This past week has been a roller-coaster emotionally. My little brother Tony was in a car accident with a lorry in California. He now lies in critical condition in a coma. I arrived here in California last Wednesday. I find the sheer intensity of emotion exhausting (my jetlag is probably also playing into that). We are spending a lot of time in the ICU and in the off hours we are at the hospital accommodation (for people with loved ones in critical condition). Having spoken to different people both at the ICU unit and at the hospital accommodation, there are certain themes that become very obvious. Evaluation of life is taking place in various family members of various families as the ones they love are in critical condition. Some are on the mend, others are still in the dark. Conversations I have had with people these past few days brought Ecclesiastes 7:3 to mind which reads, “Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.”
This means that in sorrow and hardship, the realities of life must be addressed and dealt with. There is a certain realness and authenticity in those who are in the throws of hardship. This is no time for games, but time for reflection and contemplation. And those reflections rightly applied are ultimately turned to gladness. Here are some of the things I am seeing.
- In crisis people re-evaluate those things that are truly important in life. Life is full of diversions. Many things cry out for attention. To give one thing your attention is to withhold that attention from something else. Unfortunately it often takes a crisis to strip away all the veiling things in life to get to its core.
- In crisis people come to grips with their own frailty and begin to turn to God. As the saying goes, “there are no atheists in foxholes.” Everyone I have spoken with regarding their loved ones in critical condition is saying things like, “We are praying.” GK Chesterton, the famous British author once said, “The worst moment for an atheist is when he has a profound sense of gratitude and has no one to thank.” It could also probably be said that the worst moment for an atheist is when he has a profound sense of helplessness and has nobody to call upon. It is interesting that so far everyone I have spoken with is quick to say they are praying for their loved one, and nobody is refusing prayer.
- In crisis people must deal with their own mortality. Our society does many things well, but we are very poor at preparing one another for the reality that 10 out of 10 people will die. As a society we elevate youthfulness because when we are young, we think we will live forever. We try to botox away death. We do not know how to deal with this inevitability, so we ignore it. In the 18th century, several years after the revival of John and Charles Wesley, the Methodists as they aged began to die in great numbers. One doctor who attended many of these Methodist Christians on their death beds said to John Wesley, “Your people die well.” Rather than ignoring their mortality all their life, they spent their life in preparation for it.
The bottom line is that in crisis, people get real. I myself am writing from the seat of crisis. But the beautiful thing is when we look to Jesus, he doesn’t waste the crises but uses them. I trust God is using this crisis that we (and especially that my brother Tony) are in. As you read this, please pray for my little brother: www.prayfortony.blogspot.com