The “call“. (You parents know)
The punch-to-the-gut unexpected report.
The proverbial rug-pull.
The out-of-the-blue revelation.
The unsettling rumor.
It comes in all shapes and shades, is non-discriminate and has little regard for timing.
It’s the yin that adds wrinkles to our otherwise smooth complexions.
Because my wife and I have had more than our share in our 31 years together – and I’m not talking minor stuff here – I’ve asked her to help me with this post. Quite honestly, she’s been heroic in her handling of it all.
Just recently we discussed all the hardships we’ve endured and commented that each one, by themselves, would put such a strain on a marriage that many couples can’t even.
And we counted them off, naming them one by one…and listed our Mitchell life crises on two hands! Yet, ONLY by God’s grace that succors and sustains, we’re still here, stronger in matrimonial tie than ever, and with unbridled adoration for the God-who-sees-and-knows.
So I rolled down the hall with a whale of an idea for a post and found Sandy, propped up on pillows, reading.
“Hey Babe, can you help me with a blog idea?”
“Sure,” she replied. “What’s it about?”
“I’m thinking of the 5 or 6 things you DON’T do when the news is bad. I’ve got about 4 so far, but I wanted to get your input. Surely there’s more.”
Immediately she rattled off several more – some overlapped my own – but most were amazingly original.
So when you read our list below and you see some that really stand out, those are probably Sandy’s.
Oh, and lest you think my ability to handle life’s little character-builders is Paulinesque (as in the apostle), allow me to entertain you with the irony of ironies with regard to this very post you’re now reading.
Sandy’s list and mine easily swelled to ten things and I immediately entered them into my WordPress drafts and hit “save”.
Wait, you’re already ahead of me.
So, I’m ready to break out the blog and post it. I open my drafts queue, click on my ‘list of 10 things’ and…
Like that girl in the book gone.
What I did not do was shake my head slightly, shrug my shoulders, smile and set to recapturing the list from memory.
Full disclosure, a little naughty word came from just under my breath, my face got hot and my entire innards went to jello.
So, when you read this list, just read it in the spirit of not handling bad news like Scott did.
But because the list is so good (Sandy’s part), I’ll leave it with you anyway:
WHEN THINGS DON’T WORK OUT,
WHEN THE NEWS IS NOT WHAT YOU HOPED,
WHEN LIFE SUDDENLY GETS HARD:
1. Don’t immediately turn to the phone or post on facebook
It may give you some modicum of relief to ‘share’ your burden but it’s best to hold off, ‘count ten’ and sit before the Lord and ask and tell Him anything and everything you’d want to say to a live ‘skin-and-bones’ person.
Then, shortly thereafter, seek out one, two or three (depending on scale of crisis) prayer partners or spiritual advisors. Facebook is not among these.
2. Don’t analyze it to death for quick understanding
This is difficult for those who need hard-and-fast answers and quick fixes so they can move on. In reality, the process can be one of the most meaningful and memorable and will give your story a lasting aroma of grace.
Don’t quickly announce what you think God is doing – and why He’s doing it – because one of the immutable aspects of the Eternal God is that He is shrouded in mystery and, well, His ways are higher than yours and mine.
Let it steep. Let it marinate. Wait before Him in worship. Job was in complete silence for SEVEN WHOLE DAYS before he entertained any philosophical pursuits about his ordeal(s).
3. Don’t go into depression and ask ‘why?’
This is somewhat related to the previous but with this glaring difference: while the (I won’t say ‘victim’) benefactor (don’t narrow your eyes) in the prior predicament wants to control the outcome, this sad soul wants to dwell in the pit of pity. They’re really not interested in why, they mostly want someone to pay.
4. Don’t automatically assume the worst is going to happen
Oh so true. It’s perilously difficult to shake the fatalism of Adam’s DNA which denies us the gaze of faith but instead the downcast eyes of defeat. If the resurrection tells us anything, it says we’re ALWAYS going to come through, out and victorious – in whatever situation!
5. Don’t solicit anyone and everyone and make it their duty to walk through it with you
Don’t be needy. Don’t give into manipulative tactics. Don’t guilt. Give God space to work in the hearts of those who will help you walk this out. Why didn’t they call? Why didn’t they stop by? Where was my pastor? I can’t believe no one posted to my timeline! are unhealthy and invite bitterness and an unmoldable spirit.
6. Don’t just endure until you get through it
We like to preserve our q-rating in the eyes of our peers, to save face, come through – whatever – smelling like a rose…So we get tough and rigid and determine not to let it break us.
While the scriptures often encourage us to “endure” in trial, it doesn’t mean what we think it means. It means to come under, be teachable, even soft. No, not beaten down by the hardship and traumatized, but to come through it sweeter and kinder, gleaning from it the character lessons that make us more approachable.
7. Don’t put on a spiritually brave face and pretend it doesn’t hurt
To be truly transformed by trial is to become transparent and honest. The trial is meant to redeem out of us all that has made us into these legendary liars we’ve become instead of the highest and noblest of creatures we were created to be.
8. Don’t immediately cry ‘foul!’ or ‘unfair!’
To cry such goes to the heart of trust. It assumes God got it wrong. To accuse God of being unkind and unfair is the lowest form of pride. It is straight-up unbelief. It says you know better, could do better, and foments the victim pathology.
9. Don’t immediately assume you’re being punished or God has it in for you
That’s the enemy, pure and simple. The adversary mostly uses condemnation in his very limited arsenal to distract and dismay the people of God. Don’t give in to that tripe. You are loved! Even the discipline of God is kind and geared toward your fruitfulness, not your demise. Trust God. He has it in for you alright: He has invested all eternity in you!
10. Don’t hide or disengage
Yeah. This is huge. While we don’t want to pull a #5, we do need our community around us. Because suffering is ALWAYS redemptive, it is salvation not only for the benefactor (still narrowing your eyes?) but the onlookers as well – those who are called to come alongside the one who hurts.
Such trial is means for a platform and God is making you – a partaker in the sufferings of Christ – His sermon, His megaphone, and a test-imony.
Hey! That’s the ticket! After the test, be His -imony, not His enemy.
And you’ll be just fine.