
This roller-coaster is long and high and certainly longer than three minutes! It’s rather rickety. It has a series of high inclines that need to be traversed up and over before the finish line comes in sight. At the bottom of each sharp incline, before I have time to catch my breath, the clank of the carriage labelled “treatment” takes me up the slope, while I nervously anticipate what is on the other side. Time seems to go so slowly in the anticipatory waiting…then suddenly I’m speeding forward. The carriage called treatment is off and running with no jumping off. There’s no halting the ride once on it. The only way off is through finishing all the way to the end.
It has been a gut-wrenching ride so far. Unexpected. Jolting. At times downright scary. On the early part of the ride the carriage was rushed, barely allowing me to absorb one shock before hurtling me toward the next one.
The ride started with discovering a breast lump. It took some turns with numerous scans and a biopsy. Then a jarring twist of being told the “c” word no woman wants to ever hear. While still trying to process everything – Up the slope of major surgery. Down into recovery. Up into further surgery. Down into recovery. Another unexpected twist. And now here I am tracking up the highest incline… the long haul of chemotherapy. At least I’ve had time to catch my breath. There’s more gradients up ahead, but I just long for the carriage to get to the top of this biggest one- at least from the top of this highest slope I will have a distant view of the finish line.
Up we go.
I say “we” because thankfully there’s a trusted companion in the carriage next to me. Jesus, the One who promises never to leave me or forsake me. The One who I put my faith and trust in when I was nineteen years old and have been doing life with ever since. Jesus was with me in the hospital room when a snap co-vid lock down meant no visitors, not even my husband. This happened not just for the first surgery, but again on the very day I was scheduled for the second. But Jesus was with me directing the very skilled hands of my surgeon. He was there when I got the pathology results. He’s with me now as I undergo the challenges of chemotherapy. I choose to believe He has healed me, and my body is coming into agreement with what His Word promises. Psalm 103:3 “He has forgiven me all my iniquities and healed all my diseases.” I’m clinging to His arm and leaning hard, experiencing that even on the worst “life rides” He’s still my peace, my strength, and my joy. He’s showing me how the “c” word can actually be transformed into a new word entirely.
Transforming the “c” word into courage
The Mirriam-Webster dictionary defines courage as “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.” When the unexpected lands on my doorstep I know my first natural reaction is fear. Over my lifetime I’ve often been Little Much-Afraid who prefers to control what I let in and out of my life, and I tend to evaluate risk practically and methodically (just like that first roller-coaster). The unexpected knocks the wind out of my sails. But I’m learning. I’m growing. With each life challenge, disappointment, difficulty, or failure, I’ve learned that being confronted with fear is normal and natural, but being controlled by fear is not. It has taken me a long time and many hard lessons to curb this natural reaction into something that no longer controls me in the same way it used to.
I’m learning that courage is like a “roaring”, a deep and prolonged cry of the heart rising up on the inside, a quiet determination that no matter what, God is good, and I will trust Him no matter what circumstance arises! Was I scared when I got the “c” diagnosis? You bet. Did I stay scared? No. Do I get scared now? Sometimes. Do I stay scared? No. I fight fear when it raises its ugly head. I fight it with the weapons God has provided. It says in His Word that “God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of love, power, and a sound mind.” (2 Tim 1:7) God is love. And therefore His love casts out all fear when I keep my eyes on Him. I don’t need to look down, or over the side, or up ahead, I just need to focus on Who is right there with me.
Just like me, there are lots of others on a difficult ride. Maybe you’re one of them. It could be the ride of financial difficulty, or the ride of a difficult relationship, or the ride of raising a child with a chronic medical condition. We live in a fallen world where stuff just is. But like me there are so many who have discovered that faith, hope, and love are the bedrock upon which they can face every day, no matter how hard, with a strength that isn’t really their own. They’re ordinary people just like me. They’re the ones who have learned how to let God’s voice quietly roar.
So stop. Listen.
There is a still quiet voice that says: You are loved. You are held. You are seen. You are heard. Have courage. Lean on Me.