Last week, I let you all know that I would be taking a few days off to recover from some epileptic seizures. Little did I know that I would subsequently have an additional two more seizures after posting that Facebook status, bringing the grand total for the week to three. (I think.) This is a bit out-of-the-norm for me and it doesn’t include all of the horrifically difficult side effects, such as anxiety, sleeplessness, loss of appetite, etc. It also doesn’t include all of the auras, which can often feel like miniature seizures in and of themselves. Eventually, this brings on a brutal wave of exhaustion, fear and discouragement. I won’t bore you with any further details, but suffice it to say that it’s been a rough few days. I do want to thank you all for the prayers and encouraging messages.
During the week that I was gone, there were two prominent suicide cases reported in national news. I’m sure you heard about them. Famed fashion designer Kate Spade took her own life at the age of 55 in her New York City home. Three days later, 61-year-old, world-renowned American chef and reality TV star Anthony Bourdain killed himself while in his Strasbourg hotel room in France. Two high-profile celebrity suicides within the span of a few days certainly isn’t something to ignore. Neither should we be ignorant of the uptick in state-by-state suicide numbers across the country. This is obviously indicative of a national epidemic, and it’s the reason I always support giving out the Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-278-8255.
On Saturday, my parents and I traveled a few hours north to attend a memorial service for a young man who died tragically in a recent rafting accident. This man sat under my father’s early pastoral teaching for several years, back when I was a little boy. I remember him well. He actually followed my blog and Facebook page for a short time and was passionate about his cultural and political views. When I arrived at the church, I was immediately greeted by the faces of people who babysat me over 20 years ago. The whole event was a somber and poignant reminder not only of how quickly time passes, but also of how short our lives on this earth truly are.
Indeed, all of us could perish at any given moment. Life is short. Life is fragile. Life can be quickly, easily and unexpectedly ended, whether by one’s own hand or by unpredictable and uncontrollable circumstances. Much of what I saw in the news and experienced in my personal family life last week only further illuminated and confirmed these truths. And oftentimes — as those who remain behind — we’re left with nothing but questions. Why did he have to die so young? Why do seemingly good people suffer from illnesses and disorders? Were there warning signs that he was depressed or unhappy? Could any of this have been prevented?
It’s only natural to think in these terms. Contemplating the depths of such questions is part of what makes us human. Thankfully, there is hope, purpose and meaning to be found in in the midst of all the suffering, despair and confusion. I’m not talking about prescription medications, therapy sessions or doctor visits, although these things can certainly be necessary and even beneficial in the proper context. (I have a neurologist appointment coming up next week myself.) I’m talking about reaching past the physical and psychological and examining the things deep beyond the surface; the things that every person on the planet truly desires; things like significance, love, joy, peace, belonging, emotional support. These things are not part of the physical world or the medical universe. They can’t be prescribed by a doctor or handed out over the counter by a pharmacist. They don’t come in convenient plastic bottles with white labels. But they are nonetheless crucial to our survival and our very existence.
Speaking of suffering and survival, I had somewhat of an epiphany while I was away. I’ve always done my best to rely on God and trust in Him to help me battle through my ongoing seizures. In essence, I’ve been trusting in Him to just help me endure each day and make it to the end without having to go to the hospital. Then I go to bed, pray for the ability to sleep for at least five hours, and wake up and do it all over again the next morning. It’s a tiresome cycle. More recently, however, my thought has been: “What if I incorporate my epilepsy journey into my ever-expanding writing platform and let God take it from there?” So, that’s what I’m going to do. You’ll see some changes, announcements and additions coming to my site soon in that regard. Be sure to stay tuned to my Facebook Page and Twitter profile as well.
The beautiful truth in the midst of the chaos is that — as children of the Living and Eternal God — we can and should find our hope and joy and significance in Him. He is there for all who will turn to Him, embrace Him, repent and call upon His name. The anguish, misery, pointlessness, and aimless wanderings occur when we abandon Him and try to handle life on our own. This isn’t to say that we will be blessed with a tribulation-free life. But, it does mean that we can live our lives full of hope and aligned with a divinely-inspired purpose for however long God chooses to keep us upon this Earth.
And, ultimately, that amount of time is up to Him. It always has been and it always will be. It could be 60 more seconds. It could be 60 more years.
It’s up to us to decide what to do with the time that we’re given. I don’t know about you, but I plan to make the most of it.