Last week when I shared an excerpt from my book Why? Answers to Weather the Storms of Life, I told you that my experience with cancer was more than a physical battle. It was an intense emotional fight against depression and despair.
The same can be said of nearly every storm we face in our lives.
But each step of the battle is a chance for us to learn and grow, to become better people even during our worst times.
The first step is always the most painful … the bombshell experience.
But that’s not the end. With each stage, you get a little bit closer to the person God wants you to be — a person who fully accepts that His will is perfect and that He is working all things together for your good.
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Stage 2: An Illusion of Normalcy
Not long after the initial cave-in is step two … pretending the nightmare never happened — or acting as if it will go away if you ignore it.
Our human spirit, even after it has been racked with grief, has the remarkable ability to re-establish itself. But I learned from experience that nothing can be further from the truth than trying to pretend nothing is happening to you.
For several weeks, I tried to regain control of my life. I tried so hard to make decisions for myself, hoping that if I could just gain control, all of the pain would go away. Trust me … it doesn’t.
We cannot run from reality … we cannot wish our circumstances away.
As I was trying to sweep my problems under the carpet and pretend that they didn’t exist, God was gently whispering to me: “You can’t run, Vernon. There is no need to run. I’m here, and I’ll help you.”
I had to go through the painful realities of this emotional stage to recognize that holding back the tears, trying to fool myself and pretending the pain is not there, is no solution at all.
Stage 3: Hitting Rock Bottom
When anger has played itself out and the storm has subsided, there is a new emotion that makes itself known in the lives of the troubled. It’s an emotion that can be soft, sad, and tender in its own way. But at the same time, like a monster it can be terrifying! The best way to describe this monster of emotion in my own life is loneliness. But even then, God was with me.
Sometimes rock bottom comes in the form of worry and anxiety.
One day, I was alone in my hospital room — depressed, wondering if I would survive … wondering how my family would make it financially without me. I was alone and worried.
At that moment, Jerry Falwell walked into my room and said, “Vernon, I can only stay a minute … I’m in a board meeting across the street, and we took a break. God wanted me to come over and tell you something. I don’t want you to worry about your job — it will be there for you when you get well no matter how long it takes. I don’t want you to worry about your salary — you’ll continue to receive it while you’re getting well. I don’t want you to worry about your family — God forbid if anything should happen to you — I’ll take care of them. I don’t want you to worry about anything but getting well.”
Jerry Falwell was a messenger from God. Few people ever got to see the side of Jerry I saw that day. I will always have a special love in my heart for Jerry — for what he did for me!
Whenever we hit rock bottom, God will be there to pick us up.
Stage 4: Rude Awakening
In this stage of coping emotionally, reality sets in. You are hit with the full realization of what is happening to your life. Maybe you understand for the first time that your life will never be the same.
Seventeen years after terrorists crashed airplanes into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001, killing 2,996 people and shaking up the entire nation, victims and families are still learning to deal with the rude awakening of the impact this tragedy had on their lives.
I read news stories of how survivors are coping with the changes. One victim, Lynn Simpson, worked on the 89th floor of Tower One and made it out. Today, she still struggles.
She moved out of the city and into the Pennsylvania countryside and hasn’t been on an airplane since 9/11. Lynn said she hates loud noises and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I guess I was confident that I could get my life back,” she said. “And as time went on, I realized I was not going to be able to get my life back. I had been changed. I’m trying to find myself again. And trying to find a new person because I will never be the old person. And that makes me sad, but I’ll be a new person.”
Victims like Lynn were forever changed by the events of 9/11 … in fact, our entire nation was impacted by that horrible tragedy. Tragedy and circumstances change people and transform lives. It’s a fact of life.
The good news is that God can create something new and wonderful from the broken pieces of our lives.
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Next week, we’ll talk about the final stage in the battle of emotion — acceptance.
If you would like to continue reading Why, you can order your copy today for just $8.99. You’ll also receive access to a free companion devotional and discussion guide.