What do you do when there is nothing you can do?
Life took an unexpected turn for the worst and things changed suddenly. Maybe it’s a call bearing bad news, or a relationship ending. What do you do when you look around and you feel stranded? There is no way for you to change your circumstances and you find yourself in a season of life where it is what it is.
You never think it will ever happen to you. That’s what everyone says and from personal experience I can say that’s a little too true. It is the furthest thing from your thoughts or concerns. But it happens when you least expect it. Your mind doesn’t even know how to process it because you’re thinking at a million miles per hour wondering “why me, why now?”. There is almost never an immediate answer or an obvious silver lining to pain or tragedy. If you ever thought there was a God, well He certainly seems absent now and you lose all faith. It seems like the end of everything and hell breaks loose. Your whole life gets turned upside down. Life also doesn’t usually just knock you down once, but it beats the crap out of you. It’s a series of one bad things after another. It starts to feel like your life is its own version of a Series of Unfortunate Events.
In the Meantime
This past year I found myself in a “in-the-meantime” season of life, described by Andy Stanley who is a pastor at North Point church and Athens Church. So much was out of my control in my life and I felt like I losing everything. He asks, “What do you do when there is nothing you can do?”. Does God know about my problems and has He heard my prayers? Something has never spoken so clearly to me until I listened to this series, because on November 2nd, I entered a season of life where I didn’t think I could keep going.
It was the furthest thing from my mind. I was floating on Cloud 9 because life felt so dang good. For the first time in a long time, everything was together. Life made sense and I was happy. I couldn’t remember the last time I felt so good about everything in my life. And then that night life knocked me down, and real good too. Knocked the wind out of me as if I got tackled from behind. For over four years I have dealt with a chronic knee injury in both of my knees. There are a handful of issues that are wrong with them, but plainly put, God made me this way and being a Division I swimmer just didn’t work well together. My knees have subluxed (meaning they dislocated, but went back into place on its own) six times in the last four years, two being within three months of each other. One happened three weeks before the U.S. Olympic Trials, while the second being the night after a dual meet. I was home alone, walking in my room and my knee gave out. I lost all stability as if my knee turned into rubber, and I fell. Furthest thing in my mind. My life changed in an instant.
I think everyone deals with tragedies and hardships differently. Everyone has their own experiences. So I felt alone. Really alone. I didn’t know anyone else who was facing a career-ending, double knee surgery, right in the eyes. To me, it felt like I was staring down the ending of everything I knew and had. Nothing felt tangible to me anymore. I missed out on team outings, meets, football games and I wasn’t swimming. I started to fall behind in school because I was so focused on my injury and how I could get back into the pool but the pain was so excruciating and roadblocks kept coming up. I was at a high risk for re-injury so I was being carefully watched and taken care of. But it wasn’t the same. No one knew what to say to me anymore, and I don’t blame them. I struggled with gaining weight and eating properly. I kept trying to push myself physically to get back into shape but I was struggling more with an internal battle.
The doctors expect a 6 to 8 month recovery period, with little chance of being the swimmer I was before. I did x-rays, MRI’s, rehab, met with doctors, prayed, cried, you name it. I lost myself in the injury. On top of all of this I had a big decision to make. Either get surgery now and call it quits, or pray that it didn’t dislocate again so I could try to finish the season, and get surgery after. If I got surgery now, would I ever come back from it? If I tried waiting, would it dislocate again? If it didn’t, would I even swim well? There were so many things to consider. What was best for me, and then what was best for my team. Honestly for a while, nothing seemed obvious to me.
So what do you do when there is nothing you can do?
Finally, after some time, I decided that whatever happens, happens and that I should try to finish the season. At some point in my life I would surely find a silver lining that would help ease the pain. I decided to focus on other things that I could control, such as my diet and working hard in school. Following my passions and putting my energy into things that made me happy again.
I also realized I’m not alone, even though sometimes it feels like it. You are not alone even though you might feel like it. Some seasons of life are challenging but they don’t last forever, that is why it is a season. Coming to the conclusion that I should accept this adversity is the best thing I can do at this time. It makes me a part of who I am, and struggling through this has only made me stronger. Every day brings its own challenges, and surgery will be a whole new season of life but that’s okay.
My future is certainly different from what I imagined or planned but I have learned to rest and trust there is a plan. Jeremiah 29:11 gives me hope during a dark time full of unknowns.
“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.”
So this may not be what I have planned, and this “in-the-meantime” season isn’t what I have wanted, but this isn’t the end, and it doesn’t last forever. What do I do when there’s nothing I can do? I accept the good that comes with the bad, and rest in the fact that there is more for me than I may have ever planned for myself.
*You can watch the In the Meantime series here: In the Meantime- Andy Stanley; I highly recommend it to anyone who is in a “in-the-meantime” season of life.