“Calamity will come upon you suddenly. It will be like a bulging wall that bursts and falls. In an instant it will collapse and come crashing down.”
“It’s been one of those kinds of days
When the whole world is on my case…”
Derek Webb, I Hate Everything (But You)
Affliction is enamoured of thy parts,
And thou art wedded to calamity.
William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
Friar Laurence could have easily said the above words to me just the same as to Romeo in literary history. Actually, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that calamity and I have a (tough) love affair going, but from the evidence of late, some might begin to wonder.
Take, for instance: in May I purchased a laptop computer. Wide-screen. Great RAM. DVD-writer. Loaded to the hilt with some pretty nifty software. Less than a month later, as I was preparing to run my restoration disks, calamity struck. I was in the backyard—beside my pool—where I had just completed a blog, packed up my stuff and was heading back inside, when my laptop and I parted ways. Guess you could say, swimming pools and laptops do not great bedfellows make. There it lay, on the bottom of the pool, minus backup and only the first payment on it, water bubbling all around it, looking up at me as if to say, “What happened?”
I howled and lamented to the night sky. Fissures opened deep within my soul and from them erupted such moanings as never heard by human ears. My baby! My Precious! The sobbing lasted well into the morning. What, pray tell, was the lesson in that?
Got another pool story for you. Just this week my wife and I were getting me down into the pool with the aid of our brand spankin’ new power hoyer lift. (A little background: because of the numerous surgeries to both ischiums resulting in the fragile condition and paper-thin texture of my skin, I can no longer do slide-transfers; Anytime I have to be moved from my wheelchair to another resting place, I have to be placed inside a sling that is attached to a lift that powers me up, over and down to where I need to be) Well, sir, wouldn’t you know that as my body was gently descending to the pool deck, the lift decided it wanted to take a dive into the cool water on such a dog-day afternoon!
Oh, the consternation I felt as it whipped me with it and in that time-standing-still moment, I heard the sickening sound of money flying out the window. Not to mention that a 200-pound lift took me down with it as I was held securely in its seat-belt-like sling. Paralyzed body and hoyer slammed into the water and all the way to the bottom. For what seemed like minutes, I was trapped. Panic set in and I thrashed and slashed to get myself free. My poor Sandy took the brunt of my fit as I slammed and pounded her legs as she was trying to cut me loose. All logic and level-headedness somehow vanished; must’ve been that incredible hit my head took as it connected hard with the lift as both entered the water…Needless to say, the lift is toast.
Calamity. Is there any good we can learn from such a precipitous word?
It does not surprise me that the word “calamity” is mostly found in Jeremiah’s writings in the various versions of the Bible by a two-to-one ratio over second place, Proverbs. Third in line is Job. Wedged between the Weeping Prophet and the Suffering Saint is a book of maxims, truisms, principles and teachings. Perhaps God is telling us something.
Of note is that our word today comes from the Greek ‘kalamos’, meaning reed or pen. Imagine with me, Solomon picking up his writing utensil and penning these words for our benefit:
“[The righteous] may trip seven times, but each time they will rise again. But one calamity is enough to lay the wicked low.” (Proverbs 24:16, NLT)
Solomon, whose name means peace, son of David whose hands bled with war in order to bring peace, tells us that rain falls on the just as freely as the unjust. But how will we respond? The wicked, he tells us, will SUCCUMB to disaster but the righteous will OVERCOME! Therein lies the difference. The human spirit may take you only so far, and there are amazing testimonies as to what humans have endured, but eventually even the human spirit is unable to withstand the onslaught of life’s little mishaps.
Each calamity that befalls the child of God offers two amazing opportunities: to show an unregenerate world that God delivers us out of them all (see Psalm 34:19), and to remind ourselves that although we live in a fallen, unkind world, there is a world to come that has captured our imagination and for which we have been captured. World of bliss after blessed bliss, absent of sorrow and harrowing trials. World of peace. World without end. Amen.
Next time the world throws its weight against you to knock you down or pulls the rug out from under you, or sends a Katrina to your harbor let these “penned” words grant your soul the serenity and security of an overcomer through Christ (Romans 8:37):
When any calamity has been suffered, the first thing to be remembered is how much has been escaped.
It is only from the belief of the goodness and wisdom of a supreme being, that our calamities can be borne in the manner which becomes a man.
Every calamity is a spur and valuable hint.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Disaster is an occasion for virtue.