Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.
I’ve been accused, more than once, of wearing my heart on my sleeve. So it’s no surprise that my perceptive priest picked up on my anxiety.
“I’m not doing very well emotionally,” I say when she asked how I was.
“I could tell.”
Later, after the short pep talk she offered and after lunch (food always helps!), I talked with another friend who has a different life-threatening illness.
“Every day is different,” she said, in regards to how she handles the fear. “Some days I don’t even want to get out of bed.”
“But we have to,” I preached, mostly to myself. “Otherwise, fear wins. Cancer wins. We have to let grace or faith or whatever it is win instead.”
On good days, that’s exactly what I believe and practice. The great 20th century British writer G. K. Chesterton defined hope as the ability to be cheerful in circumstances we know to be desperate. This is what allowed men fighting in the trenches during the World Wars to take a break for Christmas and sing carols together. This is what graces the people I’ve met with cancer who are positive and, yes, even cheerful.
And then there are the other days, when nothing feels right and not getting out of bed does seem the only reasonable option. Fortunately for me, there’s usually something I need to do, and I do get out of bed. The downcast mood passes—it always does—and I am again ready to praise God. As Brother Stendl-Rast has written, there’s always something for which to be grateful. This morning, for example, the delicate snow outlines every branch and twig. This afternoon I will be part of Survivors Teaching Students and will get to see people I care about in the cancer community. Ideas for a presentation I have next week are bubbling at the rim of my brain. No time to be downcast, with so much for which to praise God.