Q: I feel like such a failure. What could I have done to prevent this from happening?
A: Living through a painful experience is like living through an emotional earthquake. You realize that life will never be the same. As the tremors of your situation decrease, you attempt to put some of the pieces of your life back together. You think you will never be carefree again. You fight the anger and the tears of hopelessness and begin to question. What if I had done ___________ differently? You fill in the blank with a million different scenarios. Why did I react the way I did, or why wasn’t I there? The “whys” are endless. Where is the hope in a shattered life?
Feel the pain, grieve the loss, and express the anger. Don’t try to work through it alone. Find someone who will give you sound reasoning in the midst of your unthinkable circumstances. Give your situation to God. Allow Him to take the broken scattered pieces and make a new dwelling place for you. Allow Him to clear out the pieces that are too shattered to remain. Trust that He will replace them with perfect new pieces. Remember, this will take some time. Then, relinquish your right to continue in anger. Offer up your hurt and your questions. God has a plan for your life and He is not a God that fails.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
Q: My ministry has been destroyed by this event. What does God expect me to do with the tatters of my life?
A: We often think that if we feel called by God to do something and we are following His will, it will lead to success. Not always so. Jeremiah was given a message by God, and then told ahead of time by God that no one would listen to him and no one would do what he said. What we see as the process of reaching a particular goal, God may see as the goal itself.
God’s purpose for each of us is to depend on Him and on His power. Staying faithful while in the middle of the turmoil of life is accomplishing the purpose of God. God’s purpose is to enable us to see that He can walk with us through the storms of our life at every stage of the struggle.
“Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.”
Isaiah 41:10 (MSG)
Q: Do you ever get over this pain? I’m trying soooo hard to just function. I have other children and grandchildren that need me and i’s so hard to function in some kind of normal…..
A: Grieving is a very normal part of facing severe loss or tragedy. There will be times when you feel completely overwhelmed with the emotions. Give yourself time to grieve. Surround yourself with caring adults who can help you move forward. Don’t be afraid to let people know you need their input to help redirect your thinking. You need mental health breaks that provide a different focus. Spend time with your other children and grandchildren. Focusing on their lives will eventually help you to feel like you can take steps forward with your own life.
“…God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves… and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.
Romans 8:26-28 (MSG)
Q: The neighbors won’t allow their children to play with my children since my husband was imprisoned. What should I do?
A: If neighbors are not allowing their children to play with yours, find Bible schools or church day camps where your children can play and learn and feel more normal around other children. Look for free activities in your town. Sometimes theaters offer free children’s movies throughout the summer or free park activities. Removing your children from the stressors of the immediate neighborhood and putting them into environments where they can feel like children will go far in helping them cope and adjust to this situation. The fun they experience through activities will give them new things to talk about, new memories to think about, and new friendships.
“But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.'”
Luke 18:16 (NIV)
Q: I feel like I’ve lost everything in life that matters to me. What do I do?
A: When we feel like a tsunami just swept through our lives and left us with nothing, we only have two choices. One is to give up and feel hopeless, bitter, and angry. In doing that, we choose to throw away who we are, and the life God has given us. Our second choice is to become a survivor. This can only be done successfully by pressing into God and allowing Him to be our Shepherd as we seek to find our way, and our Comforter as we grieve our losses. Get involved with a Bible-believing church that loves and desires to help people. That will help you find a way to help others, even as you rely on their support to make it through your own losses. Find a good devotional book that will help you stay in God’s presence. Open yourself to His inner healing and ask Him to bring you new life-breathing experiences.
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.”
2 Corinthians 4: 8-10 (NIV)
Q: How do I use my pain for good?
A: Ask yourself, “What are my talents and gifts?” A good way to answer that is to think about what you enjoy doing the most. Once you’ve identified things that you are able to do well, look around and ask what is needed. Create a way to use your God-given abilities and talents to minister to others. This becomes a win-win situation. You will find increased healing as you serve others, and those you help will be blessed by your actions. It is not necessary to think in terms of a large non-profit organization. Ministry can be as easy as helping the young mother next door or the elderly person down the street. It may be leading a small group of people who are walking through a similar experience. Sometimes ministry can be as small as being gracious to the new clerk at the store who hasn’t mastered a job completely. Pain makes us more compassionate to others who are facing difficulties. As you seek out ways to extend grace to others, you will find not a day goes by that you won’t be able to use your pain experience to love and be gracious to someone else.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV)
Q: I am uncomfortable when people ask where my husband is. I am fearful that others will reject our family if they know that he’s incarcerated. Do I have to tell them?
A: When people ask about your incarcerated husband, you don’t owe explanations beyond your comfort zone. It’s okay to say, “He isn’t with us right now,” or “We are separated for now,” without an explanation. If people ask why, just say you’d rather not talk about it. Your comfort level with individual people will guide how much you want to say.
“May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise.”
Psalm 119:76 (NIV)
Q: How can I reach out to help my incarcerated loved one?
A: The number one thing you can do is to stay in touch on a regular basis with your loved one. That connection to the outside world will be a lifeline. Visit as often as you can, and write letters when you can’t visit. Jason Kent has an uncle that writes to him every week and sends pictures of the daily activities described in his letters. Jason calls it giving him “a slice of life.” Prisons have rules about how many pictures can be sent in each letter, so find out the guidelines. Wal-Mart & Walgreens have machines that can print 4 to 6 pictures on a 4″x6″ photo. I’m sure many stores have that option and it’s very reasonably priced. If you have children, have them draw pictures to send to their incarcerated loved one. They will be treasured. Statistics show that very few prisoners have family members who continue to visit if the incarceration lasts longer than five years. If your loved one has a lengthy sentence or a life sentence, commit yourself to making regular visits for the duration. You can make a difference in the outcome of his/her incarceration life.
“Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”
Hebrews 13:3 (NIV)