What I Learned When Times Were Bad

Monday, February 16, 2009

Several years ago, my family went through a bad time. Actually, it was a terrible time, so terrible in fact, I think of it as my "Job experience:" a string of events so relentless they seemed (sorry if this sounds paranoid) like God was out to get me.

We are all fine now. We got through, and I have no desire to spill the details. But this seems a pretty good time to share with you the lessons I learned:

1. I had nothing to fear - well, very little to fear - but fear itself. It wasn't so much what happened; it was what I thought might happen that frayed my nerves, wrought havoc on my stomach and disposition, and kept me awake at night. It was fear, mostly, that made a difficult time into a nightmare.

2. I'm not a fortune teller. I thought I could project whole chains of events from a single cause. If this happened, then this would result, and the result of that would be... Nope. Not so. Things I prayed wouldn't happen... well, they did happen, but the result turned out to be quite different from what I expected. One or two of the things I feared most actually came to pass, but the rest did not. And we all survived the worst a lot better than I expected.

3. Things come to pass. They get better. Even when it seems they won't.

4. You put one foot in front of the other. It helped to make plans and take them step by step. Even when my plans seemed inadequate (because they were), motion was better than paralysis. When my steps faltered, it helped to forgive myself.Walks helped. Bubble baths helped. Flowers helped. (Weeds can look very nice in a vase, and they are free.)

5. God is good. Deeply good. I can't explain this, but the bad times changed me in ways that I actually like. Since that time I find it easier to let go of unimportant things. Easier to forgive. Easier to be happy. Easier to pray, and feel that I am not alone.

I don't mean to serve up platitudes here. I have friends who have suffered real tragedies. But I have watched these friends, hovered and wept over them. And observed that #5 seems to be so for them as well. They are deeper, better people, surrendered to the mystery of a God who loves them in their pain. It's like Job said: "Before, I heard about you by word of mouth. But now I see you face to face" (Job 42:5)

What have you learned from bad times? I'd love to hear your wisdom.

*The scripture verse is my paraphrase. I read it like that in some Bible someplace, but can't find the exact version now. If you know it, please help me out.


Kathleen Y'Barbo said...

Fabulous post, Katie. This one's a keeper!

debbie drawson said...

what happens when you are in the "bad times" and your 5 steeps don't seem to work then what?

Kathleen Popa said...

Debbie, they aren't steps, they're lessons, and they were learned over a long time - like a decade. I should add that while I was going through it, it seemed I wasn't learning anything, wasn't getting anywhere. See step #4. I hope you're okay, my friend.

Mandy S said...

So glad you came through, Kate! When times have been bad for me, I've learnt that there has always been someone, just one person (not always the one I expected) there to help. For example, the nurse who cared for my Mum when she was dying is someone I'll never forget. His name was Alex. His gentleness and humanity were unbelievable, angelic.

Anonymous said...

Debbie, I certainly concur with Katy, they aren't steps, they're lessons. How much easier they would be if they were steps. You do this, and the results are that. But it doesn't work that way. And it doesn't work the same for me as it works for you. We're all uniquely individual, and God treats us accordingly.

Having gone through THE most difficult thing of my life -- the loss of our son almost 2 years ago -- I've learned several things. 1) God is still absolutely in control. I know, there are people who argue today that there are no absolutes. I absolutely disagree : )

2) God doesn't make mistakes. He doesn't act capriciously, nor without purpose. He knows exactly what he's doing, and why, and he doesn't owe me the explanation. He's God. He knows what's best for the big picture. I have to trust that.

3) When I feel I can't trust that, he understands. He comforts. He shows me things in his Word I haven't seen before, or shows them to me in a new way. "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, a light unto my path." That's so absolutely true.

4) He's closer than I ever realized. Our loss, our sorrow, our trials, all of it, has brought us into a deeper relationship than we knew before. We've entered into the fellowship of his suffering. Not by choice, believe me. But I want to grow through my experience, not diminish, so I just hold on tight, knowing that God is holding even tighter.

5) He loves me with an everlasting love, regardless of how I feel. And that divine love dictates everything he does on my behalf.

All these things I know to be absolute truth.

Wendy Lawton said...

I'm going to archive this post and the comments. It is filled with painfully acquired wisdom-- rich wisdom. When we're mid-trial it is so hard to see our way out but it has always helped to listen those who'd been through the wars and lived to tell about them.

I used to wish only happiness and good things for my children. I hate to admit it, but if that's all they experienced, they'd never become the people they are becoming-- the people God wants them to be. Guess what? It's the same for me.

marci seither said...

My husband has a sawmill. He cut down a tree for some people who wanted to use it in a building project. The tree was big,so they assumed that the yeild would be substantial. It had plenty of water and did not have to compete for sunlight. When it was cut down it was useless for anything but firewood. The rings were too big. Stress creates tight rings that are needed for strength. When my husband and I went through a hard time, I looked at him through the tears, squeezed his hand and whispered. "This is a tight ring year."

Kathleen Popa said...

I'm so glad you all came by.

Kathleen, thanks for your kindness.

Mandy, it is remarkable, isn't it, the people who step forward at just the right moments in our lives?

Sharon, your strength and faith will always amaze me. Thank you for sharing the wisdom you gained at such a price.

Wendy, I'm at just that time in my life, when my youngest is preparing to leave home, and yes, I want only happiness and good things for him. Well, that and the kind of strength that comes only from the "tight ring years," as Marci put it so well.

One step at a time...