I was thinking today about how life subtracts things from us very quickly. We lose our health, loved ones, careers, friends and any number of things.
I’ve got to be careful here for a couple of reasons. First, sometimes we lose things because it’s our own fault. Our sin creates the problem. I wrote a whole book in which I was careful to make sure people understood that when I fell from ministry, I chose to sin. There were factors surrounding my sin, but I was ultimately responsible.
Secondly, I don’t believe in random fate. Life just doesn’t happen. There’s something behind it. But I’m not getting into that today.
What I really want to talk about is this – how do we cope when tragedy happens? There are really two ways. You could sum it up in the famous fight or flight response. We run or we face it head on. But there’s really more to it than that as well. We can use either “escape pod” or “emergency plan.”
When I was around five and sitting in the theater watching Star Wars: A New Hope, I don’t think my eyes blinked for an entire second. Do you remember when R2-D2 and C-3PO were on the rebel ship at the beginning and got blasted off to Tattoine in the escape pod?
Well, that’s the re-edited version. But you get the drift.
Sometimes when life takes things away, we jettison ourselves into escape pods. We run away to a safe place. We don’t necessarily leave our home, our town or the country. Sometimes we just retreat to a cozy corner of our minds.
I remember when my mother died in a car crash. I put on a front for everyone. I put the real Ray Carroll deep down into my soul and put on a happy pastor face for everyone else. I put grieving aside for a long time. Unfortunately, that led to self-destruction later.
There are times when we need to escape. There are times when our hearts need to rest, but we need to know how to do it. Escaping the right way means healing with spouses, loved ones and letting ourselves grieve. Just let work go. Let some of your less important responsibilities go for a while and just let people comfort you and cast your cares upon the Lord.
If you’ve experienced pain before, you probably know how to deal with it to some degree. Planning ahead might actually help you. Before Mom died, I had lost my father and a college roommate to accidents. However, going through those tragedies didn’t fully prepare me for the loss of my mother.
I can tell you this – there’s usually some disaster lurking ahead. Anything you can do rationally and substantially to prepare is a good thing. Have you spoken to your parents about their deaths and what they want done for their funeral? Some funeral homes have prepackaged deals.
How about you? Have you spoken to a financial adviser about life insurance? Cancer or accident insurance for you and your family to see if it is necessary, prudent or wise? Have you discussed a living will or power of attorney with your lawyer?
Have you ever journaled? Written down feelings that you have for your spouse, children, family members? Things you would want them to know if something ever happened to you?
All of these things are important and prudent. They may already be things you have thought about, but don’t delay. These aren’t morbid things to think about, they are things that will give you peace of mind and heart.
Above all else, get help. Surround yourselves with experts. Whether it’s a clergy member, attorney, accountant or best friend, find people who know more about trouble than you. Get a team of people who can walk you through a difficult time and help you. People who can see your situation more objectively than you and walk you through a tough time.
Both the escape pod and emergency plan of actions work well. You need to get away when life hands you a raw deal. But you also need to be prepared in advance. Time is ever moving and I pray for you that it will always be moving in a positive direction.
Ray Carroll is author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Fallen World.”
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