If there’s one word I’d use to describe Mary Lenaburg’s writing, it would be “free.” In her social media presence, in her devotions, she is authentic, honest, unafraid of the dark places in life, and totally committed to embracing and living in the light.
So it is with her new book, Be Brave in the Scared: How I Learned to Trust God in the Most Difficult Days of My Life. That freedom is real and it is attractive, but it didn’t come easily. In her book—which I would have read in one sitting, had I not been on a train that had reached its destination—she freely shares the ways she struggled to surrender herself and her family to Our Lord.
In doing so, she shows us both her remarkable courage and the truth and beauty of God’s unconditional, merciful, ever-present love.
Mary’s Most Difficult Days
I first learned of Mary when her daughter, Courtney Elizabeth, was in the final days of her life. Courtney was severely disabled, and a large online community came together in myriad ways to support the Lenaburg family through those last days of December 2014 and the weeks beyond. While Mary’s journey as Courtney’s mother would be enough to fill the pages of a book or six, her story reaches deeper and falls harder than that.
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Our Desire to Control
Like so many of us, Mary struggled for years with wanting control over her life. She had good intentions and beautiful dreams, but at the same time, didn’t want to entrust them to Go, for fear that His plans might look different than hers (and of course, they did).
This review won’t contain spoilers, but let’s just say, piece by piece, Mary’s world crumbled around her. The “difficult days” referred to in the title are not just those days before Courtney drew her last breath on earth, but the years before that when her marriage was in a dark place and her family life looked nothing like she thought it would or should.
And yet, through extraordinary graces, Mary’s family has become an incredible inspiration to the thousands of people who have heard her speak, read her work, and I’m sure, those who know her in real life (I’m hoping one day to be part of that last group).
In Mary’s own words (and my emphasis):
It is hard to stop fighting and surrender everything to God, even when we know that it is for the best. We still want to be in control and have God solve things our way. We are afraid that if we surrender to God, he is going to lead us down a path we don’t like, don’t understand, or don’t feel confident we can take to complete the journey. But what we forget is that we are never on that journey alone; God is always with us. And God is a much better companion than our fears.
Letting Go of Fear
Mary didn’t like the path she was on. She didn’t understand it. And at times she didn’t feel confident she could take it. But little by little, she allowed God to strip away her fears, her doubts, and her sins. Little by little, she let Him in to heal her, to reshape her, to use her to make something new. This woman’s story is extraordinary. This woman is extraordinary. And that’s because she points to our extraordinary God.
If you ever find yourself doubting that God is still moving on this earth, that He loves each of us even in dark moments and sin and hurt, turn to Mary’s book. It is a true glory story, where the praise and honor goes to our Father.
It All Comes Down to Trust
The message is one we’ve heard before: trust God. He has better plans for you than you have for yourself. He loves you no matter what.
But sometimes those things can be tough to take in, difficult to put into daily living. Sometimes—as Jesus well knew—it takes a story to open our minds and hearts to the reality of God’s love.
Mary falls hard, but that’s what makes it possible for it to rise so high, to shine so brightly.
Jesus told His disciples, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). Thank God for the Lenaburgs’ witness to God’s mercy and forgiveness.
Sweet Courtney Elizabeth, pray for us!
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Lindsay Schlegel is a daughter of God who seeks to encourage, inspire, and lift up the contemporary woman to be all she was created to be. She’s the author of Don’t Forget to Say Thank You: And Other Parenting Lessons That Brought Me Closer to God, as well as shorter nonfiction and fiction pieces, both online and in print. With joy, she speaks about recognizing God’s voice and living the truth therein. Lindsay lives in New Jersey with her high-school-sweetheart-turned-