By Nina Hundley
God's Brave Women - Nina's Story
When I was a young girl, my thoughts of bravery meant being prepared and facing danger, fighting down the face of evil. Even if you were scared, being brave was doing the right thing.
Maybe life is not so different now? Maybe it just looks different. But we are all still faced with the decisions to act on courage throughout our lives.
I’ve spent a lot of time considering what does it mean to be brave?
My story holds quite a bit of suffering. It can be hard to earn that badge of courage, to face life’s difficulties that arise, to name yourself as “brave.” I’ve discovered you’re either prepared to face the danger head on, or you’re sitting back in fear. You’re either doing the right thing or you’re avoiding anything that makes your knees quake.
In 2016, my family was given the news that my mom had terminal cancer. She was 58 and had been extremely healthy, so it came as a shock. Two weeks later, we moved her into our home and I became her primary caretaker, then found out I was pregnant.
I would certainly not call myself brave at this point, not for a second. The anxiety nearly consumed me. The mental toll taxed me. The despair nearly crushed me.
See, my mom was my very best friend. I don’t have any siblings and I’d already lost my dad to cancer just five years prior. Although I held many fears for my mom and what she would face, looking back on it, I honestly feared for myself. I could not bear the thought of losing my mom and becoming an orphan, even at an adult age.
What would it be like to live this life without her? I couldn’t imagine it.
Months passed and she dove into the valley of treatments and hospital visits. Joy mixed with sorrow as I would leave an OB visit after hearing the heartbeat of my baby, only to sit with my mom’s doctor and hear the news she was not responding to treatment like we’d hoped. I spent days taking care of her physical needs while watching her deteriorate and suffer unlike anything I’d ever seen before.
“I don’t understand why this is happening to you,” I said to her one day, swallowing a lump in my throat. I was trying to be strong in front of her. I realize now that’s what I thought was brave – the swallowing of my pain – being “strong” in front of her. But it wasn’t.
"I realize now that’s what I thought was brave – the swallowing of my pain – being “strong” in front of her. But it wasn’t."
She simply looked at me with her big blue eyes and said, “There are always opportunities to glorify the Lord in the midst of suffering, Nina.”
For me, my perspective shifted dramatically. One day while crying out to the Lord in fear, I picked up my Bible and read a familiar passage, “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another,” (John 13:35, NIV). That had been the theme of my wedding and we’d used the scripture numerous times in our marriage.
But in that moment, I knew this passage was for my current circumstances. God spoke to me through a simple verse about being brave in the hardship of life. He spoke to me about suffering. This verse was about putting myself aside and showing love to another person fully.
I went from a complete anxiety pit of wondering every day what I’d wake up to find, despairing over whether my mom would make it through the day, to thinking more about her. Before that point, all my fear had been centralized on one thing: ME. But the fear cycle is never complete. It keeps you bound to your own self. It’s hard to find an ounce of bravery when fear has consumed you with YOU.
"Before that point, all my fear had been centralized on one thing: ME. But the fear cycle is never complete. It keeps you bound to your own self. It’s hard to find an ounce of bravery when fear has consumed you with YOU."
That’s when I realized being brave is really a practice that becomes a habit. It’s looking through different eyes, ones that are focused on Christ and His finished work. None of us are born brave, but it’s something we can learn and apply to attain. We can be prepared for what life throws at us when we are walking close to His side, loving Him and loving one another.
Slowly, I began to shift my thoughts to my mom, to what a gift she was to me. What a gift she was to others. Her personality. Her smile. Her laugh. How was she feeling? How could I help her feel better today? That was the key. I needed to think of myself less. Every time a fear crept into my mind, I would take it to the Lord and ask Him how He wanted me to serve her today. How could I serve Him in the midst of this valley?
I discovered this journey was all about being vulnerable. It’s the raw, real human experiences that can pull us out of ourselves and allow us to look to someone else. Being brave is being intentional. It’s setting aside yourself and loving someone well. It’s more than a quick nice phrase in their direction. It’s reaching into the deep with that person. Truthfully, it’s not easy to do. It’s time consuming and often wearying to love another person purposefully. It requires sacrifice and faith, relying on the Lord’s character, knowing He is good despite your circumstances.
"It’s the raw, real human experiences that can pull us out of ourselves and allow us to look to someone else. Being brave is being intentional. It’s setting aside yourself and loving someone well. It’s more than a quick nice phrase in their direction. It’s reaching into the deep with that person."
Never in a million years would I have correlated the thought of being brave with loss. But God showed me it’s more than what we think bravery is. He arms us with strength to face evil, to trust Him in every circumstance, and to do what He’s called us to do. He is our greatest treasure and we can magnify Him with every fiber of our being in any situation we face – even if that situation includes loss. “To live is Christ, to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) Let’s be brave and die to self today. Let’s love others as Christ loves us.
Brave Woman Manifesto
Make sure to check back next week as another courageous Sister shares her story!
And by the way...
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Nina Hundley was born and raised in central NC. She is a wife to Caleb and a stay at home mama, making a million memories one day at a time. Nina loves writing about hope in dark places and crafting stories of priceless testimonies over at www.ninahundley.com. She prays her words inspire and encourage you. Follow her online as well on Instagram and Facebook.