When life’s unforeseen troubles suck the wind right out of our sails, life-as-we-know-it can dramatically change direction.
- A once-predictable hurricane’s trajectory changes course
- People leave
- Flash floods inundate homes
- Loved ones fall ill
- Relationships sour
How do we deal with life’s unexpected curves?
One of the ways I’ve recovered from sudden change: let others help.
I recall the weekend in 1975. I was sixteen.
West Virginia rains have poured down the hillsides for a solid week. John, my seventeen-year-old brother and I are the only siblings home with our parents on Labor Day weekend.
Mom and Dad are in the living room, quietly reading the Sunday newspaper. John and I are lounging in the den, watching some sit-com on the T.V. When the phone rings, we jump. It’s our next-door neighbor. She asks for Dad.
“I’m down in Charleston,” she says, “but hearing news of flash-flooding in Wheeling.” She’s called to check on their cars, hers and Dad’s. He rents a space for his work car in her garage, located right next to the creek.
“I’ll go check,” Dad says, setting down the phone. He returns moments later, breathless. “Water’s comin’ up over the banks. I’ll try to save our cars!” he says, and hangs up the phone.
John and I rush with Mom to the front window. The shallow creek has already become a river in our front yard. Mom starts shaking, in shock.
John looks at me. Then he leans down from his six-foot-two frame and speaks directly to Mom. “We have to get out!” he says. He and I position ourselves on either side of her, try coaxing her outdoors, but her feet are like lead. She’s not budging.
“I can’t…just…leave!” she cries.
“Mom, we have to!” pleads my brother. We slowly persuade her out the front door. The powerful current is up to our thighs. As we help Mom down off the front porch, a neighbor sees us struggling and comes to assist.
Dad comes hurrying from around the bend, finds us, and puts his arms around Mom. From a safe distance, we all just stand there in the pouring rain, taking in the spectacle. Huge tree limbs bob up and down atop the waves and wash down the pike. The wood-siding of our one-car, attached garage begins to crack off and float away. We hold our breath as Mom’s green station wagon promptly joins the milieu. We watch in horror as it fills with water and threatens to join the powerful, sinister tide pool.
We’re all so stunned. We wonder, will our three-story house survive? Or will it too, just drift away? I watch the car I’d driven to obtain my driver’s license, crash and bang up against the elm tree in our front yard. It finally loses its grip; a surreal demolition derby brought on by Mother Nature. Mom wails and collapses in Dad’s arms as the total loss floats down-stream with our fragmented garage, all at record speed.
In a matter of minutes, the rushing waters receded. But not before devastating our parents. Our first floor and lower level were left with a wretched stench.
The basement had served as our laundry room and housed our upright freezer. The heavy appliance was nowhere to be found once Dad gained access to the ruins. It was also the location of his workshop, where he’d stored all manner of tools and clocks he’d collected.
Reassurance came in stages.
Family and friends descended on us with desperately needed strength. They brought muscle and tools. Others carried in food. Day-after-day of back-breaking work led to exhausted evenings, and many folks lingered for fellowship. Though we had no flood insurance, our parents lost practically everything on two levels, and they qualified for a low-interest government loan. The funds enabled us to repair the extensive damages and to replace furnishings.
Mom and Dad took a deep breath, got through the worst, and came out grateful for the updates on our home. It had taken weeks of volunteer sweat, and it would take months, if not years, for any of us to relax during a rainy season.
Where do we look for strength when all else fails?
Meditating on Psalm 121, “I look to the hills. Where does my help come from? From the Maker of heaven and earth.” God uses people to walk alongside us. And His word can soothe a weary soul in the aftermath of devastation.
God uses people to walk alongside us. And His word can soothe a weary soul in the aftermath of devastation.
The apostle John wrote Revelations to give us a vision, and to remind us, in chapter 21, of our heavenly Father’s otherworldly plans for us, including a new heaven and a new earth:
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
‘See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be His peoples,
and God Himself will be with them; He will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.’
And the One who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’”