How to Walk Through Darkness

I don’t like to be scared. I’ve never cared for scary movies or spook houses.  I never understood the appeal of having someone jump out of the dark at you while wearing a frightening mask.  Some people love this kind of thing.  I don’t.  Some spook houses have a room or hallway that is designed to put you in absolute darkness.  It is terrifying because you can’t see what’s coming.  The only way to conquer the darkness is to wait it out or to keep walking till you get to the light.  What keeps you from going crazy with fear is knowing that eventually you’ll get out of the darkness and the night will return to normal.

Life can be like a dark room in a spook house.  You can find yourself in a place of darkness.  Suddenly, you can’t understand what’s happening and even worse you can’t see what’s  going to happen next.  An emotional “dark room” can be terrifying.  To handle it you attempt to shore up your courage with the hope that light will return, things will get better, and hopefully, life will return to normal.

Struggling with the dark has been one of the more difficult parts of my wife’s and my experience with cancer.  Our lives were changed dramatically without warning and we struggled to make sense of it all, kind of like having the lights go off.  The darkness increased as we  faced the complication of medical treatments, the resultant body pain, the loss of control of time, and the steady stream of medical bills kept coming at us.  We fought to keep a positive attitude.

One of the worst aspects of “the dark” is the waiting.  As a friend of mine, whose wife is also struggling with cancer shared with me;           

The whole process is taxing on my wife.  It is all the waiting.  Every time we see one doctor, we have to wait another week or two until   we see the next one.  This weighs on us knowing that she has cancer inside her. The surgery is still probably at least 3-4 weeks out. 

I feel his pain.  Been there, done that, and we have that cancer t-shirt.

Maybe you’re in the dark right now.  Maybe you are facing:

  • The terror of a job loss.
  • The fear of ballooning debt.
  • The fright of a health crisis.
  • The panic of a child that is on drugs.
  • The apprehension of a spouse who is threatening to leave.

What can you do?  You don’t have a lot of choices.

One, you can curl up in a fetal position and cry in the dark.  You can whine incessantly about how unfair life is, and how God has failed you.  Of course, that will change nothing except to shorten the list of friends who will take your phone calls.

Two, you can choose to shore up your courage and keep on walking.   You can choose to believe that God is good, life is worth living even in times of struggle, and that eventually the darkness will end.  You can put a smile on your face as you make the inner determination that you will get through this with your integrity intact, and that the darkness will make you a better person when it is gone.

You can choose not to visit a spook house.  You can’t always choose not to walk through emotional darkness, but you can choose how you get through it.  Keep on walking. Keep on believing.  Next year will be better.  The darkness will eventually lift.

Leave me a comment about how you have dealt with the “dark rooms” of your life.

 

WHAT IN THE WORLD DO I SAY?

My wife is dealing with cancer and I’m learning some things about that far too common journey.   The ironic thing is that I’ve been writing a book on cancer with a friend, who is dealing with the strain of her second diagnosis of cancer.   For the past year, I’ve sent her a daily devotion and she has been journaling her response to each day’s post.  We hope to publish a book to help people find spiritual support and practical wisdom to help with their struggles.

It looks like I’ll be writing a chapter I never dreamed I would write….when cancer came to my family.

One of things I’m learning is how hard it is to support a loved one in a great trial.  It’s been said that it is harder to watch someone you love go through pain, than it is to go through it yourself. I know I’m finding it difficult to say the correct words to help my wife.  This is due to wondering “what is the right thing to say?”, not whether or not I want to be encouraging.    This dilemma is not a  “cancer”specific problem, but rather applies to anyone with a loved one in pain.

  • What do you say to a friend who says, “I have cancer?”
  • How do you encourage someone who says, “My husband left me for another woman?”
  • What expression of hope is appropriate for the one whose child just died?
  • How do you answer the question, “Why did this terrible thing happen to me?”
  • What can you say to the one who got laid off two weeks after his wife had a baby?

Now the problem is not having something to say.  The problem is not saying something that is trite in sentiment or that sounds callous to the one who is hurting.

  • Don’t say – “I know how you feel.” Nobody knows how anyone feels
  • Don’t say – “I am sure everything will be okay.” You don’t know that.
  • Don’t’ say – “I have a friend who had the same surgery, etc.” Your friend’s experience is not relevant.
  • Don’t’ say – “let me know if I can help.” Find a way to help.
  • Don’t say – “God needed your loved one in heaven.” That makes God sound cruel.

What do you do when someone you know gets the worst news ever? Maybe, don’t say anything at all. Do something!  Anything.   Say a prayer. Write a personal note. Make a personal visit.  Bring a meal to the house.   Make a phone call.  Make yourself available to listen.  Or try this, just go sit by their side and saying nothing at all while you hold their hand.

When someone gets the worst news ever, do something that will make you their best friend ever. Show them that you care.   That’s what they really need.  They don’t need a solution, they need to know they are loved.

P.S.  Let me know in the comment section you’d like to receive the cancer, or going through trial devotions, I mentioned in the last post.  I’m still compiling a list.