One minute we are cruising along enjoying life. The next we feel the bump and shudder of the collision as our heart is ripped apart by one of those iceberg dates on our calendar. Before we know it, our life is taking on water and we find ourselves quickly sinking in emotions we cannot manage and were not expecting. What do we do with being completely overwhelmed?
Nearly all of us have these iceberg dates. They can be holidays that have been eclipsed by something bad that happened on that holiday in the past. They can be special days celebrated by many, yet are days when we are left out of the celebration and reminded that we are alone... or rejected... or forgotten. They can be the unwanted anniversary of a day that ripped our heart to pieces in the past — the death of a loved one, the abandonment by someone close to us, a time when we were betrayed by someone we love, or the time of our own epic sin and failure. Unfortunately, iceberg dates dot our calendars in a fallen world.
Over time, we can sometimes sweep aside the emotions of these days and go on with life with them nothing more than a blip on our emotional calendar. Some years, we don't even notice their occurrence and we sail smoothly on to other things. Then, without warning, one year we bump up against an iceberg date and everything crashes in on us. We feel the dull thud impact like the Titanic hitting her infamous iceberg. We notice the shuddering of our emotions as we absorb the blow and our heart is ripped apart afresh. Suddenly, all those deeply buried and hidden emotions flood our hearts with the frigid and paralyzing pain that we had hoped was buried or gone. The agony, grief, pain, loneliness, isolation, and panic of being forsaken are just as fresh as when they first occurred.
When icebergs happen, what do we do? Where do we turn? While we have hit one of those icebergs, we still have lives to live, jobs to do, and responsibilities to fulfill. How do we do them? How do we get our emotions back under control? How do we stop the hurt in our heart? How do we do more than stay busy and trudge on?
First, we share our pain and get help from Jesus. Remember what Jesus told his closest disciples before his death:
They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, "Sit here while I pray." He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death," he said to them. "Stay here and keep watch" (Mark 14:32-34).We can turn honestly to him and tell him how we feel, just as Jesus told the Father how he felt (Mark 14:34-35; Mark 15:33-34).
For we do not have a high priest [a holy intercessor] who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one [Jesus] who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:15-16).
Are we hurt? Do our guts feel ripped out? Do we grieve? Has our iceberg date ripped open our heart and sunk our emotions? Let's talk to Jesus about this! We don't have to dress it up in fancy language or holy dress. We can be real and be honest. We are not abandoned in our feelings of being overwhelmed. So let's ask for Jesus' help to heal our heart and help us carry our burdens.
Second, because Jesus knows the emotions of feeling abandoned and feeling forsaken by those close to him, he has promised to never abandon us (Hebrews 13:5; Romans 8:37-39). As disciples, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to us to be his abiding presence in our hearts and to bring us his presence and his peace (John 14:18-25). The Holy Spirit can minister to places in us that words can't reach, giving us power we didn't have (Ephesians 3:16) and the comfort and joy we desperately need (Romans 15:13; John 16:33). The Holy Spirit can stir our hearts to live and love again when we think our hearts have lost the capacity to love (Romans 5:5; 2 Timothy 2:7). The Holy Spirit even assures us that whatever we say and whatever we feel will be communicated to the Father in ways that are holy and acceptable to him — even if we don't have the right words or even any words to say (Romans 8:26-27).
Iceberg dates happen to all of us. They float on the seas of our future calendars. So when one of those iceberg collisions occur, let's not forget to call out to Jesus for help. He knows our pain. He's felt that pain first hand. He is our assurance we are not abandoned. He sends the Holy Spirit to those of us who ask for the Spirit (Luke 11:13). The Spirit comes as Jesus' presence within us to comfort us, to bring us peace, to use his power to strengthen us, and to re-awaken our power to live and love again. Iceberg dates happen to all of us, but they don't have to sink us!