There exists within you a vast power.
It often goes unnoticed, hiding in plain sight. In times of great pain, it’s especially stealthy, camouflaged by your agony and the disparaging lies of the enemy.
But it’s in those times of great pain that the power is most vast, and most important.
It’s crucial to your healing.
And indeed to your very survival.
Yes, this power can – and will – save your life.
In the midst of the agony, the lies, the torrents of grief, the mindless suffering, the multiplicity of physical ailments, the unfounded perceptions of abandonment, the mirrors and the mirages — you must summon this power from deep within.
What is this lifesaving power, you ask? It is the power of choice.
Harold S. Kushner, the bestselling author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People, wrote the foreword to one of the single greatest book of all-time: Man’s Search for Meaning, by Victor E. Frankl.
In that book, Frankl poignantly discusses his time as a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp. His story, and its masterful telling, offers astounding insights into the human condition, both the highest heights and the deepest depths, and in my estimation, is likely the best book ever written about suffering.
But despite that high praise, one of the most formative passages from the entire work actually came from Kushner’s foreword.
Here is an excerpt from that passage (emphasis added):
“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess EXCEPT ONE THING: your freedom to CHOOSE how you will respond to the situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can ALWAYS control what you will feel and do about what happens to you.”
The power to choose — it’s the power that gave Victor Frankl the strength to survive Auschwitz, and it’s the same power that allowed Kailen to smile and laugh, even just minutes before cancer took her life.
As I sit at my desk on this frigid January morning and think back on our war with cancer, one of the most resonant lessons I can recall, and perhaps the most miraculous, was Kailen’s unfailing ability to choose joy.
This passage from my book, Even if you don’t, provides a good example:
“This is a rare glimpse into Kailen’s humanity. She felt these things — the pain, the loss, the disappointment, the frustration — just like anyone else. The difference, as always, was how she chose to respond to those feelings.
Instead of wallowing in self-pity and giving up, she spoke truth into the void. She let the peace of Christ permeate the pain, and in that peace, she found strength to keep walking.”
Though Kailen ultimately died at the hands of cancer, her uncanny ability to choose joy and hope still saved her life, just like it did Frankl’s. It didn’t keep her from dying, but it made her life valuable, enjoyable, impactful, and inspiring.
Her life ended, but it wasn’t wasted. And never will be.
Why? Because she made the right choice.
Here she is, in all her courageous splendor:
“I won’t say that I am happy about this or that it didn’t come out of nowhere, because it did. But I will say that this time, Bryan and I are not going to allow cancer to dictate how “normal” our life is.
Things are not going to fall apart because God is my foundation, and He is THE rock on which I stand. I will not stop my progress or put anything on hold because “suffering produces PERSEVERANCE; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
Frankl chose joy and hope in the blood-soaked trenches of Auschwitz. Kailen chose joy and hope as cancer attacked her body and ravaged her earthly faculties.
Now I’m choosing it. And so can you.
Go ahead, harness the Lazarus within!
And like Lazarus, Frankl, Kailen, and even me, what was once DEAD will be brought back into new and glorious LIFE.
Bryan C. Taylor grew up on a farm in small-town western Kentucky, where his dreams of becoming an author had their origins on an ancient Dell desktop. In addition to his books, Bryan maintains a blog about grief at www.bryanctaylor.com/blog, where he seeks to teach others the many lessons his late wife, Kailen, taught him. Bryan is the #1 Bestselling Author of EVEN IF YOU DON’T: A love story, available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle eBook.
For Bryan and Kailen’s full story, including an unfiltered account of their 3-year war with Stage IV breast cancer, and Kailen’s ultimate passing at age 25, check out their #1 bestselling book here: https://www.amazon.com/Even-you-dont-love-story/dp/1983414042/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1518810888&sr=8-1&keywords=even+if+you+don%27t+bryan+taylor
To read more of Bryan’s thoughts on how life can be a fairytale, even when it’s a tragedy, follow his weekly blog posts at http://www.bryanctaylor.com/blog