April 15, 2017—the day before Easter. I had no idea what was about to happen or how my world would be shaken, but that’s how it is in this life. We can’t see what’s in our future, unless we’re like Nicolas Cage in the movie, Next. However, even he could only see two minutes ahead. Tragedies usually sneak up on us and find us unprepared. They blindside, take us by surprise, shock and stun. And so it was on that near fateful day. I never saw it coming.
My husband was a little less than a mile into a 5K race. He runs about twenty miles a week to stay fit. He’s sixty-seven and in great shape. But something went wrong that morning. All of a sudden, he became dizzy and passed out—he had a heart attack. I wasn’t far behind, arriving just in time to see and hear the efforts to save his life. I really thought he was dead but thankfully, CPR and a defibrillator revived him. (We have a great respect and admiration for firefighters!) A few hours later a cardiac catheterization revealed the major artery to his heart was 99% blocked. I was numb with shock.
The widow-maker almost lived up to its name. A cardiologist inserted a stent and gave him back to me a new man. We knew things could have ended differently. Gratitude overflowed. Yet I felt blindsided and stunned. My husband almost died right before my eyes. I was so unprepared to be a widow.
While I’ve been processing this experience, I realized something. The ways I learned to endure on my difficult parenting journey also helped me in this situation. Pain is pain. What brought me strength and courage as a brokenhearted mother, brought me strength and courage once again.
These are the Five Ways I Endured:
1. I Trusted God. He’s sovereign and in control. He loved me with a never-ending love. He would do what was best for me and for His glory. I could lean on His faithfulness, even when I didn’t understand. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and He will make straight your path” (Proverbs 3:5-6) and John 14:1 “. . . trust in God, trust also in me.”
2. I Stayed in the Moment. Don’t think too far ahead, as hard as it was. I only had to cope with right now. God would be enough for this moment, then the next and the next. His sufficiency is a gift for the present. Whatever will be needed in the future will be given when it’s needed—no sooner. 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10
3. I Focused on Truth. God’s Word and His character. The scriptures I’d learned, memorized and studied filled my mind, giving comfort and encouragement. I knew He was my rock, fortress, refuge, ever-present help in trouble, strength and hope. He was all I needed. “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will help you, I will strengthen you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Is. 41:10). Deuteronomy 33:27, Psalm 46: 1-5 and Proverbs 14:32.
4. I Was Honest with God. In prayer I told Him my fears and weaknesses. I prayed and kept praying. I asked in faith for what I wanted, but surrendered my desires. I didn’t want my husband to die any more than I wanted to lose my daughter to an overdose or suicide. I only wanted His will to be done. Because I trusted in His love and goodness, I could accept whatever He allowed, but that didn’t make it easy.
5. I Accepted Help. I needed others. I couldn’t do this on my own. I wasn’t sure what I needed that day with my husband or many times with my daughter, so I humbly accepted help that was offered: a hug, an arm around my shoulder, a bottle of water and a sandwich; an encouraging word, an uplifting book, a prayer, a listening ear, and an authentic, caring community. All were beautiful gifts for my heart.
If you learn and do these things, you can endure hardships. You can become resilient. With faith and trust in God, you won’t break under pressure. In every situation, you can depend on His love and goodness. You can bounce back from the shocking, unexpected experiences of life—even if you lose your spouse or your child.
“When calamity comes, the wicked are brought down, but even in death the righteous have a refuge” (Prov. 14:32).