Be Brave in the Scared
by Mary Lenaburg
In his address to the people of Cuba, Pope St. John Paul II reminded us of the Christian call to sanctify suffering, “Jesus Christ has taken the lead on the way of the cross. He has suffered first. He does not drive us toward suffering but shares it with us, wanting us to have life and to have it in abundance.”
Be Brave in the Scared is Mary Lenaburg’s story of how she learned to trust God in the midst of intense suffering and found joy. Suffering can come in many different forms such as physical pain, mental illness, disability, poverty, broken relationships, spiritual struggles, rejection, and the sorrows caused by sin. Be Brave in the Scared is an honest and humble account of how Christ redeemed and made new the many struggles Lenaburg faced in her marriage, in raising her severely disabled daughter, and in her own relationship with God.
In a culture that often fails to see the value of the most vulnerable—the unborn, the elderly, and especially those with profound disabilities—the life of Lenaburg’s daughter, Courtney, testifies to the value and dignity of every human person. Courtney’s life was the true catalyst that drew Lenaburg and her husband closer to Christ. As her husband explains in the forward, this is not “a story about frolicking with puppies and unicorns […] and chasing rainbows.” It is instead a powerful story of the tremendous love and mercy of a God capable of overcoming any sin or suffering in any circumstance. Be Brave in the Scared will inspire couples and individuals alike to trust God and persevere with hope no matter the difficulties they face in life.
Without pretense or platitude, Mary Lenaburg radiates the realness and warmth of an old friend on every page, drawing the reader into her story from the first words. Lenaburg does not shy away from tough topics as she relates the many challenges she and her husband experienced in their marriage as they struggled to accept the medical condition of their beloved Courtney. With a great deal of authenticity, Be Brave in the Scared shows how the false comforts found in addictions can never provide genuine healing for a marriage in pain, rather these addictions only cause more pain and regret. However, Lenaburg reminds readers that “God stands ready to forgive, renew, and redeem” and the story of her marriage attests to the joy that comes with embracing God’s redemptive love.
In the chapter “Sacrifice and Self-Gift,” Lenaburg shares how she and her husband Jerry learned to invite God into their relationship and to trust him to heal and redeem their marriage. The couple found that healing takes time and learning to sacrifice for the sake of the other is a life long struggle. However, the renewal in their marriage that resulted from this process is a testament to the graces found in the sacrament of marriage and the faithfulness of a God who loves unconditionally. Couples, especially those struggling in their marriages, will draw hope and encouragement from the Lenaburgs’ story.
The following chapter “Mercy is Messy” discusses three of Satan’s lies that often lead us to reject God’s love: you deserve it, you can avoid it, and God doesn’t care. How can one refuse those lies? “We must,” Lenaburg encourages, “accept our suffering, even embrace it, and ask God into the depths of our experience.” Throughout Be Brave in the Scared, Lenaburg beautifully and continually illustrates how God gently leads her to accept His truth through the acceptance of her daughter’s suffering and find a peace that surpasses all understanding.
This powerful book is not just a story to be read, but also a call and challenge for readers to reflect on their own lives and their own relationship with God. The end of every chapter poses thoughtful questions, shares stirring scripture, and provides space to journal. Lenaburg invites everyone into greater intimacy with God in order to experience with greater depth His boundless and inexhaustible love.
The power and pull of Be Brave in the Scared makes this a story hard to put down and almost impossible to read without a box of tissues. Yet even during the toughest moments of the story, Lenaburg’s good humor and humility will move readers from tears to laughter from moment to moment. All will come away encouraged to reinvigorate their commitment to place God at the center of their lives. Married couples. in particular. will find hope and strength to persevere in whatever trials they experience in their family life. Lenaburg pours her heart into this book and in doing so, reveals the heart of God.
About the Reviewer
Kathleen O’Beirne is a wife, mother of five, freelance writer, middle school literature teacher, and a volunteer in the Marriage Preparation Program for the Diocese of Arlington in Virginia.