FIRST-PERSON: Adversity, suffering & Christ's healing
EL CAJON, Calif. (BP) -- On Aug. 25, 2017, Hurricane Harvey made landfall near Corpus Christi, Texas. The wind and rain left behind devastating flooding that forced thousands to feel from their homes. But even after the water receded, the psychological impact on the survivors remained.
Four months later, a survey found that 18 percent of survivors regularly felt hopeless and nervous. For those whose homes sustained significant damage, it jumped to 48 percent.
One teacher listened to students and colleagues share their survival stories. But the challenges of rebuilding her own home and hearing the challenges of others led to increased anxiety and depression, and she was put on medical leave from work.
Heavy rainstorms continued to make many survivors nervous. But they encouraged each other to fight through the anxiety.
A neighborhood Facebook group in a hard-hit Houston neighborhood posted these words during a storm months later: "It's just rain. Just a little rain.... Repeat until the rain stops!" The words reminded survivors that they weren't alone in their struggle to heal after Harvey.(1)
The lasting impact of Hurricane Harvey should teach several lessons to all of us: 1) Adversity can come into our lives at any time. 2) Healing isn't always easy. 3) Words can be both harmful and helpful. 4) "Getting over it" is easier said than done. 5) The best comforters are fellow sufferers who can empathize with us.
A lot to get over
On earth we're surrounded by adversity and suffering, and the pain can sometimes be greater than we feel we can bear.
One of the most difficult subjects for me to talk about is suffering. I don't like to discuss it. I don't like to read about it. I wish we could all avoid it.
But adversity is inevitable for everyone on earth, and the Bible says we should not think it strange when it happens to us.
On one level, of course, we do have to try to eventually get over things and "accept the things we cannot change." Dr. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross once explained that in the face of loss or heartache, our emotions go through a "grief cycle," which might include shock, denial, bargaining, anger, depression and eventual acceptance and adjustment.
The problem comes when we get "stuck" in that cycle. When someone tells us to "get over it," they're probably trying to nudge us on to a healthier stage of life.
In the Bible we read about the prophet Samuel who had chosen and mentored King Saul. When Saul fell into sin, Samuel was devastated. In 1 Samuel 16:1, the Lord asked him, "How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite. For I have provided Myself a king among his sons."
It wasn't easy, but Samuel obeyed.
Yet we have to remember that the deeper the wound, the longer the recovery. If I stub my toe, it takes a few minutes for the pain to subside. But if there's a car wreck with major injuries, it'll take weeks, months or even years to recover.
The same is true for the soul. The deeper the hurt, the longer the healing.
Reckless words/healing words
Sometimes the pain just doesn't seem to end, the tears don't stop, the illness doesn't subside, and the wounds just seem to get deeper. So we need to pray for wisdom to say the right words to those going through such times.
Remember Proverbs 12:18: "Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing."
When a friend needs encouragement, learn to deliberately consult the Lord before opening your mouth. Then as you weep with those who weep, speak the words God gives and remember to prayerfully point them to Christ.
When you think you can't get over some deep hurt or loss, remember how the Father of glory stood silently by as His Son suffered scourging and crucifixion, that by His stripes we can be healed. If you or someone you know can't move on, take hold of His nail-scarred hands and let Him help.
Only Jesus can heal our deepest hurts, and He can help you and me. Move on over to Him.
(1) Brittany Martin, "When Heavy Rain Falls, Anxiety Returns for Many Survivors of Hurricane Harvey," The Washington Post, August 24, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/when-heavy-rain-falls-anxiety-returns-for-many-survivors-of-hurricane-harvey/2018/08/23/a395f198-a66a-11e8-97ce-cc9042272f07_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.aa5a4a3d364c.