by Sandy Mayle
They say great ideas have been known to come while you’re in the shower (something about the solitude and the spray and the mindless scrubbing, I guess). And there it came that day, out of the blue, the sudden insight catching me dripping wet. I knew it was from the Lord:
If I dread an upcoming difficulty, as well as suffer through it, I’ve doubled my misery.
The thought had some corollaries (stick with me here). For it logically followed that if I dread a trial beforehand and it later proves painless, I’ve wasted that “beforehand” in unnecessary angst. Conversely, if I approach the ordeal with realistic optimism and it does prove challenging, I’ve still halved my misery. And should it prove to be no big deal, I’ve gone through the entire time with serenity intact.
Whew! Big thoughts from God, and worth pondering. Because how had I typically approached oncoming trials in the past?
This could be difficult. I’d better prepare for the worst, so nothing catches me by surprise…
God’s light-bulb-in-the-shower illuminated my needless misery and dread. By its light, He invited me to instead trust Him to prepare me for whatever outcomes lay in store, and approach trouble with godly optimism:
This may or may not turn out to be difficult. Either way, I refuse to spend the intervening days shrinking from it. I choose to, with the help of the Holy Spirit, move forward in holy boldness.
Before long I had opportunity to put this new approach to the test. A dermatologist confirmed that two sores on my nose were actually basal cell carcinoma – a very common and curable skin cancer that had, however, been growing there a long time and needed attention.
Surgery was scheduled a month or so ahead, allowing me plenty of time to worry. How badly would it hurt? How extensive would the excising be, in such a visible place? How much permanent scarring? Plenty of opportunity for trepidation to begin its own cancerous spread.
But no. I intentionally thought about my approach and told my husband, “I’m not going to spend this time dreading the surgery and imagining the worst, because it may not be that bad and then I will have wasted all that time worrying. I might come home with a band-aid, or I might have huge bandages on my face. I’m just going to wait and see.”
I didn’t collapse in despair. And I didn’t hide my head in the sand or pretend to know everything would be fine. I acknowledged the reality ahead: it could go either way. Therefore I chose to, in God’s strength, suspend judgment, reign in anxious thoughts and trust Him with my approach.
I would not add trouble to trouble by dreading in advance.
In the Upper Room, Jesus warned His disciples that trouble was coming for them. But He reassured them that He’d already prepared them by all He’d just shared with them (Jn. chapters 13-16). “I have told you these things,” Jesus concluded, “so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Trouble loomed, but their peace was already provided for.
He still speaks those words to His disciples today. Difficulties lie ahead for us, too. But in our approach we are to “take heart” (in the Amplified, “be confident, certain, undaunted). Why? Because He still speaks words of comfort and promise in His Word (start with Jn. 13-16). And because He has already overcome our own particular trial, setting its limits and turning it to our good (Pt. 5:10; Rm. 8:28).
In other words, He’s provided for peace in our “beforehand.”
I went in to surgery. As a Mohs procedure, after the cancerous areas were excised I waited while the edges were tested to see if all the cancer had been gotten. If not, I’d repeatedly return to surgery until it was. Turns out I didn’t need to. I was clear after the first procedure.
The challenge came when the assistant bandaged me afterward. To minimize bleeding, my nose was taped down snugly. Then a huge swath of bandages was added, presumably to absorb any further outbreak of bleeding. “Is it hard to breathe?” she asked while tightly taping down another layer almost to the tip of my nose.
“Yes,” I managed from underneath it all, hoping for mercy.
“Then breathe through your mouth,” she said matter-of-factly. So for much of two days, I was a mouth-breather, in pain and peering over and around a small mountain of bandages. Those were the challenging days. Forty-eight hours later, the pain had lessened, the heavier bandages came off, and I could breathe much easier and see what was in front of my face.
I could have spent weeks fretting, but the approach cut my ordeal down to two difficult days.
Two days. I could easily have multiplied that many times over – and how often have you and I done just that? How often have we forgotten that God didn’t give us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and self-control (2 Tim. 2:6)? How much of our lives have we wasted in needless apprehension?
Trouble ahead? Instead of dreading it, I’m learning to take heart! Jesus has already overcome it and taken away its power to defeat me. He’s working in it for our good, if we trust Him. Friend, we might be able to cut our nearing nemesis down to size with the right approach…beforehand.
Sandy is a freelance writer living in Erie, Pa. She loves words, nature, and solitary retreats. Her newest venture is mentoring in the equine therapy program at a nearby horse ranch. She and her husband, Dave, have three sons and three grandchildren.