This is not the final word on courage, although it may be my final word that you will see published, for my medical prognosis is not what the doctor calls encouraging.
Courage is not a veiled death wish as seen in the lifestyles that defy all reasonable expectations. Courage is not the instantaneous acts that most persons think of as heroic. Though many such acts are to be lauded, there is seldom much thought given to the consequences of one's actions.
Do not the Scriptures teach that we are to exercise wisdom, good judgment, and prudence? Courage analyses all known factors then decides upon a course of action based on that analysis. Yes, one may be fearful of the unknown. He may even be more fearful of known potentials. But courage acts even though harm may be to one's self. When David is talking about the person who will abide in God's presence, he says in Psalm 15:1-4, "LORD, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the LORD. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not." Note that even when a person swore to his own hurt and yet had the courage to keep his oath, David pronounced him blessed.
Courage is preparing to live in such a way as to glorify God despite having been pronounced terminally ill. We are born terminally ill. "For it is appointed unto man once to die and after that the judgment" (Heb. 9:27). As we begin to mature and become aware of death we may begin to make some type of arrangements for expiration, even though the idea of our own death seems unreal. We buy insurance. We make wills. And the more mature among us begin thinking about making peace with God, with our neighbor, and with ourselves.
But then comes the announcement, "Your form of cancer has no known cure." "The symptoms can be treated to some extent with radiation and chemotherapy. But you are dying. You should make arrangements to enter a nursing home so someone can care for you."
Generally persons tend to react in one of two ways. Many do not accept what their doctors have told them. They search every where for that elusive cure. Others simply give up. They take to their beds and lie there bemoaning their fate and waiting for death. Some may begin to enjoy the extra attention they are getting. They act in such a way as to evoke the sympathy of others.
But there is a better alternative, one that will glorify God. Even a smile can do wonders for another. So can a simple 'please' or 'thank you.' Taking time to just listen to another's problems of the day can ease his burdens. These simple things glorify God. And a person who is terminally ill can feel freer to ask, "How about a hug?" Both persons will feel better and will glorify God. And when a person comes to cheer up one who is terminally ill and leaves feeling better than when he came, then God has been glorified.
True courage does not ignore obstacles. True courage recognizes obstacles but goes on to glorify God despite all obstacles. Mark Twain put it this way, "Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear -- not absence of fear." William Cullen Bryant said, "So live, that when thy summons comes to join the innumerable caravan which moves to that mysterious realm, where each shall take his chamber in the silent halls of death, thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night, scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained and soothed by an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave, like one that wraps the drapery of his couch about him, and lies down to pleasant dreams."
However, Paul's inspired statement gives more comfort and encouragement than any and all the writings of ordinary men, and he said in Philippians 1:23, "For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better." Those of us who have put our trust in the Lord and accepted His grace through an obedient faith can accept the statement of Paul at face value, and face the future with courage.
Sandra F. Cobble
Published in The Old Paths Archive