For some the colloquial saying, “You play the hand you’re dealt” means there is nothing you can do about the tragedies in life; you passively take what’s been handed to you, play along or fold. If your spouse walks out on you, you lose a business, or you are diagnosed with a rare illness, that’s just life. Accept it. That’s your lot.
A skilled poker player looks at cards differently. After players pick up the dealt cards, they make choices about which cards they will discard or exchange from the deck. Each decision is strategic. Good players are not passive.
Those who don’t know my daughter would say she has it all. Great husband, two beautiful kids, a master’s degree, a good job, and a home in a nice part of town. But many don’t know her backstory. At the age of 29, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She’s had numerous surgeries and several more to come. Through her cancer, we discovered that she and I have a genetic mutation called BRCA1. This gene results in ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer and other cancers related to the endocrine system and hormone production. So, while her breasts are gone and she’s “cancer free,” the gene in time will allow cancer to attack other parts of her body.
Melinda is resilient. She doesn’t let a circumstance define who she is. She bounces back. Resilient people are realistic optimists. She is not oblivious to the challenges facing her, but she doesn’t moan and gripe about the cards she has received. She is joyful. She is also active. Rather than passively accepting that she could not have children because of chemotherapy, she held off chemo treatments to harvest her eggs so they could be implanted at a later time, resulting in those two beautiful children I mentioned. She watches her nutrition, works out, and is cautious about any carcinogenic substance in her environment. She gets regular exams with her oncologist. She can’t alter her DNA, but she can play her cards with skill. She’s no drama queen. She’s grateful to live each day on this earth.
In his song, “Tough,” Craig Morgan describes a resilient faith-full woman who was told she had cancer:
She’s strong, pushes on, can’t slower her down. She can take anything life dishes out. There was a time, back before she was mine, when I thought I was tough . . . Never once complained, refusing to give up, and I thought I was tough.
The Bible describes faith as “the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see.” (Heb 11:1, Msg) I’ve heard some describe faith as “keep on keeping on.” People of faith don’t fold. They find a way to keep moving forward. They handle setbacks with grace and confidence and hold firmly to their belief that going through things together with God is better than facing life alone. They have enormous trust in God’s goodness.
Resilient people know that if their cards are skillfully played, they can win the game. Weak cards in the hands of skilled players beat better hands all the time. Regardless of the future cards she will receive, I’m confident Melinda’s resilient character will face each new challenge with grace and hope. That’s who she is.