Enduring the aftershocks

No matter how far along science comes, we will never know when the earthquake will happen. We may be given warning signs, but when tragedy strikes, we aren’t given the choice whether to sit it out. We’re forced to endure. The phrase, “fight or flight,” comes to mind as those seem to be the only two options we have as reactions. Although there are literal earthquakes, or other natural tragedies, that do occur in our midst, I’m referring to the tragedies that are written into our lives that we can’t see coming: vehicular accidents, death sentence medical diagnoses, life altering physical ailments, any instance where the otherwise normal condition of the body is changed enough to where this change will affect how we live the rest of our days. As with an earthquake, the initial damage is done, but the endurance tests don’t stop there; it’s the aftershocks that tend to bring about the most difficult challenges as we continue forward and these rippling effects must be dealt with whether you’ve fought through the tragedy with eyes wide open, or sailed through it by emotionally checking out.

Some of us pride ourselves in having the wherewithal to take tragedy head on, ripping through each layer to proceed to the next, logically exposing every emotion attached, all with the end goal of rest and peace being sought on the other side. Others of us close ourselves in, busy our minds and days with various forms of escapism, barely squinting our eyes to view the pain that’s waiting if we’d only embrace it, all in hopes that somehow it’ll disappear and the normalcy before the tragedy hit will resume. Either method of dealing with these life altering changes doesn’t tend to account for what is to come afterwards. As time marches on, the calm teases its return, the side effects sneak up behind and can break us once again, in manners close to the actual phase we previously made it through when the instance occurred, if we’re not prepared. It’s these aftershocks that’ll ruin us, if the quake itself didn’t already.

How quickly we can forget the details of the emotional and physical turmoil of the strike zone, which can be a safeguard protecting our fragile state of being, a grace given by God to tool us with endurance for what’s to come. But what are we to do when circumstances that relate back to the core, dredging up feelings and experiential emotions that we thought were behind us, present themselves again? Just as the aftershock of an earthquake is actually another earthquake in itself, we must tackle even the seemingly lesser quakes with the same fortitude as we did the initial one. Provided, if we chose the “flight” method for that big one, we may be ill equipped to deal with these aftershocks that’ll come our way with as much force and lack of foreknowledge as the first. They may seem less intense to those looking in from the outside, but we can’t escape them any more than we could in the past and their effects are raw and real regardless of how trivial they may seem to ourselves or those around us. Each jolt we witness brings us back to square one, where we’re faced, again and again, with the choice to fight through, or check out. Endurance isn’t for the weak hearted.

To endure the inevitable aftershocks, as painful as they may be, we must persist in seeking only the calm He can provide. For those who chose this path before, it isn’t much easier to follow each time we find our way back to it, but at least the methodology is familiar. Dragging our focus from what ails our hearts and minds back onto our Father who offers us genuine solace is a battle all Christians face, no matter how deeply they behold His Word. It’s relentless, the struggle to pry open our eyes to see Him through any tragedy and the myriad of effects that follow. But we persist because we must. In that, we don’t have another option except to allow our minds to escape into a darkness that we’re eventually going to have to address.

Fighting for a focus on Him, when all we want to do is escape the pain, is the fight that’ll give us flight. The Psalmist writes, “I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2); it only makes the most sense that we would look to Him for help to endure the earthquakes and their aftershocks as He is the Maker of this earth, the heaven above, and every tragic quake that we experience. While leaving our eyes directed at what lies in front of us as we endure, we forsake the help from Him if we are only to lift our gaze upwards and let it rest on, and in, Him.


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