‘Finding your Brave’

joy in suffering

Although we did not have a group this week, as unfortunately had to cancel today and next week, we thought we could still blog along the theme of our social media posts this week about ‘finding your brave’.  We like this idea of being able to ‘find your brave’ as it implies it is in there somewhere.  In some languages our English words of strength and brave are interchangeable and mean the same thing.

So when we find ourselves in the middle of the storm whether that’s the thoughts in your head that seem overwhelming, depression and anxiety, storms in your finances, your marriage, your health, a loss, a situation in your family or at work, or even literal storms of the weather which have caused destruction and loss or war or famine…how on earth can we find our brave when we feel overpowered on every side and as if we are sinking.

Gratitude is something we discuss often in the group as a way of bringing perspective to challenging times and an appreciation that even the darkest days hold something to be grateful for, in fact we do a ‘good notice board’ weekly, recording the good things, which helps us to see light and hope even in the darkest days.  This is one way to find your brave. The following inspirational story is about gratitude about two sisters held in a concentration camp in the second world war; Betsie believed in praying to God and thanking him every day.  One day Betsie’s sister Corrie was incredulous at Betsie’s prayer of thanks for the fleas in the dormitory.  Commenting later in her book ‘The hiding place’, Corrie Ten Boom says that not even God could make her thankful for fleas.  As time went on in the camp, the women in this dormitory forged good friendships and had relative freedom away from the cruelty of the guards.  Betsie discovered the reason why, and in her book, Corrie documents this encounter between the two sisters:

Her [Betsie’s] eyes were twinkling.

“‘You’re looking extraordinarily pleased with yourself,’ I told her.

“‘You know, we’ve never understood why we had so much freedom in the big room,’ she said. ‘Well–I’ve found out.’

“That afternoon, she said, there’d been confusion in her knitting group about sock sizes and they’d asked the supervisor to come and settle it.

“But she wouldn’t. She wouldn’t step through the door and neither would the guards. And you know why?”

“Betsie could not keep the triumph from her voice: ‘Because of the fleas! That’s what she said, “That place is crawling with fleas!'”

“My mind rushed back to our first hour in this place. I remembered Betsie’s bowed head, remembered her thanks to God for creatures I could see no use for.”

Joy is linked to gratitude and finding strength and bravery.  Joy is very different from happy.  Happy is what we feel when everything is ok with the world; it is a feel good emotion.  Joy is a much deeper state of being which exists in times of sorrow, uncertainty and challenge.  Joy acknowledges meaning, purpose and growth through the storms, and this could not be explained any better than by the Lebanese poet Khalil Gibran’s poem below:

On Joy and Sorrow
 Kahlil Gibran

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say, “Joy is greater thar sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

Similarly C.S Lewis describes his understanding of joy:

(For full article click here) Excerpt:

Lewis tells Ellis in this letter that “everything is going well”, but goes on to explain that he does not mean “joy” by this. “In fact I meant by ‘things going well’ just that security – or illusion of security – which you also regard as unhealthy. Real joy seems to me almost as unlike security or prosperity as it is unlike agony,” he writes….

Lewis goes on to write of how “the physical sensations of joy and misery are in my case identical”, and of how “just the same thing happens inside me on getting the good or the bad news”. He adds a short postscript to the letter: “Don’t you know the disappointment when you expected joy from a piece of music and get only pleasure: Like finding Leah when you thought you’d married Rachel!”

Joy, he would write in his memoir, later, “must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and Pleasure. Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again … I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. But then Joy is never in our power and Pleasure often is.”

Meaning is again linked to both gratitude and joy.  Sometimes it is only through experiencing the storms that we truly discover who we are, what we are capable of achieving and build foundations in ourselves and in our relationships that will last.  A blog by ‘The Purpose Fairy’ says:

Be thankful for the difficult times. They have showed you how strong you can be.

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” (Khalil Gibran)

So, whatever you are facing we encourage you to find your brave and your strength.  It is already in you.  And it will be increased by having encouraging and understanding people around you.

When a eagle soars it does so by rising through the storm winds and then allowing the storm to carry it, it can only do this by first passing through the storm.

And there is no weakness in allowing your emotions, you will feel what you feel.  It used to be considered heroic to cry; in Homer’s Iliad, the Greek army heroically express unanimous weeping, and in the Bible it is documented that King David and his mighty men wept with all their might-these were the strong men of the day, weeping with the same strength that they did everything; with all their might.

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