In 1994, Christian Pastor and author David Jeremiah received a most unwanted diagnosis: he had lymphoma. However, God was, and is good; Pastor David was able to get into the Mayo Clinic where he began the long and painful treatment. Later, after compiling his journey and interviewing others who received bad news, Pastor David wrote this book called “A Bend in the Road: Finding God When Your World Caves In.”
If life were only so simple to have just one bend.
By the time you reach 30, you probably had multiple bends; the career you wanted is not the same as the job you currently have. Some of my friends were married and divorced… twice… by 35. Having children, that’s another bend. Getting a call from your dad, saying he has been hospitalized because he needs a triple bypass: scary AND a bend. That bend changes how I as an adult relate to my father. Suddenly the roles are reversed and I could be the caregiver.
By the time you reach 40, you have lived through enough bends to match the one in the picture from Austria (see above). The COVID-19 pandemic of the last two years was definitely a bend in the road for all. Some of us lost jobs that had been stable for years. Some of us lost family to the sickness. Some of us lost relationships over a difference in opinions about just about everything. I don’t have to list all all the topics; you can fill in the blanks.
So what do you do when you hit that unexpected bend?
Human nature has been to wish it had never happened. Close second, to try to get back to the conditions before that crisis hit. “Get back to normal.” Well, you can’t.
For one, it might be a catalyst for positive change. Those who survived cancer or other diseases will tell you that they had to change their diets – usually for the better. No more burgers and fries whenever they want; just healthy fish and steamed vegetables. (You are allowed one or two treats once in a while.) Second, the pain builds character. When things are good; we coast. When things are bad, we grow. A season of unemployment actually brought sharper focus about my career goals and abilities. I had more time to think and reflect.
Third, I think of all the Bible characters who had to grow in times of pain. I think of David; he was anointed king when he was around 14. Do you know when he was actually crowned king? He was about 30. That meant 16 years of waiting. God promised Abram/Abraham a son; that took 25 years. The prophet Elijah spent more time in caves and villages and even got depressed. They all reached bends in the roads.
Perhaps Bilbo Baggins of The Hobbit said it the best (at least in modern times):
Go back?” he [Bilbo] thought. “No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!” So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitterThe Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
And you know what? The road continues on the other side of the bend. You can go on.
Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.
Roads go ever ever onThe Hobbit – JRR Tolkien.
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
And trees and hills they long have known