Twenty years ago today, I left for work blissfully ignorant that in less than two hours:
- My house would burn down, leaving me with only the clothes on my back.
- My nonverbal severely disabled brother would die.
Even more, this was the second time this happened to my family. The brothers who died in separate housefires 21 years and 4 months apart were identical twins with the same disability.
You may not realize this – and I pray you never do – but everything you think is your life can be wiped out in seconds and you may never see it coming. It happens. And it may be so all-consuming and overwhelming that you have no idea what to do or how to handle it, except to cry out to God.
In the Book of Job, Job lost all his children, everything he owned, his wife’s respect, and his standing in the community all at once. His faith was shaken to its core and through it all, he just wanted to know “Why?”
There were probably a thousand other questions. I know that I – and likely everyone that has experienced catastrophic loss – have played the “What if” game. That’s the one where you constantly attempt different scenarios to change the outcome of what has already taken place… but you can’t, because Time Travel is impossible. So, you never win. Hence… you are just torturing yourself.
In the deepest and darkest of times, you have to find a way to do the opposite. You have to find a way to be kind to yourself. Not just “kind of nice”, but radically kind. Be that Jesus-level Kind.
He’s called “The Good Shepherd”, right? I know nothing about sheep, but I do know Psalm 23. “The Lord is My Shepherd; I shall not want.”
In the depths, the community surrounded my family. Friends and loved ones brought us clothing and other necessities. No one ratted out to the media about which hotel we were staying. They helped arrange and paid for the entire service. I could make a list of everything, but that would take dozens of pages. Many of you on my Facebook list know because you were there. And yes, I thank God for you.
Yet, the Bible also makes reference to David the Shepherd chasing down lions and bears and ripping his sheep from their jaws before slaying them. Jesus did not kill any lions or bears that I know of, but He was definitely radically protective. He faced down a mob ready to stone a woman to death and confronted them with their own sins. The Son of God will drop everything to track down one of His own! You have to be just that protective… and yes, even while at your most vulnerable.
Though there will be those who seek to minister to you, there will be others who see opportunity in your suffering. Some will celebrate and even delight in your pain. Others will openly mock what you are going through. You may be judged. Someone may take advantage of your pain and appropriate your experience to serve their own ends. Protect yourself from these people!
A gentle warning: Some of those people may be the ones closest to you and genuinely have no idea what they are doing! Remember Job? His three best friends came to see Him out of genuine care for his well-being and they wound up judging and gaslighting him! Fortunately for them, the Lord arrived “out of nowhere”, called them on their BS, and convicted them enough so they corrected themselves and repented.
At your most vulnerable, you have to be able to discern between the “malignant manipulator” and “the temporarily stupid.” The first is Judas showing his true colors. The second is Peter showing his obliviousness. Know the difference and adjust your level of grace accordingly.
Caring for yourself and your family is the most important thing you can do during these times. When you have an experience that completely rewrites the definition of “normalcy”, you are all navigating this darkness and uncertainty as a family together. The only way you will find out what is on the other side is by going forward. Jesus is your light.