It’s so natural to want to protect each other and check in to make sure we are safe. We teach our kids to look both ways before crossing the street. We check in on friends we haven’t heard from in a few days. We impatiently check Facebook after a natural disaster to make sure friends, family and acquaintances are safe. Safe feels good and comfortable. We aren’t stretched and life feels restful.
What happens when disaster hits? The weatherman can predict floods, tornadoes and hurricanes hitting, but the exact outcome is unpredictable. Lately, I have felt burdened in the midst of so much tragedy for many people who are close to me. It’s not random, but yet it feels like it.
I was shocked to learn that a friend’s brother was shot in the line of duty. He was recovering and then died unexpectedly during surgery. The extremely shocking part (besides this happening in Alaska) was that deep down he knew that he was going to be shot on the line of duty and shared this with his wife before going to work. He left behind a wife and four kids, besides siblings, parents, nieces and nephews.
Multiple friends have recently suffered miscarriages. These friends are great parents and the pain doesn’t go away. They loved their unborn babies immensely and had no indication or reason to believe they would have to say goodbye before meeting them as full-term babies.
Several families in my community face daily battles with their children fighting cancer. I haven’t faced this myself, but my heart shatters for the unknowns these families face. They didn’t plan this and did everything they could to keep their kids safe. I have met many kids with cancer and other diseases who have an incredible amount of joy deep within them.
A mother of an eight-year-old, six-year-old and 10-day-old baby fell asleep at the wheel at around 5:00 p.m. a few days ago and her car burst into flames. She and her eight-year-old daughter passed away, but her other two children were pulled out of harm’s way by brave bystanders. I have been a tired mom many times and this could have happened to me.
It only takes one or two scrolls on Facebook to see an urgent article from a friend about a child being kidnapped, a violent crime, a victim of sex trafficking. It goes on and on and on and soon the world seems so awful and horrible and all I want to do is put a bubble around my kids. What do we do in these horrible, earth-shattering and life-changing moments? Where is God in all of this and why does He let these awful things happen? The world is messed up in many ways, but there are incredible blessings within each one of these tragedies. I have witnessed a strength deep within that only comes in the face of uncertainty. You realize that God is the only one truly in control and nothing you have done or not done earns you a tragedy. God has many appointments for us and the unexpected ones tend to help us grow the most. I believe that each situation that touches our heart changes us. Walking through the long and uncertain days with friends and family teaches us to appreciate the small things and to take each step looking for the hidden blessings.
In Shanna Niequist’s book Present Over Perfect she writes:
“What an extraordinary idea: there are terms. And there are invitations. Most of us don’t live this way – or at least control freaks like me don’t live this way very often. We like to think we set the terms, and we issue the invitations. But maturity, perhaps, is the realization that we are not handing out terms or invitations.
To be very honest, my first several brushes with the terms of my own limitations didn’t bring me to maturity. They brought me to blame, to anger, fist-shaking, sputtering with fear and outrage. But after enough limitations and failures and small deaths, even I began to come around to the invitations, to the idea that our lives are not blank slates, but they’re beautiful nonetheless. No. They’re beautiful because of that, because they’ve been created over time, in love and sickness and moments of courage and moments of terror.”
When I view these horrible tragedies as the terms of my life and invitations to see the blessings around me and grow I know my life is becoming richer and I am learning to be more empathetic and compassionate. Fight for the goodness and share the blessings that have come out of your own tragedies.