When people hear my story for the first time, when they hear me talk about what I lost and how I have grown in the last two years, I typically get one of a handful of responses. Probably the most common reaction is to tell me that I'm "strong." Some people wonder how I can be so strong. The truth? I have made it this far, I have had the strength to make it this far, because that is what I chose to do. That may sound odd, but it's true: I chose my path of recovery.
Life is a series of choices. We cannot always control what happens to us or what we go through, but we can almost always choose our response. When your prayer is not answered the way you want, you can choose to be angry, sad, discouraged, maybe even afraid. In truth, these are probably the natural and easy reactions. But when your prayer is not answered (or not answered when you want), you also have the choice to have faith, to trust, to view things with a Heavenly perspective, to find the good.
In the story of Ruth, we see two very different reactions to the same type of loss. Naomi lost her husband and her sons, one of whom was Ruth's husband. Naomi reacted to her circumstance with bitterness. Ruth chose love and selflessness. For obvious reasons, I identify with Ruth: a young woman whose husband was taken from her. Yet she chose to be strong, to be a servant, to be faithful, to love. And God redeemed her story, not only restoring her life and giving her a family but using her to restore Naomi. Ruth is a story of redemption, and it started with her response to a situation she could not control.
Of course in some situations, it seems impossible to choose strength. Trust me, I know. There are moments when the feelings that accompany loss or fear completely consume you. It might even be physically painful. I had those moments. I guarantee there have been moments when the last thing people would have said about me was that I was strong. So in those moments when choosing "strength" is not an option, we must choose the one who IS strength.
In the first chapter of Joshua, God tells Joshua to be "strong" and "courageous" three times. But he does not tell Joshua to be strong because Joshua is a great leader or because the road would be easy. He told Joshua to be strong and courageous because, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." God told Joshua to be strong instead of afraid, courageous instead of discouraged, because "the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."
That's how I did it. That's how I made it to where I am. I chose. I chose faith. I chose life. I chose people. Even when I did not understand His plan, I chose Jesus. I chose to let Him be my rest and heal my brokenness. I chose to let Him be my strength and give me courage. I chose to believe in the hope of His promise. And I chose, and still choose every day, to be thankful for Aaron and for the strength I receive from the memory of the man God gave me for a season.
While these choices may seem daunting in the moment, I promise His yolk is light. For me, these choices have led me down a path of restoration, and I pray that God continues to help me be like Ruth, loving and selfless, like Joshua, strong and courageous, like Abigail, wise and bold. This is how I choose to be.