I awoke this morning to the news that an old Bible study leader had committed suicide, and now as I sit here with serious writer’s block and an achy back I am sort of watching “Night at the Museum” with my precious kids. Samantha has a night out with the girls. These events are bookended by an afternoon spent with family, as we sat poolside with Sam’s brothers, their wives, kids, Sam’s mom and a foreign exchange student. It was a nice get together as we celebrated Sam’s brother Matt’s recent miraculous job offer, a one in which his steadfast faith in God almighty and his willingness to put himself out there were greatly rewarded.
Yet there I sat like a bit of a slug for the first 30 minutes. I kind of felt like an outcast, though nobody was doing anything to cause it, rather, it was a family in the midst of celebrating and living life while I was once again suffering in silence.
Each day I awake to a feeling like I’ve been having a really bad dream, only when I open my eyes I realize that it is no dream. It is my reality.
The news that someone I’d only known from afar had killed himself was traumatizing for me, for if a man is as committed as this guy was to the Word of God, its careful study and skillful guidance of other believers in discussion, then who am I? Where is my faith when I need it the most? Why am I agonizing when I know the outcome is God’s and His plan is always perfection even when we try to interfere and screw things up? He knows the plans for me, plans to prosper and not to harm, yet my vision is very cloudy at the moment and I cannot see straight.
I’m mourning right now.
I am still in the early stages of mourning the loss of the only position I’d held for the last 17+ years, and right smack dab in the middle of it I’m finding myself mourning the loss of what I truly believed was my personal Promised Land.
I was ready to pack it up and move the family, as I truly thought that the opportunity was perfect and the stars had aligned, but a funny thing happened when I put the cart before the horse: It wasn’t necessarily God’s plan for me and my family. We had been praying that God would make it very apparent and extremely obvious what our next moves were to be, and should that be a wide open door or a resounding slammed door we would both honor and glorify Him no matter what. So when the door slammed shut and family and friends silently rejoiced that we weren’t going anywhere we essentially had to grin and bear it through their mock disappointment and questions like, “Is Don totally devastated?” Politically correct answer: “No, we prayed for an answer and received a very clear one.” The truth of the matter answer: You better believe I was devastated. Not only was I excited about the potential job that was being created for me I was seriously ready to get out of here. There is no perfect place to live, but our little slice of suburbia is crowded and expensive, and while family and friends continued to warn us of the snow, lack of ocean and oh did I mention snow, “Oh the humanity – SNOW!!!!!” we listened and carefully considered and still packed our bags.
Offer me the job and we are on our way.
The door slammed but our bags were packed, and instead of scouting out our future home, school and church, Sam and I headed up to Santa Barbara which was absolutely lovely. But before we could get on the road I got bit by something on my leg that gave me a 102 degree fever, body aches and grotesquely swollen left ankle. A trip to urgent care followed by five hours in the Emergency Room and we were on our way (the bite resulted in a disgusting skin infection requiring some antibiotics).
The getaway was glorious but the mind never shuts off. The thoughts, the mourning, the regrets.
My mind wanders back to the Bible study leader who has left us. I did not know him well and I do not know the details of his passing other than the fact that he took his own life. This is a painful journey for many of us who battle with anxiety, fear and depression. The world tells us to take pills while exhorting us to “man-up” while numbing ourselves with alcohol, television and psycho babble from talk show hosts. At the end of the day the pain is very real and sometimes it is difficult to sense God’s presence let alone hear His still small voice through the noise of fear and the static of the unknown. The news of his passing rocked my world and put some perspective on my situation that I’d never previously considered. Truly, I cannot control those first 45 seconds of the morning when I initially awake, but I can completely control the five or ten minutes that follow. I can either lay awake wrestling with those thoughts and feelings or I can take them directly to the only source of comfort and love that matters. I can cast all of my anxiety to God because He cares for me and I am reminded that I truly need not be anxious about anything, rather I am to take everything to Him through prayer and supplication and make my requests known to Him. Above all, I am to delight in the Lord and be reminded that even though I may be suffering for this little while I can take heart and rejoice in these times because suffering produces endurance, and endurance character and character….hope.
“Night at the Museum” is winding down and the popcorn is nearly all consumed. As it has been at the end of most evenings since late March I too am fairly consumed.
It has been a test of survival and grinding through days. I have good moments of optimism followed by dark moments of doom and gloom. One man dies at his own hand while another man rejoices with his family. Both men love God so I don’t really understand the radically different outcomes.
Only God truly knows.
He also knows my ultimate outcome. I know a job – a career – is in the making. I know that His plans are infinitely better than anything that I can come up with in my feeble mind. He is omniscient. He is omnipotent. He is omnipresent. He is unchanging and consistent. He is holy, righteous, merciful and sovereign.
And He loves us.
Those are the things I need to remember in those first 45 seconds and then focus on them for the remaining hours that get me through to the point of exhaustion each night by about 10:30 PM.