It was just an ordinary day.
“I am trying to reach Suzie Lawyer,” a man’s voice said with a direct and urgent tone. “There’s been an emergency involving your family, and I need you to call me at the following number.”
The number was not one that was familiar to me, but this man had tried to call me several times. The world stopped moving. Everything faded out of my peripheral vision. My hands were trembling, barely able to hold the phone. My chest felt as if my heart was going to explode. It was beating so fast. Or maybe it wasn’t even beating at all. I couldn’t breathe…
The call. The dreaded call. The call that changes your life in an instant. For me it was this call to tell me that my family was involved in a terrible car accident. This phone call still echoes in my head. Still. 8 years later I hear that voice. That dreaded message. Maybe for you it’s a call to say that you have lost your job. That the lab report shows cancer. That your spouse wants a divorce. That the unborn child isn’t thriving. That the doctors have done all that they can. So often this call is our biggest fear. Yet to prevent ourselves from being overcome with paralyzing anxiety, we try to downplay it by convincing ourselves that this call won’t happen to us, only to other people. But then the call comes. It hits too close to home. It hits us. Me. You. And it hits on just an ordinary day, without any warning.
What do we do when the bottom falls out?
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
We will have trouble. The bottom will fall out. Our dreams will be shattered. It happens. And it wrecks us.
When I heard the words that my family was involved in an accident, my initial response was panic and doubt. Maybe he had the wrong number? Maybe his information was incorrect? Maybe? I needed to know more. The man on the phone did not want to reveal to me too many of the gruesome details. He did, however, tell me that some of my children were badly injured. When I asked about my husband, he went silent. The kind of silence that is thick. The kind of silence that a knife would not be able to penetrate. That sound of silence is the loudest sound that I have ever heard. And still, 8 years later I can hear it. But I knew. In the deepest recesses of my soul I knew that Kevin had died. So my voice got louder and more direct as I asked the dreaded question, “Is my husband dead?”
Nothing in life can truly prepare you for these bottom falling out moments. No matter how strong you are, no matter what’s in your bank account, no matter how many degrees you possess, no matter how many friends you have… in these moments it’s just you and God. That’s it. And when the bottom falls out, can you trust God enough to include Him in the pain?
About a year or so before Kevin died, I made a little vow to myself that I was going to read my Bible everyday for 365 days. Yes, it’s legalistic, and I am so not legalistic! It wasn’t my goal to read the whole thing, but rather to intensely study and apply what I was reading to my own life. It was a challenge, but I am competitive and OCD! That’s a great combination for achieving a personal goal. And the thing is, not everyday was a huge spiritual encounter. I confess that some of the days I read just to check it off of my list. My intent though, was to use God’s Word to help me overcome some challenging circumstances from my childhood. I wanted to really know and understand God’s promises to me. The daily reading accompanied with regular counseling sessions was invaluable. What a year it was! I learned and grew so much. As I look back, that year was a crucial piece to the framework of my faith.
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”
So that ordinary day in February of 2008 turned into an extraordinary one. It was over the top. More than I could even bear. Harder than I could even imagine. It was sickening. Horrific. Terrifying. Lonely. Truly my worst nightmare. The rains came. Torrential rains. It was the biggest storm ever. But by the grace of God, the ‘house’ did not fall because its foundation was built on the Rock. The ‘house’ sure teetered many of the days. There were moments when I felt like the ‘house’ would come crashing down. I am sure it was very close many many times. But it did not fall!
I would like to say that my heart and mind were ‘prepared’ in that year of study to trust God no matter what – so that in the midst of that tragedy my default would be Jesus. Did I succeed at that? No. Did I fail at that? No. There were moments where I felt like Jesus was so far away that I felt as if I was forgotten. And at other times, I felt like Jesus had the tightest grip on me, feeling so secure and protected. And then there were times when I decided that I knew best and could do things on my own. But that’s the journey of faith, right? The ordinary times spent reading God’s Word, living life, praying, and attempting to seek God’s purpose grow into extraordinary encounters with Him when we are truly vulnerable and authentic with Him.
You see, living a life of faith does not take away the pain or hurt. At all. Rather, it gives you a framework to process the pain. Faith gives you a place to lay the pain down because it’s too much to carry alone. Jesus tells us to come to Him weary and burdened so that He can give us rest. So we can breathe. So that He can carry our loads. Jesus never tells us to brush away the pain or deny it. Jesus wants all of us. The good. The bad. The ugly. He wants us to be authentic. There were moments when the bottom fell out that I shouted. I wept. I cursed. I screamed. I punched. I ran. I proclaimed that it wasn’t fair. I didn’t deserve this. I was angry at God for allowing this to happen. I was so wounded, hurt, and angry. In fact, I still struggle with these moments and feelings today. Emotions are so sneaky and yet can be so predictable. God wants us to be this real. It’s how we grow. He does not want us to deny our feelings, but He does want us to keep coming back to the truth of His promises.
That’s how my year of reading God’s Word prepared me. My pain was so tangible. But because of God’s truth, the healthiest way for me to deal with it was to lay it at the feet of Jesus.
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
So the truth of Jesus’ promise is this – He wants us to come as we are and trade in our burdens so He can replace them with His peace. That requires faith. And when we view our circumstances through a framework of faith, it doesn’t change the circumstances. It just gives us HOPE to endure and the strength to continue to move forward. Hope keeps us from giving up.
There were so many times that I wanted to give up. If I’m honest, there still are those times. Thankfully, those moments aren’t as frequent as they were right after Kevin died. And I wish I could say that I always default to Jesus. I don’t. I’m human. But again, it’s a journey. Have I continued over the years to read my Bible every single day? No. I haven’t. Have I gone through times when I turned my back on God? Sadly, I have. Again, it’s a journey. It’s growth. A few steps forward and then a few steps back. But at the end of the day, I know the truth. I know that my hope comes from Him alone.
What are you doing to prepare? The call will come. There will be tragedy. The bottom is going to fall out. How can you begin to develop an extraordinary faith so that when the time comes and it’s just you and God, you will be able to trust Him?
The man on the phone never answered me directly when I asked him if my husband had died. His answer, however, spoke volumes to me.
“Ma’am, you need to go to the police station right away.”
That moment altered the trajectory of every dream and plan that I had for my life and for the life of my family. It was an extraordinary moment that defined who I was to become. It was the moment where I had to say, “God, I need You to carry me. I need hope so that I can take my next breath…”