Times come in our lives when life just stops. 9/11 was one of those. It was like the very earth had stopped turning. No one dared breathe. We sat shocked, unsure of what to do next. Gutted and devastated, we could not move. I was near Boston on home assignment that day; time indeed did stop. Life was never the same again. We moved on, of course, but we were not the same; we were all changed somehow.
I have lived through three of those life-stopping days this year.
Chaos exploded in our country from an attempted coup d’état; we were confined to our home, off-and-on, for almost two weeks. Then, a few months later, jihadists killed some global workers and burned down our favorite restaurant—killing as many white people as they could find. They took a global worker couple as hostages and have not yet released the husband.
Today (thanks to my smart phone) I got the message that my nephew had taken his own life. He jumped from a four-story building at his college. I saw the first few words of the text and could not read the rest, dizzy as my heart and blood pressure responded to the horror of the news. I closed my eyes, hoping I was confused. Denial is always my first response to trauma. I take one more moment pretending my life is what it was five minutes before: quiet, full, busy, and normal. Then I muddle through the next thing in a daze. I cook a meal and wash the table—accomplished with tears just below the surface and burning my eyes. Sadness, pain, and regret are all very close by. Sometimes I manage to get through a whole day with such a heavy heart: I call a friend, talk to my parents on Skype, and send messages to people—all in an attempt to process the trauma that has been thrown at me.
Then comes the night. After the kids are in bed, often alone in the darkness or in the shower, the tears fall until I can cry no more. I listen to my iPod telling me to “cry out to Jesus” and to “praise Him in this storm.” Days turn to weeks and then into a month. Somehow we carry on—and then we can carry on.
We all have the normal challenges like putting our firstborn on a plane to go to college far away from home. A few weeks ago, we had a home invasion. A few technological things were stolen. Over Christmas our firstborn was falsely accused of doing something at school that threatened his future. We also had a very sick dog who almost died on Christmas Eve. These are stressful, heavy burdens—they are not the time-stopping sort, but they can consume much of our energy. They are like hauling 200-pound weights on our backs as we carry on with real life.
Sometimes I think life is an endurance test that asks: “Who can handle the most pain?” We humans are so fragile. Some of us can hardly handle trips to the bank or taking the kids to soccer games—never mind jihadists attacking our restaurant.
I pray my own children find their way through pain and become people who can be courageous and emotionally strong. I want them to be givers, people who work hard to glorify God in their everyday lives. People who live and love and enjoy the people God puts in their lives.
Lord, help us to see people the way You see them. May we not waste our days chasing after our own selfish pleasures or living our lives with regrets. Let our pain teach us to share of ourselves, invest in the people around us, live to glorify You, love those You put in our lives—and hunger for Your soon return!
Question to consider: How has pain taught you to share yourself, to invest in the people around you, to live life to glorify Him, to love those He puts in our lives, and to hunger more for His return?
About the author
I am a global worker mother of 4 from Boston married to an African MK. We have all been living in Burkina Faso for 19 years working with SIM. I am teaching first grade at a small Christian school in Ouagadougou and home schooling my 8th grade son. My passion is to see global worker and third cultured kids grow up to serve and love Jesus Christ.View all articles by: Karen Gray
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