One evening my car got broken into. I got a knock on the door in the middle of the night from my neighbour who’d spotted my obviously-ransacked car, doors askew, in the driveway. From there, my night, as well as the subsequent days, became about police, sniffer dogs, dusting for fingerprints, missing items and my property being ‘taken down to the station for photographing’.
None of which I was expecting. It came out of nowhere and just like that it was a thing. It was a suddenly.
In all, it was actually a very minor thing – there was no lasting damage to my car, there wasn’t really much worth stealing inside of it to begin with, and they caught the guys who did it (great work Queensland Police!).
Unfortunately, that’s not the outcome of many suddenlys. There have been plenty of other suddenlys in my life – a few in particular – that have had huge implications on my time, my emotions, my finances and my health. Suddenlys that weren’t so quick and easy to wrap up and walk away from.
We all know the feeling. You’re going along with your life when all of a sudden…
…the computer crashes, and that critical piece of work is lost
…a driver cuts you off, and the car is totalled
…the doctor doesn’t like the look of it, and lots of tests are ordered
…the tests come back, and they’re not good
…a secret comes out, and everything is different
…a relationship ends, and you never saw it coming
…your company restructures, and your team is laid off
And suddenly, your day, your week, your month, your year, sometimes even your life – becomes different. Becomes not what you were expecting.
It’s happened to me before. I’m sure it’s happened to you. And it will happen again.
That’s the nature of suddenlys. No insurance policy or life plan or savings account can totally rule out the possibility of a suddenly coming our way.
So then what do we do with that? What do we do with the knowledge that, at the end of the day, you just don’t know what might lie up ahead, and there’s no way to totally control for all of the variables?
We can commonly respond in three ways:
It’s easy to look at the unpredictability of life and let fear creep in. Perhaps especially fear, not for ourselves, but for loved ones. But fear accomplishes nothing, and costs much. It drains our emotional and mental energy and gives exactly nothing back. It can cause us to hold back from experiences, risks and relationships that have the potential to add great richness to the canvas of our lives. Fear is a liar and a thief, and has absolutely no power to prevent the random suddenlys of life.
Another temptation is to look at the fact that suddenlys can and do occur from time to time, and so throw any common sense and good planning out the window and instead choose foolishness. Foolishness thinks, “well, life happens and I might as well just live for the moment!”
Foolishness ignores the wisdom of steps like good financial planning, insurance policies, building strong community, eating right and exercising, and other life patterns that will help create margin and health in our lives as a precaution against suddenlys or their fallout implications.
I believe the final and most life-giving response we can choose to the reality of suddenlys is faith.
By faith, I mean maintaining an objective point of reference that is bigger than yourself and your circumstances. Something that is a source of meaning, hope and strength beyond what you could summon up for yourself.
For me, I choose faith in God. When I have encountered the biggest, most disruptive suddenlys in my life, it has been my faith in God that has made all the difference in how I navigated what I couldn’t control.
Some, figures like Ghandi or Nelson Mandela, for instance, choose faith in a cause. Others hold to faith in a value or principle, such as justice or freedom, or a process like science or reason. When we have faith in something or someone that doesn’t change, it better equips us to face the changes brought by the suddenlys of life.
We live in a world where suddenlys can and do come our way from time to time. We may not be able to totally control that, but what we can do is be deliberate about the way we think about them, and what we hold onto during them.