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As a pastor, I see people experience all types of hardships.
I see pain on just about every level. At the same time, however, I see the amazing way adversity and pain bring out love from those around us. I can’t recount how many funerals I’ve seen that lead to reconciliation of an estranged family, or the number of encouraging cards – packed with pounds of love – I’ve been privy to for people in the hospital; I don’t even pretend to know the power-packed emotions a one-on-one visit with someone wrestling through life brings.
I’m certainly not saying bad times are good. In fact, they are called bad times because they are, well, bad. What I’m saying is that along with the bad, an opportunity arises for love to fill the gap and show us something we didn’t really know, or perhaps didn’t feel, before.
A few weekends ago, I came home with my wife and girls from a long day of boating in the hot sun. I had water-skied for the first time this season and could anticipate all the muscles that would soon start to ache. I felt drained and tired, so I took three-anticipatory Ibuprofen – already on the counter – and headed to bed at the early time of 9 p.m.
As I crawled in, next to my dog-tired wife, she asked me a peculiar question: “Why did you just take sleeping pills?”
“I didn’t. I took Ibuprofen, the blue gel caps.”
“The ones on the counter?”
“Honey, those were extra-strength sleeping pills. They had spilled out in the drawer, and I had gathered them up and put them on the counter to put back in the bottle tomorrow morning.”
Needless to say, I was concerned and called Poison Control. I told them what had happened – how the normal dosage was one maximum and I took three. “That’s a lot...you have someone there to watch you right?” they asked. “Yes, why?” I replied. “Because although it’s not technically an overdose, if you go to sleep during the peak period, you could stop breathing.”
Let me cut to the chase. I prayed a lot, and physically I was fine. Unfortunately, it served as a massive trigger to my panic disorder, which raged for an hour and a half; I couldn’t even focus to have a conversation. In fact, I could very well chalk up that night to my worst in recent memory.
So, what was good about it? Well, even though my wife was initially more tired than I was, she stayed up to keep me safe and help me through the panic attack – playing games of Uno with me and challenging me to head-to-head solitaire matches on our iPhones. She prayed for me. She tried to talk to me. She demonstrated more unselfish love through that situation than she would’ve been able to do in an entire month of things going great. My pain allowed her love to shine.
I woke up the next morning rather groggy to the face of my youngest girl staring at me with a sweet smile. “Good morning, Daddy,” she said. I mumbled, “Good morning,” but before I could roll over to get back to sleep, she sweetly added, “What did we learn last night? To read the label.”
Lance Hahn is senior pastor at Bridgeway Christian Church in Rocklin. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.