Be Brave in the Scared: What to Say to God When Your Baby Will Never See, Talk, or Walk

Mary E. Lenaburg's daughter had severe disabilities. It was during the most difficult times that Mary learned how to leave fear behind and trust the Lord.

By Nancy Flory Published on May 29, 2019

“God loves cliffhangers,” author Mary E. Lenaburg told The Stream in a recent interview. “Just when you’re hanging by your fingernails off the cliff and you’re beginning to take one hand off, grace shows up. It shows up big. And you’re able to continue on.”

Mary’s book, Be Brave in the Scared: How I Learned to Trust God During the Most Difficult Days of My Life, was released earlier this month. Mary’s daughter, Courtney, was a special needs child. At seven months old, she was given an anti-seizure medication but had a severe allergic reaction to it. Her brain swelled and she went septic. She almost died.

Courtney was diagnosed with “seizure disorder, origin unknown with global developmental delay.” She never exceeded nine months in development. She was cortically blind, non-verbal and non-ambulatory. 

Be Brave in the Scared details how Courtney’s disability affected her family and how Mary learned to trust God through it all. Even Courtney’s death at 25 years old.

God is a Big God

Mary was angry after Courtney’s diagnosis. She directed her anger at God. “A lot of people don’t talk about being angry with [God] or being upset with Him. We hush it down because we say, ‘No, no, that’s disrespectful.’ I actually believe God is a big God and He knows I’m already angry, and I might as well have it out with Him and just have a conversation.”

God asked her, “Do you love your daughter?” she continues. She said yes, and He told her: “I don’t make mistakes and I don’t make junk so now, if you say you love her, then live as if you love her.”

“I learned in that moment to be brave,” Mary says. “I took a breath in and I said, ‘Okay, I can do this today.’ The next day when all of the battery of tests were to be done, I said, ‘I can do this today.'”

Mary’s dad, who had a terminal illness, taught her how to be brave in the moment. “My dad used to say, ‘You only have to be brave one breath at a time.'” She adds:

Even to this day I don’t think about the future. I don’t … necessarily plan long term. I had 22 years of living in crisis management and living in the sacrament of the present moment. I tend to be all in on that present moment and I don’t look to the future probably as well as I should. It’s hard for me because we haven’t been guaranteed the future, we’ve been given today and that’s all the Lord has given. Yesterday … is in the past. And now we face today. And if God so grants it and it’s His will, then we’ll have tomorrow. Until then, we live in the moment.

Building Trust

Mary’s faith wasn’t strong in the beginning. “I was going to church and doing all the things that you do, but I wasn’t in a very good relationship one-on-one with Him.” She recognized that she would never be able to trust Him until she cultivated a relationship with God. “Trust takes place in relationships. You have to be in a relationship with the Lord in order to trust Him. … You cannot trust who you do not know. You cannot love who you do not trust.”

She started small in her prayers. “It was ‘Lord will there be enough in the budget that I can do XYZ? Lord, will there be a parking space for the wheelchair van?’ It sounds silly, but that’s what my prayer was.” As God answered her prayers over and over, she says she “stepped it up a notch.”

Mary E. Lenaburg with her daughter Courtney.

Mary E. Lenaburg with her daughter Courtney.

“‘Lord, can we not have any seizures for six hours so she can sleep and I can sleep and we can just rest? Can you allow a time of rest?’ You name it. My life now is, and has been for quite some time, just a constant conversation with the Lord. Like right now I’m praying, ‘Lord, come Holy Spirit, give me the right words. What is it that you need said that someone who reads these words might be inspired, might be encouraged, might be seen and known and loved and know, ‘Oh, wait, that’s for me.’”

What God Wants

Be Brave in the Scared is a book for anyone who feels “like they are alone in the middle of the storm,” Mary says. It’s for “Someone who [doesn’t] know where to turn.”

“All [God] desires is a relationship with us,” Mary explains. “As we step forward into that deeper and deeper relationship, God brings us close to Him. … We think we’re taking a time of rest and all the sudden He says, ‘Take a little step closer to Me.’ And it’s in that step where we’re not quite sure what He’s going to ask of us but we’re brave and we have courage that we enter into a deeper relationship with Him. I wrote it for the one who doesn’t feel love, that they would know without a doubt that the Father loves them.”

She also says that while God allows suffering, it doesn’t come from Him. It’s within the suffering that “He asks us to stretch our arms out towards Him.”

Importantly, God wastes none of our suffering. “He takes all of it and works all of it to our good, to build the Kingdom and for the good of [others]. Don’t think your suffering is ever in vain. It’s not.” Only God knows whether our suffering will be for the good of others. “We are going through something so that others witness our pain, they witness our suffering, they witness our faith,” she explains. “Which in turn, gives them courage to live boldly and bravely because we belong to one another. It’s not your camp over there, my camp over here. No, we are all in one camp. We’re all children of God. We’re all here to raise the Kingdom of the Lord.”

Do Not Fear

Mary has some advice for those who are going through the same kind of suffering she and her family endured. “Don’t worry about the future, which is the hardest thing to hear. … God just wants us to be with Him today. … Stay in the present moment, stay with it, ask the Lord into it, ask the Lord for healing, ask the Lord for His provision.” And love with all you have. Just love.

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And we can’t be afraid of the plans God has for us. “We need to enter them fully. Courtney did. Her life was lived big, was bold and her legacy of love and surrender continues to be spoken of to this day and she never spoke a word. Not one. She never took a step. She never wrote a book. She just lived her life as God asked her to — in complete surrender to Him. And she did it beautifully.”


Nancy Flory is an Associate Editor at The Stream. You can follow her at @NancyFlory3, and follow The Stream @streamdotorg.

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