Remember is a powerful word. You may recall a significant date in your life by reflecting on where you were and what you were doing. A few of you may remember where you were when you heard about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. More will remember where you were on November 22, 1963, when you heard that John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Many will recall what you were doing on September 11, 2001, when you first heard about multiple terrorist attacks carried out on our nation’s soil.
Other dates became milestones in your life—and the rest of the world is likely unaware of their significances. December 14, 1997, was such a day for me.
That day, en route from Bridgeport, California, to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, I looked in my rearview mirror and watched my pregnant wife, Jenny, and our five-year-old son, Danny, die in a single-vehicle accident. My squared-away world shattered and disintegrated in mere seconds. One minute, I, a Marine Corps captain, was on my way to attend a military school; the next minute, my high school sweetheart, our firstborn son, and our unborn baby were dead.
I remember wondering helplessly, Why did this happen? What will I do? Is there any way I can be a single-parent to three-year-old Hannah and nine-month-old Ethan and still serve as a Marine? Will I make it through this “desert experience”? How?
People deal with desert experiences in many different ways. Some opt to escape the pain by ending their earthly lives. They fear their circumstances more than they fear death. It is impossible to fully understand what goes through their minds during their final moments, but it is doubtful that they truly consider the resulting desert experiences they will put their loved ones through.
Others use alcohol or drugs to cope with pain, but the anticipated relief is only temporary. The potential effects of either choice can spiral downward and cause a desert experience to worsen.
Some seek help from counselors, as they realize that, on their own, they don’t have answers. Others turn to their communities, groups of caring people gleaned from among their families, friends, neighborhoods, and churches.
Another way I’ve seen people deal with desert experiences involves turning to their faith journeys and seeking help from God.
I wrestled with all those options—and the consequences of each—after that horrible accident on an Arizona highway in 1997. I thought back over the life I’d experienced before tragedy struck … and those experiences where others had helped during tough times. And I felt encouraged to keep going.
So, Friend, what do you need to remember that will help you today in what you’re facing? I hope it will help you find the courage to keep going.