It’s the phone call that all parents dread. You know the one–the call that your kid has been in an accident.
We got “the call” over Labor Day weekend. Our eldest son, driving on a rain-slick highway in Florida, lost control of his car. Careening, the vehicle smashed into a parked car on the wrong side of the highway–with several occupants inside. Soon the lights of a patrol car and ambulance were splashing their lights at the scene of the accident.
In the aftermath, my son went to the doctor for X-rays, revealing a broken elbow and collarbone. Thankfully, he discovered that the occupants of the parked car had been treated at a hospital and released. His car, on the other hand, was less fortunate. His insurance company totaled it and it’s now at the junkyard.
“I wasn’t driving recklessly, either,” he assured us. Seat belt on. Going ten miles under the speed limit because of the rain. He wasn’t texting. The car simply hydroplaned on a slick spot on the highway, something that has happened to most drivers. “I could see the crash coming,” he said, “and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it.”
Most people I know try to do the right thing. They work hard, pay their bills, try to live sensibly–and sometimes they still take a hit. They get sick or laid off. Someone they thought was a friend stabs them in the back. Their toddler wanders into the home office and pours the contents of her sippy cup into the computer keyboard just when they are finishing that big report.
Stuff happens. And quite often, it happens to good people who are playing by the rules. There isn’t much we can do to prevent certain life-skids, but is there something positive we can do after ?
I think so. And, while this is no means an exhaustive list, these guidelines have helped guide me to better times ahead.
- STOP PLAYING THE VICTIM. All of us have thrown occasional pity parties. Then there are those who throw endless pity banquets and invite everyone they meet to attend. If you toot your whiny horn long enough, you’ll end up as your only party guest. Stop being a victim and start thinking like a victor.
- REALIZE YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Some folks act as if they are the only ones in the world who are going through rough waters. Jesus said that the Father causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matt 5:45). This is a simple fact that helps us realize that all people suffer. No one is exempt from the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” You think you’ve been dealt the worst hand at the poker table of the cosmos? Not by a long shot. When we grasp the notion that every human being on the planet is fighting some sort of battle–some for even daily survival–it tends to put ours in perspective.
- MOVE ON. I am not advocating a “ignore that this bad thing ever happened” mindset. After a tragedy, we need time to get over the shock, talk and pray it through, maybe beat on a pillow–but eventually we must make a choice. Do we move past so we can move on–or do we sit down and stay stuck? A missile in flight ultimately gets to its target if it has a competent guidance system. What–or who–is guiding your life during the bumps and jolts of life? “The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again” (Proverbs 24:16 NLT).
- REACH OUT FOR HELP. There is nothing wrong with asking for prayer or assistance if you can’t seem to get past your disappointment or defeat. Choose your counsel carefully, though. You don’t want to turn to the church gossip or people who always try to top your problem with one of their own.
- REACH OUT TO HELP. Experiencing pain and problems is no fun. But these kind of experiences can be redemptive if, in due time, we reach out to others who are going through the fire. “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2 NIV). Lightening someone’s load is not only a nice thing to do, it really is the Lord’s work.
- GIVE THANKS, ANYWAY. I couldn’t give thanks that my son had a wreck. But I thanked God he didn’t wind up in the ER. I gave thanks that the kids in the other car weren’t killed. I was grateful for cellphones and liability insurance. I thanked God that a friend of his drove from Tallahassee to pick him up and take him home. I was thankful that God was lending strength and comfort to a couple of worried parents! Yes, it’s difficult to give thanks in dire circumstances, but the alternative is to focus only on the darkness and slip into deeper depression. The 17th century British Puritan, Richard Baxter, wrote, “Resolve to spend most of your time in thanksgiving and praising God. If you cannot do it with the joy that you should, yet do it as you can. You have not the power of your comforts: but have you no power of your tongues? Thanksgiving stirreth up thankfulness in the heart.”
- LOOK UP. Of course, I mean this in the metaphorical sense of “looking up” to God, but I also mean it literally. Go outside tonight and look up at the stars. Astronomers estimate there are 300 sextillion of them–that’s 300 followed by 21 zeroes! The universe is filled with mysteries and majesties undreamed of on earth, all created by a sovereign God who still knows how many hairs are on your head (Matt 10:29). Problems aren’t solved by gazing at stars, but they seem to shrink in the presence of the all-powerful Star-Maker. The One who cast galaxies into space and spun planets on their axes can take care of you.