I've been thinking about that a lot in the context of my brother's suicide. My life was meandering along just fine when BAM. Suddenly I felt like I was rocked to my core. What has followed has been the most emotionally traumatic experience of my life. I've never lost anyone close to me in this way. I've lost grandparents, but in a way we all expect to lose those older than us. That's just a natural progression of life. No one plans to lose their brother in such a gruesome and unexpected fashion. How do you even begin to prepare for that?
This idea of preparing for the white water is hard to pin down. It's less about readying yourself physically and more about readying yourself spiritually. In the peaceful times of my life (which, if I'm honest, has been most of it) God has been teaching me to trust Him. To hold onto Him. Somewhere in the back of my mind for years now I've been waiting for tragedy. Waiting to find out how I will handle the suffering when it inevitably comes.
Everyone responds differently to pain, whether physical or emotional. Some shake their fists in anger toward heaven, accusing God of being a cruel dictator. At the opposite end of the spectrum are those that cling to God ever tighter, knowing that He alone sustains them. I find myself in the second camp.
I will never forget the phone call with my mom that shattered my world into a billion, irreparable pieces. She had left a teary voicemail asking me to call her back, and instantly I knew something was wrong. I almost wish now that I had savored the last few moments of ignorance before I called her back. I wish I could somehow un-hear her shaky voice telling me that Brian had shot himself. I wish I could un-know the truth, even if just for a moment to give myself a reprieve from the hurt. Mom breaking the news to me that my baby brother was dead brought me to my knees, and I spent the next 20 minutes weeping on the floor. It felt like the air had been sucked out of the room and I was grasping for something to hold onto.
The first thought that went through my head was one of disbelief. How could this have happened? How, when we all thought Brian was doing better, did we all miss what was going on underneath? How is he really gone? Is this actually happening? The second thought was unexpected. It was Revelation 21:4, "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning of crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." This is a verse I have been clinging to for dear life for the last 5 weeks. It is my hope. It is my reminder that the pain of this world, while suffocating at times, is temporary. God hasn't checked out and left us to flounder in our pain. Quite the opposite. He draws us near to Him, if we will let Him. The very fact that Jesus will one day wipe them away is evidence that there will in fact be tears this side of heaven. Our pain isn't a surprise to God. Nor is He unable to comfort us in the midst of it. When we pray for God to comfort us He does so by sending His very presence into our lives in powerful ways.
We continue to navigate these rapids hour-by-hour. Eventually they will subside, though likely never completely. There will be moments of calm ahead, and what we do during those moments matters. We can begin to rely on ourselves thinking we've got it all together, or we can cling to God. Lord help us learn to trust you in times of peace so our faith may not fail us in the rapids.