The past several weeks have been pretty rough for some people Lisa and I know. One of my nieces was diagnosed with breast cancer and needs to have chemo and a mastectomy. Another person we know was eight months pregnant and lost the child when his heart stopped beating. A man in our church is about to lose his wife to cancer, which has reduced her to 52 pounds as she waits to meet the Lord in hospice. As if that’s not hard enough, this couple lost their adult son in a mountain climbing accident just a year ago. Not as brutal but still difficult, we have friends who can’t pay their bills; fell off the wagon into alcoholism; endure daily racism; struggle with cancer, chronic pain, bi-polar, schizophrenia, major depressive disorder and more; and then there are those who struggle with betrayal, verbal abuse, divorce, and other emotional traumas. It seems as if these past couple months have been especially bad. It’s as if life is giving people a crap sandwich and forcing them to take a big bite!
So how do we get through these difficulties in a way that is sustaining and still allows us to shine Christ’s light? I’m not going to lie, it’s not easy but it is possible. Let me share a handful of thoughts that help me when I’m chewing on a crap sandwich.
When really bad things happen one of our first tendency may be to ask, “Why me?” Right on the heels of that we ask God how He could allow such a thing to happen and even get angry with Him, sometimes blaming Him for the tragedy. I think this is natural – in our humanness we have a need to understand the “why” behind our pain and because God is in control of everything He is the obvious place to turn for an answer.
For me, though, I have to remind myself that God didn’t do whatever it is I am struggling with. God loves me and is even grieving with me about what I’m going through. He wants to be my strength but understands my anger.
So if God’s not to blame, who is? Well, in a lot of cases it’s either we or another person has acted badly, or just life – living in a fallen world where we have imperfect bodies that rebel against us. Think about the things you’ve gone through (or are going through) – have any of them been caused by something other than our own actions, another person’s actions or our bodies imperfections? I’m thinking and the only other thing I can come up with is natural disasters, which also are caused by a fallen world where our weather and climate get screwy. I can’t really blame God for any of that – simply put, He didn’t do it. By remembering this I can be angry yet still go to God and ask His help in surviving whatever I’m going through.
I also have to remember that no matter how bad the situation and how broken I may be, God will see me through just as He has all the other times I’ve had to chew on the crap sandwich. Sometimes it’s really hard to have perspective in the midst of your crisis. For example, I simply cannot imagine what my friends who lost their child at eight months are going through. How in the world can you have perspective during something like that?
But then I remember watching in awe as an Amish community reached out to not only forgive but comfort the family of a man who killed many of their children. How could they possibly do that? It was because their faith in the Lord was stronger than their grief and anger. And that is a key for me as well.
I haven’t written a blog in several weeks because I’ve been chewing on my own little crap sandwich – nothing big, just in a bad place in my mind. Yet, my faith has kept me engaged in the important stuff, because my faith is larger than my pain. If not for my faith I would have taken the past couple months and just shut myself in and ignored everyone and all my responsibilities. But God gives me perspective and strength when I’m in those moods and helps to keep me moving forward even when I don’t actually want to. So the second thing I have to remember is my God is bigger than my pain and keep the faith even when it is hard.
The third thing that is helpful is having other people who will help you eat your crap sandwich. It’s difficult to go through tragedy alone, yet we all tend to barricade ourselves in an effort to survive, especially those first days or weeks. However, God has put people in our lives that will help us by supporting us in various ways, whether that be through some tangible action or by simply listening or just being there. I’ll admit that I am REALLY bad at allowing others to help me, but I’ve recognized my need for them in that we all need support, encouragement, and sometimes just someone to lean on. It is not weakness to need this support; it is God’s way of letting you know He cares about what you’re going through and He wants to help you through one of His saints.
The last thing I’ll suggest is professional help. When I was in college and was eating a foot-long subway crap sandwich I could have really used professional help to guide me through some of what I was experiencing. At the time all of it was brand new and I had no tools with which to manage myself. The results were disastrous not only to me but to those around me. In fact, some of my actions have had life-long consequences. I think I can save you that burden by suggesting you seek professional help in some circumstances.
The hardest thing about seeking professional help is putting your pride aside, admitting you can’t deal with the issue yourself, and understanding that all good things come from God, including the knowledge and skills of a professional. There are those out there who can help with the grieving process; life skills; physical, emotional, and mental health; and even spiritual health. There are times when we are so broken that we just don’t have it in us to work through the problem. Having a guide who will take you by the hand, give you tools, and show you the road to recovery can be life-saving and life-altering. I wish I had done so when I was younger.
One of my favorite verses is Romans 8:28 – “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” You may be struggling right now to choke down the latest bite from your crap sandwich, but I know personally that God will use everything for good, including your suffering. They say that your greatest ministry comes from your greatest pain. While it may be impossible to see the light at the end of your current tunnel, know that God will use you in powerful ways as you emerge from your crisis – and you will emerge from it!
I pray God’s blessings on you, as well as His peace, understanding, and strength as you endure what life throws at you.