The first time my parents left their teenage daughter home overnight they knew I could handle everything. Everything?
I’m sure they didn’t expect their check-in phone conversation to sound like this:
“How are things going, Vicki?”
“Oh fine. By the way, Aunt Betty and Uncle Ken and their kids are visiting. They dropped by two days ago.”
“Where are they staying?”
“In the driveway. In their camper.”
“Where are they eating?”
“Here. I’m making them meals. By the way, we had a small kitchen fire.”
“What! Are you okay?”
“Sure. I put it out before there was any more damage.”
“Only black smoke all over the walls. Nothing a fresh coat of paint won’t fix. So, how are you and Dad?…Mom, are you still there?”
As bad as that news sounded to my mother, it could have been a lot worse. The unexpected guests weren’t robbers. The house didn’t burn down.
Gotta love a teenager’s reaction to the world. Ignorance can truly be bliss. Back then, it was so much easier to face the world calmly. With an invincible spirit.
Hey life, give me your best shot. I can handle anything. No big deal.
Through the years, I’ve learned otherwise. I can’t handle everything. Some trials ARE a big deal. Like mental illness (MI).
Oh to have that teenage calm and casual outlook on life. Nowadays, I can’t summon a serene spirit to saturate my responses. I know how horribly wrong things can turn out.
Thankfully, I have access to God’s perfect peace. The trick is keeping my focus right when things are bad. Trusting Him instead of considering all the possible outcomes.
When MI hits home, sometimes bad goes to worse. At those times, I tell myself “It could be worse.”
James Stevenson wrote a delightful story for children teaching them things can always be worse. In “Could Be Worse!”, a laid-back grandfather seems unimpressed or concerned at his grandchildren’s reported problems. Each complaint receives the same unemotional, “Could be worse.”
One morning, the grandfather tells them a story of unbelievable events that happened to him—all in one night. One extreme calamity after another. At the end of his tale he asks them, “Now what do you think of that?”
Their response: “Could be worse!”
Lesson learned. He transformed their thinking.
God can transform our thinking, if we allow Him.
When the weight of this MI marathon gets too heavy, I start the list of worsts. God takes over and floods my head with reminders of blessings.
Here’s how it goes.
It could be worse. Chris could be missing. We could be homeless, wondering where our next meal will come and what’s happening to our son. We could be living in a war-torn country. Chris could be filled with rage. He could be dead.
Chris is home with us and safe. He has goals (to pay off his debts, etc.), gets exercise, and interacts with people at his church on Sundays.
Maybe you’re living my worst. Most likely, you’re not living THE worst unless you’re enduring MI without God’s presence. His presence can comfort in the midst of the worst trial.
Chris Tomlin reminds us of our need for Him in his song, “Lord I Need You”