When the Emotional Tsunami Hits

The Japanese man clings to the rooftop of his home, adrift ten miles out to sea. The tsunami has swept his house and his wife away, and that bit of roof is what is keeping him alive. Miraculously, after two days tossed about by waves, he is rescued.

I have never had to overcome anything physically and materially as challenging as Hiromitsu Shinkawa faced. But I have had some very heavy blows in life. We’ve been talking about “how to deal” when life blindsides you and you are nearly destroyed by an emotional disaster. After the first key – Don’t Panic – the second key is this: Find the Rock.

God as a concept can seem overwhelming. It is difficult to think of Him in “manageable” terms – in a way our brains and hearts can understand. When someone tells you to “trust God” or “turn to God” in hard times – how do you know what he (God) is thinking? Do you cry out to him in desperation (as we have all done) saying, “Please God, please God, help me?”

And then what? Do you hear a reply? When your emotions are in turmoil, does he seem inaccessible? God’s Word, though, is always beautifully and easily accessible.

When life blindsides me, I cling as tenaciously to the words God speaks to us as Hiromitsu clung to that rooftop. Those words are my Rock, my stability. I read them, pray them, repeat them… and feel my spirit regain its strength.

Index cards have been a great tool for me. I carry them with me for easy access. When anxiety or fear starts to creep back in, I can pull out the verses, read them, resist the negative emotion and move on with my day.

Below are some samples… I highly recommend you make your own set of cards. Hold tight to the truths found in the Bible. They will keep you from drowning.

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DON’T PANIC – When the storm hits

One of my all time favorite books is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a five-part trilogy. Douglas Adams wrote such a remarkable book(s) that to try and explain it here would twist my brain just a bit, and being that my brain is already slightly sprained, I’ll refrain. (Oops forgot to uncheck the Auto-rhyme feature in my medulla, however).

DON’T PANIC is a phrase that appears on the cover of the Guide. DON’T PANIC is the most vital advice for a perplexed, frequently-in-danger galaxy traveler.

It’s good advice for us too. A couple of posts ago we spoke about how to deal when life blindsides you. Staying calm is the first key. I will not pretend to be an expert at this, but I have had plenty of practice at being blindsided.

How to stay calm? These steps may seem simplistic, but they work for me:

  • Breathe – yes, literally, breathe. In and out, slowly. Breathing deeply has many beneficial effects. It also gives us time to slow down and not react immediately. Take in the news, however bad it may be. Consciously, as you breathe, reject that feeling of panic that is trying to rise up in your gut. If someone is speaking to you, pressing you for action and/or answers, calmly make them wait until you are ready. This may take some minutes or even some hours.
  • Think – yes, think. Your first reaction may or may not be correct, so move it to one side temporarily, and think through all the ramifications. Is the situation really as serious as it first appears? Can you call on some other people/perspectives to get the bigger picture? Who will be your support team as you navigate and overcome this situation? Always, as you think, avoid despair – you will overcome, and good will come out of it.
  • Remember – remember that you have probably survived other equally difficult challenges. Remember that even if you personally have not experienced such a hard situation before, surely other people you know have. Things do have a way of working out. Here it is so important to have already programmed your brain with memorable and helpful truths – and that is where the word of God is key. We will talk about this in another post.

I can promise you – based on what God says to us – that no matter how desperate or unthinkable a situation, you can survive it and eventually thrive as a stronger person, one who has even more to offer to the world. Here is a taste of what the Father wants us to know:

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Is. 41:10)

Dear friend, DON’T PANIC.

[PS – Okay, I can’t resist. Here is the basic premise of the book:
One Thursday lunchtime the Earth is unexpectedly demolished to make way for a new hyperspace bypass. For Arthur Dent, who has only just had his house demolished that morning, this seems already to be more than he can cope with. Sadly, however, the weekend has only just begun, and the galaxy is a very strange and startling place. Seconds before the Earth is demolished, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of the The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out of work actor. Together this dynamic pair begin their journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker’s Guide “A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have” and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers. (from http://www.douglasadams.com)]

“A new beginning…” (cue background music)

What’s a road trip without music? I remember one long drive which imprinted our entire marriage because of the music we listened to (although we weren’t yet married). Peter and I had to drive across the Norwegian countryside in the depth of winter. It was his first time driving in snow. The scenery was magical, everything draped in white, sunlight shimmering off the blanketed trees.

We listened to a musical about Joseph, the guy in the Bible who gets betrayed by his jealous brothers, dropped into a nasty hole in the ground then conveniently sold off as a slave (leaving the entire family pretty much traumatized for life!). The musical is called The Dreamer, by The Continentals.

The Dreamer is catchy and clever, and I fell in love with it… Good thing, too, because we have gone through several seasons when figuratively speaking (and sometimes literally)  Joseph’s life has been our soundtrack!

Joseph’s story doesn’t terminate with him wasting away forever in a foreign prison (though he definitely did do some wasting away in prison). Everything that seems designed to destroy him is eventually revealed to be the making of his destiny. Through the injustice he suffers, he saves his family. He saves their bodies from famine by supplying grain. He saves their souls from famine by supplying forgiveness.

Which is why I love Joseph. Sorrow can in fact become sweetness.

One of the songs has been dancing and leaping around in my head all evening… It’s high energy, from the finale, and it says: “A new beginning is beginning to take hold… in-my-life!” [cue dancers with full Chorus]

That pesky Chorus in my head wouldn’t stop, and I decided to activate this new blog and kick them out of my head and into a post. You know it’s been months since I wrote in Cafecito. I backed off blogging because I noticed I was self-censoring. It is one thing to be careful about the power of words – but if I cannot write from the heart, I rather not write at all.

Thankfully, that bit of angst has been dispelled. So here we find ourselves, with a new beginning… [cue dancers with full Chorus]

Another of the songs is titled He Opens a Window. How I love that song! Not just because it’s great theology, I do confess. I love it because in our ship talent show I performed a dance to it. And guess who was the techie running the lights and sound? Yes! None other than Peter. That was the first time he “noticed” noticed me. Which makes it a GREAT song in my book.

Is it time for your new beginning?
I promise you this – He does open new windows, all the time… Look away from the closed door in front of you and around the room your heart inhabits. Notice the light that is streaming in… and enjoy this song.

(PS – I know the video is way old school… if I find a better version I’ll post it… but the truth of Romans 8:28 never gets old…)