It’s been a looong rainy weekend here. We’re in Southern California, so rain is rather a novelty. Everything was grey and cold. And now that the sun is out again and we’re back to 80 degrees, it really paints the contrast and shows how much of an impact the sun really has on your mood after a long rain period.
You know those days when you think your life is just crashing down on you? Those rainy days. When you got up thinking: Hey, this will be a great day… and then the rain starts pouring. Last Monday was one of them.
I went to the dentist (I could just stop the story right here and it would be enough to ruin anyone’s day, right?) expecting a filling, and walked out with a temporary filling, being told I needed a crown. Have I mentioned I have no dental insurance? Well, there goes $1,500 I had not budgeted for. That, together with the nasty numb feeling from the anesthetics (which I just hate like hell) my day was pretty much ruined.
But you just have these days when everything is horrible. You know, those white-girl-problem-days. And suddenly, it seems as if God looks at you, shaking his head in disbelief, saying: “Really? I have to put someone else through hell now just to make the point for you that your day really isn’t that bad, don’t I?” So my frustration about an exorbitant dental bill was met by three different people telling me about horror stories that were happening in their lives right now, all in one day. And all of them are asking: Why? Why is this happening?
Monica: It’s just not fair.
She sat crying at the table as she hung up the phone. I didn’t know what to do or say. I finally reluctantly asked: “Are you ok?” Her dad had told her her sister was dying. Her sister, who is in her 20s, was not going to be able to receive the heart surgery she needed and, consequently, she was not going to be able to ever get better.
My heart stopped beating for a second as I watched her despair, unable to do anything about it.
As I was sitting there listening to her tell the story, watching her cry, I felt so helpless. “It’s just not fair,” she cried. “Why do these horrible things keep happening in my family? We keep loosing children.” Monica had already lost another younger sister a few years ago, and had just recently lost her own child. There’s nothing I could have done or said to make it better. I sat quietly, listening in agony, not knowing what to do. Here I was worried and frustrated about an upcoming $1,500 dentist’s bill, and in my friend’s family, a woman younger than myself was dying. What she wouldn’t have given to have MY problem instead.
Daniel: I am going to murder him!
As I was driving home that night, my friend Daniel sent me a text. “I have horrible news,” he writes. And all I could think was: “Sure, go ahead. My day is already bad, make it worse.” I expected a firing, or a breaking up with the girlfriend. Or maybe a car accident and having to miss a day of work. The next text threw me off completely. “My mom just got the sh*** beat out of her by her boyfriend.”
Blank stare on the screen of my phone. Noooooo!!!
I have never been beaten in my life. No one has ever punched me in the stomach, I can’t even remember a slap in the face by anyone. I didn’t even get spanked as a kid. Being physically hurt is a completely foreign experience to me. I can’t even imagine what this woman must have gone through. Hospital, police, and restraining order was all a part of his story. “I am going to murder him,” he says. “My dad did that to her, and now this scumbag is, too.”
I am a mom AND a daughter, and can’t even start to picture what a situation like this would look like in my life. I don’t even want to know what the agony would be like either being in the kid’s OR the mom’s shoes. I know what it’s like to go through severe emotional pain. But going through emotional AND physical bruises, cuts, and internal bleeding, I can’t even fathom. But hey, I have a $1,500 dentist’s bill to worry about, right?
Mason: I don’t care if you’re homeless, you have to move out.
When I finally got home after 7PM, I was hoping for my day to be over and couldn’t have possibly imagined for it to get any worse. Eating anything of substance was pretty much impossible with this stupid temporary filling on one side and a hurting emerging wisdom tooth on the other; so chocolate had been my dinner plan all day long, especially after all the added horror stories. I was looking forward to a chocolate dinner!
That’s when Mason called. I still hadn’t really vented to anyone about my dentist’s bill, I had intended to save that for him over my chocolate dinner. But instead of venting about my dentist debacle, we got on the subject of his dad. “My dad is drunk again,” he said in a voice that expressed the normality of that state, while at the same time expressing his pain over the unfortunate fact of how normal this is. I was never aware of just how upside-down his life was. While I am worried about a dentist bill as the biggest problem currently in my life, Mason told me about the time when his father started drinking as a means to deal with his emotions and the problems with his wife. After Mason’s parents got divorced, his dad never got over his anger, he got bitter, and he started drinking more and more.
Twenty years later, he is still in the same emotional state. He never worked through his problems, he let them fester. Then he lost his job, and this grown man is now living with a room mate in that room mate’s living room, still drinking, seemingly not caring about any of this. In my perfection-minded brain, this situation is simply unimaginable. And I mean literally unimaginable.
Mason is being put in a dad’s role, having been made responsible for his own dad, who seems to have put himself into a victim-child role. There is Mason, 32 years old, with a good job, a dog, a car, and owning a house, taking care of his 61-year-old dad who lives like a care-free college kid. Once again, having grown up in a very protected family environment, I can’t imagine what that must feel like.
How do you deal with all this?!
So in the end of that day, my only question that really remained was: How do people in these situations deal with all that crap? There is no comfort to speak, there is nothing you can do for them. There is nothing they can really do themselves about it. When life is not fair, when you want to murder someone because you’re THAT angry, when your child-role is taken from you, when you’re put into an impossible place – how do you deal with that?
My own thoughts always immediately go to God’s word. Where can I find comfort in God’s word? What song can I listen to that puts even these stories into perspective? Whenever life comes crashing down, that’s the only comfort I can hold on to. That’s when it becomes clear to me that the Lord is my rock and my fortress and the only constant in my life I can ever rely on for certain. All I can wonder is: What do people do that don’t have that comfort?
And then it hit me… they do what Mason’s dad did. And how miserable must that be?
Anne: Let my misery put YOUR day into perspective.
And then Mason said: “You know, I was so upset with my boss today; he’s just nitpicking everything apart and I just got so frustrated… and then you told me about an unexpected $1,500 dollar bill… and that really put MY “problem” into perspective.” Having a boss being grouchy for a day is much better than an unplanned $1,500 bill.
And here I was thinking: God had to put other people through all that crap to show ME how unimportant my problem really is… yet he had to put ME through MY problem to show Mason how unimportant his problem with his boss really was. And maybe that’s just a big part of why God allows suffering in the life of good people. So we can always keep our life in perspective and realize all the blessings we have. I can afford to pay that $1,500 bill. Granted it’s coming out of the savings intended for a future home purchase, but I CAN afford it; I just don’t WANT to afford it. What a blessing that I can actually afford it. Lots of people would have a REAL problem with that!
So why do bad things happen to good people?
Mason and I proceeded to read Job together. If you don’t know about Job’s story and you’re going through crap in your life, you really want to read this book. It’s in the Bible, in the Old Testament, right after Esther, and fittingly so right before Psalms. Go get your Bible and read just how bad life can get, and how in the midst of all the turmoil and agony, you can still find peace and rest in knowing that the Lord is in control. “Blessed is the man whom God corrects, so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty, for he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal. From six calamities he will rescue you, in seven no harm will befall you.” That’s right there in Job 5:17-18.
Why do bad things happen to good people? Why is life unfair? I think it’s to put life into perspective. There will always be someone worse off than you. You can always find a blessing in the midst of your agony, if you only learn to look for it. Count your blessings. Know that the Lord is in control. Pay your $1,500 dentist bill rejoicing that you actually CAN.