You’ve probably heard the phrase “life happens.” I’ve always understood what it meant, but got thinking about where the quote originated, so I Googled it. The phrase actually was first printed in a January 1957 issue of Reader’s Digest in a section called “Quotable Quotes,” (RDAS) and is taken from the following:
Allen Saunders: Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans. – Publishers Syndicate
And boy, did life happen to me this past week.
Just when you think things can’t get any crazier, just when you think you can’t cram one more thing into your hectic schedule and there’s not possibly one more thing that can happen . . . something else does. You’re left with your jaw hanging slack, your breathing quickens and you’re speechless as your mind races, trying to process how to clear this new hurdle. Last week I told you about Daddy’s knee replacement surgery and the hectic schedule that followed.
I only wish this week had been that easy.
Early this week I was back into my regular routine and thinking that things were beginning to settle down a little and life was slowly returning to normal. I had my Unity articles planned (again!); outlines made (again!) and had the next few nights for writing and research. Tuesday afternoon I was at my desk, deeply engrossed in a project. When the phone rang I didn’t bother to look at caller ID, just absentmindedly reached for the receiver, keeping my eyes on the design project that was taking shape on my computer screen. “Kim Edwards,” I answered as I continued to manipulate the image. It was Mama. “Hey,” she said, “do you have anything on your schedule for tomorrow afternoon?” It wasn’t the unusual greeting that got my attention, nor was it the fact that she called me at work in the middle of the afternoon.
It was the sound of her voice that made me sit up and pay attention. Raw and sharp-edged with pain. It only took me a few seconds to figure out what had happened. Mama was having a flare-up of her rheumatoid arthritis.
For those of you not familiar with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), it’s different from osteoarthritis in that it is not a degenerative bone disease, but rather an auto-immune disease. It settles in joints, triggering your body’s immune system to kick into full alert mode and try to rid itself of the invader. In other words, your body essentially attacks itself, causing extreme pain and swelling of the joint. To further complicate matters, the immune system’s response to the RA flare up causes a fever, resulting in body aches akin to those caused by the flu. The flare-ups are sudden, intense and debilitating. RA moves from one joint to the next, so the hand that is working pretty well today can be so painful tomorrow not even a feather can touch it. Or, it can move from a hand today to a foot tomorrow, or attack both at the same time.
Keep in mind it’s barely been one week since Daddy’s surgery and he’s still in need of almost constant care. Also, he can’t drive yet, is walking with a walker and has three physical therapy appointments per week. Mama has been doing very well as his primary caretaker, but all that changed in less than one hour. She felt the beginnings of the pain in her foot, 45 minutes later she was unable to walk and she could feel the familiar, dreaded precursor of nagging pain in her hand as well. For me, that translated into an abrupt about-face in my plans for the rest of the week.
In other words, life happened.
The remainder of the week for both me and my sister has been consumed with caring for Mama and Daddy. Unity articles fell to the wayside. Once again, the Reflections article is the only new article for this week. Not only was I pretty dispirited about this, I was beginning to be concerned that Unity would lose momentum and readership would be negatively affected. In my moments of inner worry, I began to pray for God to give me direction, an answer, a reason, a purpose for the upheaval that just didn’t make sense. After all, Unity is His divine purpose given to me. Why would I be held back so early in the beginning?
As usual, when I got quiet long enough to listen to God, He began to speak. He reminded me of last week, when He told me that I needed to take the focus off of quantity and my timing to focus on His message and His timing. Submission and surrender, those two words played over and over in my head. Submitting all areas of my life to Him, all the time, to willingly put myself under His rule and make it my life’s purpose to serve Him. Surrender – everything belongs to Him, all sense of ownership must be eradicated and everything dedicated to Him. Unity is His creation, I’m just the tool He’s using to deliver it, and I need to get out of the driver’s seat and let Him do the driving.
Ouch. Okay, God, I didn’t fully learn my lesson last week, did I? It’s clear to me that He had to “make life happen” to open my eyes to the fact that I had only submitted and surrendered to Him for just a little bit, then turned around and grabbed the wheel in my tight fists to steer my own direction. God used the circumstances of this week to gently remind me that He is in control!
The second big lesson that I learned this week is how, when life happens, we can find the strength to get through the tough times. So just how do we do this?
- The first, and most obvious, is to turn to God for help. If you truly let Him have control of all things (submit and surrender) and ask for His help, He will empower you through the Spirit to overcome any hardship that you may face.
- Instead of asking “why” ask “how?” Yes, this is difficult. Our first reaction to hardships is to ask why. I found out that when I let go of the why and focused on how to get through this week, God revealed the good purposes He had in mind for me because of this week. He used it to help me draw closer to Him and accomplish the mission He had intended, in His timing. I had to learn to allow Him to use a hardship to accomplish a good purpose for me.
- You have to follow your faith and not your feelings. Feelings are completely unreliable on which to base your decisions. When life happens, you have to trust that God, through the Spirit, is with you, even when you don’t sense His presence or understand why you’re experiencing a hardship. You have to choose to believe that He is always in control of your life, always loves you and will never leave or forsake you, no matter what you’re going through.
- Go to God often in prayer and Bible reading. When life happens, it’s crucial that you stay in communication with God. Pour out your heart to God, knowing that He cares and is listening to you. Ask the Spirit to bring your prayers in alignment with God’s will and purpose for you, which is always better than trying to convince Him to do what we want. Read, study, memorize and meditate on the Bible. Ephesians 6:17 tells us to use God’s Word as a part of our spiritual armor. He gives us His Word to battle the evil forces that will whisper lies to you and to discredit God’s promises. If you are grounded in His Word and get His Truth into your soul regularly, you have a powerful weapon to defend yourself against those evil attacks!
When life happens to you, and it will, go to God and ask for the strength and attitude you need to get through it. Rely on Him for everything and ask for the faith you need to stand strong on His promises to you that He loves you and always wants the best for you. Remember that He is more interested in making your life holy than happy, because holiness has eternal value. He longs for you to grow closer to Him, and the hardship will accomplish this as well as enabling you to have Christ-like behavior regardless of your circumstances. Make a habit of looking beyond difficult times and focus on Christ and accept the spiritual peace that He offers daily and will transcend any and all hardships you face!
Psalm 138:3: In the day when I cried out, You answered me, and made me bold with strength in my soul.
2 Corinthians 4:16: Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.”
Prayer: Father God, I cry out to you in times of trials and challenges. When life happens and I feel that I can’t take another step, I can’t face another problem and my soul is weary and my burden is heavy, You hear my cry and You take me in Your loving arms and infuse me with your strength and peace. I know that You will never leave me, You love me more than I can possibly imagine and only want the best for me. I thank you for that, Father, and I praise You! In Your Son’s most precious and holy name I pray, Amen.