It may be that after months of unemployment, you didn’t get the job you interviewed for, again. Or your loved one is gone. Or your dreams, layered carefully in one basket, are dashed in a moment. Whatever your situation, you may have been left on the floor, knocked out and immobilized, even bleeding, your tears mixing with dust on your cheek. Devastation can physically, emotionally and spiritually floor us.
This happened to me ten years ago. One brutally cold, March morning, I awoke early, three weeks before the highly-anticipated arrival of our son. I did not feel the rhythmic and joy-filled trampoline activity of our fifth child that usually jostled my stomach and woke me up. I felt nothing. I moved around to wake him up, but I knew my efforts were futile. I had not awakened once during the evening, and prior to that I had not slept soundly for months.
Devastation can physically, emotionally and spiritually floor us.
I hobbled downstairs to call my midwife, not wanting to wake my family. As I hung up the phone, that moment of deep realization penetrated and I collapsed in anguish onto our antique hardwood floor, 37 weeks pregnant, my face to the cold varnish. I sobbed and cried out to God. Absolute despair overtook me. As I sprawled awkwardly in the darkness, all was silent.
Twelve hours later I sat with my husband, every tear in me spent, in the room behind the nurse’s station in the hospital. Our dear infant son lie in the bassinet, eyes closed, perfect and precious, awaiting our final earthly goodbye. Our children had been taken home by our friends, and the grief left behind by family and friends still lingered in the air. It was the last day of winter, and as I walked painfully to our car, having given birth just a few hours earlier, leaving our son behind, snow flakes fell. All else was gray.
The days that followed were a blur: casket, wake, funeral, revolving grief from siblings who were left dazed and bereft. As my body healed from childbirth and baby gifts were given away, I spiraled into a pit that was darker and deeper than I imagined existed for anyone, anywhere. My sleep was interrupted by accusations of all that I did not do or should have done differently. Eventually, I believed so much of it and fell into a sadness that lasted for years.
My sleep was interrupted by accusations of all that I did not do or should have done differently. Eventually, I believed so much of it and fell into a sadness that lasted for years.
How do you get back up? It took me over six years to stand tall, brush the ash off of my jeans and to walk securely forward. One of the things that came out of the loss of our baby is my better understanding of what is involved in moving forward when we have been overwhelmed and brought down. Grief, disappointment and despair will pass. Some of our responses can help the process along and prevent its unnecessary extension. There are things to do when you need to get back up.
1. Accept God’s acknowledgement of our pain and His comfort. Yes, we have been through something horrific. When people around us are trying to comfort us, their words can be minimizing and insensitive. The most verbal friends are sometimes the people who have no understanding of your situation.
It is not uncommon for people to blame victims. Our scientifically-oriented culture can try to impose a cause-and-effect interpretation to tragedy. It is more comfortable to think that we can prevent bad things from happening if we just do the right things. This is not what Scripture says. John 10:10 tells us that we have an enemy; “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Sometimes the enemy effectively steals, kills and destroys. We are not to blame. Regardless, compassion should be unconditional when people are experiencing crisis and trauma. Mercy should flow when people are hurting.
We are comforted when our pain is validated. Praise God, He is called the God of All Comfort;
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.”
–2 Corinthians 1:3-5
Always remember that when you “Come near to God …he will come near to you.” (James 4:8) God responds to our initiative to seek His love and comfort. I remember picturing myself climbing up to a cleft to lie in the safety of His presence: “The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.“ (Psalm 18:2)
The enemy is an opportunist who preys on our weakness.
If we are down and out, we can be kept down longer if we let our guard down. I Peter 1:13 says, “Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.” We can combat the enemy’s lies and accusations that steal our faith. Our hope is set on His coming grace! Shift our focus from our pain to His hope!
After experiencing loss or tragedy, fear can overtake us.
Similarly, after experiencing loss or tragedy, fear can overtake us. We must not let it take root in our minds, no matter how fragile we feel. 2 Timothy 1:7 is a verse to cling to through these moments of anxiety; “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” In general, time spent in Scripture and praise and worship will help change our focus and will combat fear and accusation. Even at our most vulnerable moments, and especially in these moments, we must cling to His promises.
3. Find a brother or sister in the Lord (or two) to help you up. When we are wounded, we sometimes run and hide. We protect ourselves by getting out of harm’s way, and people can be unpredictable and seem unsafe. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 discourages isolation;
“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.”
It is especially helpful to speak with people who have experienced and overcome your situation. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (see passage above) says that one of the reasons that we are allowed to go through trials is “so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” The body of Christ is a community and God’s love is shared when we are transparent about our needs and experiences. The overcomer’s testimony is a powerful one (see Psalm 107:1-2).
There is power in agreement and people need to know you are struggling in order to pray effectively for you.
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.”
“He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
the Lord loves the righteous.”
Regardless of your loss, your pain, your rejection or your disappointment, if you submit to Him and His purposes, He will turn your situation to good (see Romans 8:28). He is a god of restoration; “then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you.” –(Deuteronomy 30:3)
The enemy does not want you to have this information!
“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.”
One of God’s names is Jehovah Rophe, God Our Healer (see Exodus 15:26). Ecclesiastes 3:3 says that there is “a time to heal.” He will heal your heart. As we wait upon the Lord, He will renew your strength (Isaiah 40:31). As we wait in His presence, hope will return. May He heal your heart and restore to you hope and the joy of your salvation.