"Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about."
Life does not discriminate in giving everyone it's fair share of difficulty. I take no pleasure in pain, however, I do acknowledge there is some purpose as to why God set life up to work this way. For sure, it helps our understanding of goodness, joy, and happiness - after we go through our darkest and most difficult times. Though you won't see it in the midst of the struggles, there are gifts in pain. I wish it didn't have to be this way but there's no sense in denying it.
People have asked us "how did you get through the death of your son?" The honest answer is - I have no idea. This week I was looking through some old files and ran across a prayer I had written after Jacob's death. It was full of confusion, sadness, desperation, and rambling. What was so shocking to me was not what I wrote but the date. September of 2012. Over a year after Jacob had died - my thoughts and writing sounded like it had just happened.
Undeniably, what got us through the last 7 years was God giving us the strength, grace, and hope we needed one moment at a time. I'm certain of God's presence carrying us because that person writing that prayer 6 years ago did not know how he was going to make it to the next day. Those early years became a system of routines and disciplines to just make it through each day. Then, 7 years later, you look around and wonder - how did we make it here? How are our girls so awesome! How is our marriage this strong? I can assure you, I have no delusions that it is from mine or Brea's doing. It is only by God's grace and mercy on all of us.
However, I am not immune to bouts of intense sadness. I don't like going to the cemetery because I don't want to be reminded that my son's body is buried there. I want to hold him and hear him laugh. I can't remember what his voice sounds like. I can't let myself think about all of life's milestone's our family will go through without him there. I imagine him playing with his cousins but it's just in my mind. I want to drop him off at school and take him to basketball practice. I used to be able to remember his smell and it's fading. I'm afraid that my grief is easing and I'll stop thinking about him.
Now, it's easy to get stuck in these thoughts for a while and start to feel sorry for myself and our situation. But, I know better. There is nothing good that comes from feeling sorry for myself. It only steals the moment I'm in and robs me of the joy I feel for all the gifts I do have. Also, I've come to realize that - Everyone is struggling and everyone is fighting. None of us get out of here unscathed. So, what can we do about it?
One of the best pieces of advice I've read recently on this topic is from Dr. Jordan Peterson's book - 12 Rules for Life. One of the rules is "Treat Yourself Like Someone You Are Responsible For Helping." If my child is feeling down. I don't let them stay there. I talk them through it. I give them advice. I tell them to go exercise, to get some rest, and to keep moving through life. Eventually, you have to get on with life.
We need treat ourselves with the same care and advice we would give others.
Diseases, family deaths, debilitations, and disabilities. We ask ourselves - Could I make it through that? I believe the answer for all of us is - Yes. God can give us the strength to endure a lot, but it's our choice to keep putting one foot in front of the other. We can not allow ourselves to become victims and to wallow in self pity. Yes, life can be tough but it's still worth fighting through.
Take one day at a time. Keep fighting. Then, some day you'll look around and wonder how you ever made it.