Why bad stuff happens

I’ve been really poorly for about 2 weeks and for about 6 days during that time I had no voice. Keeping silent and staying in bed gave me far too much time to think and worry (bad) and lots of time to read (good). 

I’ve blogged about the first of two books I read and will come to the other one in a week or two but for now I just want to thank people for their prayers and tell you one small story about the way in which they were answered .

Last Monday eve we headed straight out the door not stopping to eat having heard that Matt had been admitted to hospital. It was a long hour’s drive up the motorway having very little idea of the severity of the situation. For the most part I was trying to keep my panic and anxiety in place we shared a tense silence as David just focussed on driving us there safely. Before we left I had reached a friend on the phone and had shared what we knew and asked her to pray.

‘I can’t pray’ I said, ‘I’m feel way too fragile and fearful’

‘It’s okay’ she reassured me, ‘other people will do the praying and God will do the holding on to you’.

Now I know the kind of things that we pray for one another in these situations, I’ve prayed such prayers so often myself: that the person would know the embrace of God in the midst of their fear.

So when  car over took us on the motorway and then pulled into the space just in front of us, I saw the number plate and crumpled into my hanky:  ‘HUG 1’ !

‘That’s just bonkers’ I told God – ‘do you arrange for that car to drive up and down the motorway offering endless reassurance to anxious people?’

There was only a benign silence in response to this question.

Someone has said that coincidences are God’s way of remaining anonymous.  And I know when bad things happen coincidences can seem daft especially when what we really might want would be some awesome impressive miracle of healing (in fact Matt was very poorly when we arrived in and remained in a lot of pain but once he did finally receive treatment he began what seems to have been a full recovery and he was discharged 24 hours later).  But actually coincidences do make a difference, just as do small kindnesses such as prayers. The trick is not to go looking for them or needing them but not to miss receiving them when they come our way.

The second thing I want to say about bad things happening is something that has hit me with the force of a revelation. I’m not claiming it’s original thought but it did help pull me out of a rather self-defeating spiral.

If you are not bothered about the the train of thought and would rather just arrive at ‘revelation station’: here is the liberating thought (excuse the language but sometimes it’s necessary)  ‘Crap happens’. 

Why is that a revelation?

Because I haven’t followed it with the word ‘because…’.

Sometimes bad stuff  happens because of things and sometimes bad stuff just happens. It just does. It isn’t anyone’s fault. It doesn’t happen because I did something wrong or because someone doesn’t like me or because I should have known better. It just happens.

And that’s a relief because I’ve wasted quite a bit of time lately beating myself up… ‘I should have taken time off sooner’, ‘I should have said no to more things’, ‘ I should have been taking more vitamins/eating better/running more’ and so on and so on, round and round in a miserable spin.

I realised that finding someone or something to blame every time something goes wrong in life gives me the illusion that I can stay in control and stop bad stuff happening. It’s an instinctive human response: we look for a cause, a reason, so that next time we can avoid that course of action and thereby protect ourselves from any further harm.  This is a good process when you are a kid learning to cross the road, it’s a bad one when you are adult who has failed to dodge a nasty virus and then wastes time wondering ‘what did I do wrong?’

The silly thing is I didn’t even realise I was doing this, until this bad thing happened to Matt. After I heard he’d been admitted to hospital, I admit I spent a few minutes, without even realising it, playing the same ‘why did this bad thing happen?’ scenario in my mind. Then, when I spoke to someone else before we left,  I rapidly explained what I knew at that point and sensed their interest change from interest to blame. ‘Yes, he had been drinking with friends the evening before he was taken ill but no, that doesn’t mean he was excessively drunk nor did it mean that it was his fault’.  But it felt like a judgement had been made:  he was to blame, he’d, ‘brought it on himself’, therefore somehow he wasn’t quite as worthy of prayer as he had been a moment before. Hmm, I got a bit cross.

And that’s when I realised I’d been doing the same thing to myself: rejecting myself, deciding I was to blame for being ill (and all the consequent cancellations and disappointments that flowed from that) and because I’d got myself in this pickle why on earth would God want to help me get out of it? But I hadn’t got myself in this pickle nor had Matt. Bad stuff just happens. We live in a world crammed full of bad stuff happening and we cannot expect to avoid it. (As it happens both the novels I read while I’ve been ill were on this same theme of ‘how is it possible to live joyfully when life has dealt you a really bum deal’, both offered rich answers)

If we insist on having to find a reason why bad stuff happens,  we will end up living in a fearful ‘being careful not to step on the cracks in the pavement’ kind of way.  And while recklessness is clearly stupid,  neither should we  live in either fear or self-righteousness, believing that because we have ticked all the boxes, done all the ‘right things’, eaten the right food, said our prayers in the right way, that bad stuff  will therefore will not happen to us. Because it will and when it does we will feel doubly slapped in the face.

(And if it doesn’t happen we will become superior and annoy the hell out everyone else for whom the ‘crap happens’ mantra is true).

‘It is what it is’ is a line that has helped me a lot lately. It’s not resignation, it’s just accepting and getting on with life anyway.

We are getting by and getting better, thanks again for the love and hugs.

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