You always remember the dates. January 18th 2017.
“The day my world changed but God did not.”
I remember the events of that night in fragments, the fragility of life and beauty of a hope beyond our own colliding. It was Wednesday night of the second week in to the semester, and I was already exhausted and wary of all that was to come. For things had already started falling apart. The prayer to be made more desperate for Jesus had led to a ripple effect of things crumbling and moving away from the normal as our hearts learned to cling to the truth that He is indeed good and all we need.
So there I sat on my bed, tucked cozy into the corner of cinder block walls lined with string lights, trying to regroup, to recalculate a path for the days ahead. Admittedly, the first part of my grand plan to do that was to get lost in the daze of Netflix and new stories to escape things from, instead of getting around to the assignments that had not yet taken on an urgency yet. I was searching in the blur for hope, for a sense of steadiness, for clarity of direction.
Huge decisions regarding future schooling and beyond college dreams, along with a set of plans for studying abroad had been discussed the Sunday prior in a sandwich shop booth with two parents who loved and supported me. All on the same page, we had a tentative direction that I clung to. It seemed as if things might finally start falling into place. I was learning along with Job to look for God and ask where He was in the moments all is breaking, yet to recognize we don’t always receive a pretty package with all the answers. I was finally on the verge of returning to that camp level of focus on Jesus and was convinced that the tear inducing instances of the past week were good enough to get me to that place where Jesus is everything, every inhale and exhale only following through because of Him.
Yet, replaying these hours in vividly intense detail in my mind, I think: you had no idea.
While sorting through that background information, the email notification hit my screen with its red alert number. I pulled up the message right away. Heart distracted, I began wracking my brain to explain what was going on. It was 10:30 at night and highly unexpected as we had literally just covered all the major topics I could think of, so what could possibly be left to discuss. Then, overdrive kicked in. Suddenly, my mind raced until it could not stop circling around the feeling that something was terribly wrong. Breath came in frantic, frenzied succession. After deliberation, I called home.
No one could understand me right away. But in my heart of hearts, I knew that something was going on, as an undercurrent of uncertainty clouded the night and the conversation. Panicked, I couldn’t even force out coherent phrases. Everything was rushed and yet not fast enough as I searched for an answer. After a few attempts and expressed desire to just talk in person, I was passed on to my mom. By this point, I had resorted to tears as I was trying not to explode with the tension. She probably told me to slow down at least ten times, in order to actually grasp any of what I was saying.
It all followed at a rapid pace. The follow-up doctor’s tests to the unexpected Christmas illness. The discovery of something that should not be present. Even as eyes widened and my heart began sinking, the haunting words slipped out, that they think it is likely cancer.
That word, that arrival of news, nothing prepares you for it. I cried, she cried and prayed and processed with me. Throughout it all she consistently reminded me to not jump to conclusions. My mom was honest in sharing that this was extremely difficult and also recognizing that we were all just kind of in shock to that. Yet she also was firm about acknowledging God still being present, still in the details.
The day my world changed and my God did not.
Those were words typed into a note on my mom’s phone. Minutes after her receiving the most shocking and unsettling news. This was her response. To instantly recognize that despite the worst parts of this life that wreck our expectations and dreams, He is unchanging and just as much in control. When she shared that with me, I was blown away at the depth of her faith. Her trust in God shone through genuinely in this instance and throughout her battle with cancer. With a response like that, tt’s no wonder I want to be like her, to have a faith as deep as my mom’s, one that faces the doubts and struggles at times, but is always present. It was an incredible testimony to watch unfold, of a steady faith in a never-changing God.
Following the conversation, I went to find others, because as a verbal processor, that is one of the first requirements for making sense of the unexpected. Of course, it was that one magical night of the semester where the entire hall, well-known for staying up all hours with too much laughter and conversation, decided to shut the lights out. I found a few friends and spent a few minutes venting the early emotions. The days and weeks that followed were filled with a bewildered confusion as we adjusted to this new reality. But somehow, I knew, this night, this conversation was the moment that my world was changed.
For the righteous will never be moved;
he will be remembered forever.
He is not afraid of bad news;
his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.
His heart is steady; he will not be afraid,
until he looks in triumph on his adversaries.
As I revisit that night, this verse came to mind. Such a powerful and convicting truth. How do you do this? What do you do when the first reaction to bad news, the human reaction is fear hitting your system?
When you hear the bad news, no one tells you at first you’ll be wildly hopeful. Optimistic to the full and impossibly dazed. Maybe the worst won’t happen. But the what-could-happens rule your mind. And so you fight through the heartaches and the not wanting to face it and the sudden inability to get out of bed with the same hope sparkling in your eyes. You want to run from all situations, everything feels up in the air and a pile of loose ends and waiting with your heart suspended in your chest. For a break. For good news. For definite news. For anything.
It’s okay to be aware of the pain, to feel the doubts, to not feel ready for bad news. But the question then becomes, what will you do with all those emotions swirling around like the hugest tornado sucking in all within its path? Where will you take it all, your beating heart violently refusing to believe the truth of the news? The only safe place to take it is the One who made your heart, who perfectly knows every detail of your story inside and out, the One who is never surprised by anything. For He holds all things together and He most certainly will hold your heart with care. His past faithfulness, His securing of forever hope, they all lead to one conclusion. Even in the chaotic situations and most tragic of events you could imagine. That He is worth trusting. That He is there. That He will be there, to the end. Your heart is safe in His arms, therefore you can find steadiness and peace in the most broken places of bad news arriving.
So friends, may we respond the same way when we get the bad news, whatever that is. A lost job. A delayed dream. An unplanned move. A relationship damaged. A diagnosis. Even death becoming real.
Because we have a choice. And we can choose to acknowledge the fear while also acknowledging the One who is greater than any news we receive.
Here’s to a heart that is steady in the face of bad news,