2 Powerful Shifts in Perspective When Life Beats You Down
2 Powerful Shifts in Perspective When Life Beats You Down
Suzanne Eller iBelieve Contributor
Sometimes you and I can be living life and then suddenly nothing is normal. When you don't see a crisis coming, it can turn your life upside down. How can you make it through one crisis after another?
I sat in the ice-covered car in the parking lot of the hospital, tears running down my face. My husband was on an operating table inside, having emergency open-heart surgery.
The night before we walked five miles together. We are both active; kayaking and hiking is our go-to. That night as we walked, we planned the anniversary trip we were taking in a just a few days. We had saved and scraped for a long time and were taking our kids and young grandchildren with us. While we walked, we also talked about the diagnosis I had just received two days earlier. My cancer had returned after decades of remission. The good news was it was caught early this time.
We decided the trip was still on. We’d beat it together when we got back.
That next morning, he called me from work.
“Suz, something’s wrong.”
He was on the way to the emergency room. I told him I was on my way. I wondered if this was a bad case of the flu. Just as I was leaving, he called again.
“I don’t think I’m going to make it,” he said.
I called an Uber, chunking my keys in my purse. If my husband was on the side of the road somewhere between me and the hospital, I was going to find him.
It turned out he made it to the emergency room. I ran through the doors, past his mint green Prius parked haphazardly in the front row, only to find out he was in the midst of a massive heart attack.
Sometimes you and I can be living life and then suddenly nothing is normal. We didn’t see the crisis coming. When more than one crisis hits at a time, or that crisis is prolonged, it can turn your life upside down. For the next several months we took turns healing. He had double bypass surgery. When he was on the mend, I had a double mastectomy and two more connected surgeries. Somewhere in the heart of this, a pandemic hit.
Months later, I look back and I see all the sweet things that held us close. Family. Good friends. Our faith, absolutely. Yet when those close to us ask, “How did you make it through?” I can’t help but tell them about two things that completely shifted my perspective in this extended battle.
The first shift came as I wept in the car in the hospital parking lot. There was nothing about what was happening that I wanted to accept. I didn’t want to accept that all the plans we had were turned upside down—not just a long-anticipated trip, but our dreams and goals, his job, my ministry, our plans with our children and grandchildren, and our plans with each other.
We were stepping into the unknown.
Accepting that reality wasn’t a lack of faith. It was just an acknowledgment of my need.
In 2 Chronicles, young King Jehoshaphat received the news that a mighty army is on the way. The bad news was overwhelming. They were unprepared for the numbers of armed men marching toward them. He summoned his leaders. He called for a fast, and this was his prayer.
O our God, will You not exercise judgment upon them? For we have no might to stand against this great company that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon You. (2 Chronicles 20:12)
It’s hard to fight something we don’t acknowledge.
Yet some will tell you that accepting the fact that you are in a battle is a lack of faith. They tell you to put on a good face, or only speak positive words. What I love about this prayer is the king not only acknowledged the battle, but in doing so he placed his eyes on God, his only hope.
This is faith.
Acceptance that you are facing something hard isn’t saying you aren’t going to fight, or that you don’t have a role to play. Instead, you acknowledge the real battle, even as you reach for your very real Heavenly Father.
Lord, I’m experiencing such great loss, and I need you in this grief.
Lord, I can’t rewrite my past story, but with your help I can write a new chapter.
Father, I can’t make that one love me in the right way, but I can wrap myself in your unconditional, unwavering love.
When we accept what we cannot change, it frees our brain, our soul, our time, and our heart to fully step into what we can change. More important, it releases the impossible portions to God.
Acceptance of the fact that a long-awaited trip was not in the cards for us freed me to ask our grown children to go in our place. To have fun. To send us pictures. To dance for us. To let those six young grandchildren that had dreamed about this trip for months have a blast, and when they returned, they could do all the worrying and caring they wanted.
Acceptance of the fact that I was facing a double mastectomy allowed me to celebrate that this would be an important part of hearing the words “cancer free.”
Acceptance freed me to reach for God and for those I loved on the hard days, but also to celebrate every single victory that came out of that season.
Acceptance also led to the second shift in my perspective in the heart of the battle.
One of the hardest parts when you are in an unwanted crisis is that your plans go awry. I wrestled as I canceled ministry events and took things off the calendar that I had planned and prayed over.
One day I sat in the CCU while Richard recovered from surgery and looked up to see an old friend walk through the door. I hadn’t seen her for at least a decade. She read a message my daughter put on social media and drove across state lines to let us know she cared.
As we sat in the waiting room, we caught up. As we talked, I shared a memory about her from years earlier, one that was sweet and wrapped in faith. Tears started down her cheeks.
“I’m not that person anymore, Suzie,” she said.
She walked away from her faith years ago due to hurt. As we sat in that CCU waiting room, she told her story and we wept and prayed together. When she left, I knew God was doing a miracle in that wounded place. This was only one of a handful of impactful Christ-led moments in that hard season.
While I had wrestled with canceling ministry plans and speaking events, God reminded me that my calling had very little to do with how I did it, but to simply reflect Jesus where I was. Surrendering allowed me to let God work in his way, rather than according to my plan.
When King Jehoshaphat prayed and asked God for help as the mighty army advanced, an answer to his prayer arrived:
You shall not need to fight in this battle; take your positions, stand still, and see the deliverance of the Lord [Who is] with you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Fear not nor be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you. (2 Chronicles 20:17)
King Jehoshaphat’s role was to simply take a position of trust. As king, I’m certain that he and his leaders had all kinds of strategies, but God asked him to surrender to his plan. He also defined the young king’s role—he was to take a stand of trust. This was not a weak position, but a strong one as he followed God’s instructions to the tee and let God do the rest.
When You Are in a Battle
All our surgeries are now behind us. We are both recovered and healthy. The day I was able to kayak again, I threw my hands in the air with joy (if you’ve had a double mastectomy, you know how thrilling it is just to be able to throw your hands in the air). We are back to walking a few miles after work, talking and dreaming.
Yet these two truths—accept and surrender—still hold me close.
If life is beating you up, give yourself permission to be honest with God and yourself about it, for that is a strong move on your part. It’s intimacy with God. It’s faith and courage. Then surrender the way you think it should go, to watch God’s plans unfold as he fights with and for you.
When we accept what we cannot change, we surrender to what we can do, and what God will do that is so much greater.
Photo Credit: © Unsplash/David Marcu
Suzanne (Suzie) Eller is a speaker and bestselling author of 11 books. Her latest is JoyKeeper: 6 Truths That Change Everything You Thought You Knew About Joy. She’s the co-host of the popular More Than Small Talk podcast with Holley Gerth and Jennifer Watson. Suzie is the founder of TogetHER Ministries. You can connect with her at tsuzanneeller.com.