Seizing Life’s Shocking Surprises with Help and Hope

My son Jon let out a yell. Chairs tumbled over, and his cell phone slid across the wood floor. By the time I reached Jon, the grand mal seizure had started.

Mom and Son
(Image from Pixabay)

Without warning, Jon’s body was suddenly bombarded by legions of electrical and chemical blasts that slammed him like tidal waves of shock.

Let’s all be clear here; I’m not the “stay-calm-during-a-seizure” sort of person. That’s like saying, “just stay calm” to passengers on an airplane as it suddenly takes a nose dive directly toward earth.

Not gonna happen.

I did what we who live in the most insanely unpredictable space of seizure disorders have somehow fashioned into our second nature:

  • I yelled for my husband
  • Kicked over the chair Jon’s head almost hit again
  • Turned him on his side to allow the saliva and blood to drain out of his mouth
  • Held his shaking head and waited for the storm to pass

The time between a seizure’s beginning and end is excruciating. Sometimes it feels like Christ will return before the seizure will end. There’s nothing a person can do but wait out the seizure and keep the seizing person safe.

Questions, Questions, Questions

Because Jon cannot remember the entire seizure experience and his memory is short-circuited for a while—often days—he’s left to wonder what on earth happened. He wonders, struggles, and repeats:

Why do I have seizures? They hurt me.

When will my pain go away?

Why do I have to stay in the hospital so long?

Between his questions, I cancel meetings, prepare long, calming baths, give medicine, make doctor appointments, and chat with the Lord about how seizures are totally unnecessary and need to be removed from all people on earth (just offering my two cents on that last one).

Maybe you have never experienced a seizure—I hope you haven’t! But we all undoubtedly experience the challenges that surface when life throws us into unexpected, painful circumstances.

It often begins with feeling shocked . . . maybe not electrical but certainly emotional. When we feel pain, aren’t we seized by emotion?

  • We go numb
  • Yell
  • Fall to the ground
  • Flounder
  • Wonder how something so excruciating could happen to us

Though few admit it, most of us shake our fists at the heavens and repeatedly ask:

Why did ____ have to happen? I’m in so much pain!

When will this be over?

Lord, where are you? I feel so alone.

A Golden Opportunity

While dealing with . . .

  • Physical
  • Emotional
  • Financial
  • Situational crises

We have a golden opportunity . . . granted, it’s one opportunity that no one really wants.

We can learn how to endure.

Endure

(Image from Pixabay)

Most of us don’t endure well. We try to “fix”; we try to control people and circumstances. We attempt to clean up the mess or dull the pain (which can give rise to addictions). But “endure”? Are you kidding me?

Endurance is a core virtue, a central character trait developed over time. It is also an intentional choice we make to face our obstacles head-on with submitted acceptance.

It is then, and only then, we can learn the power of endurance. Athletes, by choice, train their bodies to develop the needed muscles for a future reward:

  • The gold medal
  • The championship ring
  • The gold glove
  • The grand slam
  • The fulfillment of enduring well

You and I are spiritual athletes. We are faced with insurmountable odds that challenge us to either resort to being spiritual couch potatoes or to endure our training with Christ.

St. Francis de Sales wrote centuries ago on the work of endurance. In his Treatise on the Love of God, he wrote:

Painful things cannot indeed be loved when considered in themselves, but viewed in their source, that is, in the Divine Will and Providence which ordains them, they are supremely delightful. . . . Look at tribulations in themselves, and they are dreadful; behold them in the will of God, and they are love and delights. . . . In truth, love either takes away the hardship of labor, or makes it dear to us while we feel it. It is said that there is a river in Boeotia wherein the fish appear golden, but taken out of those their native waters, they have the natural colour of other fishes: afflictions are so; if we look at them outside God’s will, they have their natural bitterness, but he who considers them in that eternal good-pleasure, finds them all golden, unspeakably lovely and precious.1Francis de Sales, Treatise on the Love of God, http://biblehub.com/library/francis/treatise_on_the_love_of_god/chapter_ii_that_the_union.htm, accessed Nov. 3, 2017.

Who, What, When, Where, Why

It helps to have some guidance as we learn to endure. This is what I’ve learned from Jon’s seizure disorder which applies to all us of who get shaken up a bit.

Quite simply, these lessons help us with our deep questions common to many of us who struggle as well.

Who: We must look to the One who endured the worst of life: Jesus Christ. Perfect in every way, He still had to endure a life of mistreatment, injustice, torture, and eventually death.

Hebrews 5:8 puts it this way:

Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered.

Just as the horrid events were allowed, so they were required to offer every person eternal life. Consider Isaiah 53:3–5:

He was despised and rejected—

a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.

We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.

He was despised, and we did not care.

Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;

it was our sorrows that weighed him down.

And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,

a punishment for his own sins!

But he was pierced for our rebellion,

crushed for our sins.

He was beaten so we could be whole.

He was whipped so we could be healed.

What: Psalm 56:8 reads,

You keep track of all my sorrows. / You have collected all my tears in your bottle. / You have recorded each one in your book.

What happens in our lives has already passed through the hands and heart of God. What may appear horrid, impossible, unfixable, pathetic, unfair, whatever you name, the suffering is PART OF His full plan. In trusting that, we are empowered to endure what God allows.

When: Isaiah 46:9–10 says,

Remember the things I have done in the past.

For I alone am God!

I am God, and there is none like me.

Only I can tell you the future

before it even happens.

Everything I plan will come to pass,

for I do whatever I wish.

Our God is not limited to human time. Because He is outside of our time, answering “when” or time-related questions can’t be our focus. Our focus is anchored on God, our Savior.

Anchor

(Image from Unsplash)

Where: In suffering, it feels like God has abandoned us. Oh, how the enemy loves us to ponder, to question “Where is God?” God hasn’t ever moved. He promises He is present.

Hear Jesus’ words in John 10:28–30:

I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.

Don’t trust feelings; return to the truth, and believe He is with you.

Why: I wonder why that question is asked so often, because the answer does not remove the pain of loss or difficulty. It instead assumes someone is to blame.

If we truly believe God is all He says He is, we can be content with never receiving an answer.

Psalm 131:1–2 paints a picture of this contentment:

LORD, my heart is not proud;

my eyes are not haughty.

I don’t concern myself with matters too great

or too awesome for me to grasp.

Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself,

like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk.

Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me.

I can’t cure my son’s seizures. We can’t change what God allows. However, we are called to obedience, to seek wisdom and direction from our heavenly Father.

As I held my son’s head and waited out his seizure, I needed God’s peace more than answers. God provided peace and abundantly more.

Let Me Hear from You

I have to ask if are you willing to endure? How have you responded to what’s been allowed? Will you connect with me this week so we can encourage one another to endure well? I hope to hear from you!

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Notes:   [ + ]

1. Francis de Sales, Treatise on the Love of God, http://biblehub.com/library/francis/treatise_on_the_love_of_god/chapter_ii_that_the_union.htm, accessed Nov. 3, 2017.
  • Scotty Sullivan

    As you write, I try and picture myself in your circumstances. I fail. Only the one wearing the shoes can make that walk, but amazingly out of these painful life moments come such wisdom and encouragement for the rest of us who face life “seizures”, not understanding why, but praying for strength, wisdom and clarity to survive. I am blessed by your willingness to be open, to be real, and I for one, always walk away just a little more encouraged. Jon, you keep on rockin’, all of you are in my prayers 🙏🏻🙏🏻 Blessings in HIM

    • Scotty,
      You are incredible…always so faithful to encourage and love on our family. Thank you for your words of support; hearing that you walk away more encouraged is such a blessing to my soul. I pray you all are well and looking forward to a wonderful Thanksgiving! I will pass along to Jon your kind words and prayers as well. Have a wonderful day! Colleen

  • Patty Sherwood

    I endure, but I find it hard to understand the “why” of it all. “Why” are some of us required to endure and show our obedience, while others float along without a care?? My husband also has seizures, unlike you I have learned to stay calm and pray through them, and I can’t ever think of a time I have not ask ‘why”?

    • Patty,
      It’s so good to connect with you! I appreciate your honesty and care deeply about your struggles. It’s great to know one can actually be calm during seizures-way to go!
      On the question of “Why”…I’m wondering if you did have an answer…if the Lord decided to tell you why He has allowed all the struggles, what would that do for you? Reason being, I’ve been there and still sometimes wonder that. But I’ve learned to ask myself if the “why” were answered, where would I expect to go from there. It wouldn’t change your difficult realities; most of the time we hope knowing “why” would mean we could possibly change our challenges. We know the Lord didn’t answer Job’s “why”; He did reply with 178 questions Job could never answer. He asked…did you create the heavens, do you control the winds, seas, nature, so on. Our God is outside of our confined time and space; so much bigger than we can imagine that sometimes I have to believe we wouldn’t understand the ‘why’ if He did choose to answer it. I read this analogy one time…does a little minnow in a small pond understand all the laws of nature, the moon and it’s gravitational forces, the changing of seasons….of course not. But, that little minnow is created and loved by the one who does. As a result, the minnow, while not always comfortable, is able to rest and be free in his little pond; knowing his needs will be taken care of. I find so much comfort in that because in spite of not understanding the laws of nature or all God has created, we do live in a fallen world and we all suffer for countless reasons. In the end, we have to remember we walk by faith and not site; what seems horrifically mean to us may be God working in a way that transforms our lives and we have to choose to trust. It’s so much easier said than done, FOR SURE!!!!!
      Let me know what you think and feel…this is a struggle for ALL OF US and I’m so honored you shared it with me. (Side note, I did an interview with Philip Yancey on this exact thing…here’s the link if you want to see it http://insight.org/resources/video-library/reframing-ministries-interviews/series?vsid=30&name=philip-yancey ).
      I’m with you in this and so appreciate your honesty! Colleen

      • Patty Sherwood

        Colleen thanks for the support! I know the why, God didn’t promise there would be no trials, he promised to be there through them all. But being human sometimes I get angry with God for not taking all the challenges away, so I ask why, even when I can hear him saying “patience. ” I have learned to be calm because I have no doubt he is with me through every seizure and he is always there through the many trials in this life. I guess I should feel blessed he knows that I stand strong in my faith… And forgives me when I get angry and I ask “why?”

        • Patty,
          What a gracious response. I hope my words didn’t invalidate your feelings or frustrations about asking or expressing all the ‘why’s’ and ‘how come’ questions we have. The longest journey for me is the 6 or so inches between my head and my heart. While I know what God’s word says, the stories and truths He teaches us; there is that very human reality that we exist in a very broken world. Trying to make sense of it all when the pressure is unrelenting is almost impossible. Please know I understand and hope my response didn’t push you away or lead you to believe I don’t wrestle with those very same questions. Sometimes I have days where I feel strong and confident in moving forward; other days I wonder what on earth God was thinking by allowing challenges that seem insurmountable. On most days, I’m somewhere in between. In fact, I just returned from a conference where another woman was angry, wrestling with God over some very difficult issues. Adding to her anger was feeling isolated and misunderstood…while she knew in her head the answers, no one in her church was equipped to embrace her in the struggle. She was given cliché’ responses, told to have more faith, pray, on and on. I desire to be one who embraces all of you and want you to know you can ‘come as you are’…no expectations or flighty answers. You are loved, treasured, amazing, and I believe in you! Please connect anytime…just as you are! Colleen

          • Patty Sherwood

            Oh Colleen I didn’t mean to respond in a manner to make you think you had said something wrong! I can relate to her feeling of isolation, and I think that is because it is all well and good to keep the faith, pray, know that God is with you…..but when you have a loved one in the throes of a seizure (or any challenge that is just above you) you have to do just a little more than pray, and all of that responsibility for something that has no time table or schedule, will start to weigh on the caregiver, no matter how great your faith is!! I believe God wants us to have someone to turn to for support and understanding. It also gives a great chance for planting seeds…..

          • Patty, I fully agree…I could not be where I am today without the care and love of a few close friends who have carried me through seasons of unrelenting pain. I’m so thankful and honored you are here….to connect with me and others, to encourage us all, to receive support when you need it, and to share life together. Thank you for your words of wisdom and continued prayer. You are awesome! Colleen

  • Renee Stains

    Enduring along with you Colleen. It’s been along time since I’ve left a comment. In fact it’s been along time since I’ve even read your blog. My son, Daniel used to have seizures so I can emphathize. The last three years have been filled with unanswered questions. Daniel is nonverbal and has multiple medical conditions. He’s unable to tell us what is wrong so everything comes out in behavior. He is now 21 years old and has been dealing with medical problems with his entire life. Since he is now as big as I am his behavior is much harder to manage. He hits and kicks, punches holes in walls, throw things at people, breaks things and doesn’t sleep well! My husband and I are exhausted. My mind is always trying to figure out what is wrong with him. Every time we think we have found the answer it only helps him for a short while and then it’s back to the behaviors. We are enduring yet so very weary! I would appreciate your prayers for answers!
    Renee Stains

    • My dear, dear Renee,
      It is so good to hear from you! Oh how I have missed your humor and connection on Facebook! Sorry I had to shut my page down but I’m delighted you are here. And I KNOW how incredibly hard you worked with Daniel…who wouldn’t be thoroughly exhausted!!!! As Jon has gotten older, the challenges have changed as well. While we don’t have behavior issues like what you are talking about, we do have other issues that I have no answers for. I’m also careful not to toss out too many thoughts because you probably have tried more than I can imagine. So take these thoughts knowing I’m with you in this. One of the things we did was get genetic, DNA, urine, blood, and functional studies for Jon. We learned some genetic issues were affecting him, as well as other things I won’t go into. It helped direct us towards vitamin compounds he could absorb and gut issues we didn’t know about before.
      I am wondering about the comorbid issues Daniel may have….OCD, ODD, behavioral issues (you mentioned some), or other things that may affect his behavior. I also know if you are ever in danger, there are places that would help…places for living arrangements, home help, so on. Renee, I think we could talk for hours but for now, please know I LOVE hearing from you and I care deeply for what you are continuing to endure. Again, I understand the exhaustion and sometimes the frustration and anger that comes up because it’s so very daily. You are free to say anything here…I always welcome honesty because….this life is so hard and you are so courageous to keep on pushing through. Great to connect with you. Colleen

      • Renee Stains

        Thanks Colleen! We did do genetic testing a few years ago and have been working with the naturalpath Who has helped us greatly with his diet and getting him on some different vitamins and supplements. Some of this did help but like I said, as soon as he seems to be doing a little better than something else comes up. He has an appointment with the psychiatrist coming up which I am not sure how it will work with him being nonverbal and unable to communicate. We mostly need it for management of some of his behavior meds. Praying that God would just continue to guide me to the right doctors for him. I’m just very very weary of the battle. God continues to sustain me every day but sometimes I just wonder how many more days I can do this! I just want my son to be in heaven and be out of pain… Thanks for your suggestions and I will continue to pray for your family! Thank you also for the encouragement! It is amazing to me that you take time for all of these people, including myself in the midst of all you’re going through! God is obviously strengthening you daily! Thank you so much for all that you do!

        • Renee,
          I can’t imagine how weary you must be!!!! I remember thinking that several years ago; and now here you are, still committed to the work God has allowed. Who knows why or how it all works together for some greater good….but He promises us it does. Sometimes, I have to remind myself of that more than a thousand times a day. God has given you far more than a person can handle…. Who needs God when they believe they can handle it all anyway! And, without Him, there would be no hope. But, knowing the light that shines from you, I know He continues to use you in ways unimaginable. I just thought of the post I sent several weeks ago about the ancient practice of Kintsugi…(Kent-sue-gee). It’s an ancient practice from Japan where they take shattered pieces of China, use a glue and literally gold dust to repair the pieces. The more shattered, the more priceless because the gold and process is so pure. While we may be or feel shattered, God’s hand is in a treasured process of refining and remaking us into His image. Somedays it’s easier to accept that than others…I totally understand. I’m always here for you, Renee. It’s wonderful to re-connect.
          Oh, I just thought…most days I have to remind myself that James reminds us life is a vapor…we are guaranteed nothing but our next breath. When the days are long and I feel overwhelmed, that reminder helps. Hope you are encouraged. Colleen

          • Renee Stains

            So thankful for you. Just breathe…
            ♥️

          • Renee,
            You refresh my soul!!!! Yes, breathe…that is hard to remember when we feel suffocated by life, isn’t it. I think I may re-open my Facebook page since I miss you and many interactions! I so believe in you; your faith is so deep, so real, and yes, life is so hard. I believe the Lord smiles upon you, my dear friend, knowing He has allowed such horrific challenges and you still cling to Him is incredible. One day, when you see Him face to face, He will indeed say “well done, my good and faithful servant”. Much love, Colleen

    • Patty Sherwood

      I am sure you have tried everything, as I have had to go on my own with treating Will’s seizures as the medical world appears to use the try and try again approach. My husband is a very, very laid back, easy going and loving person, BUT once he started taking Keppra, which works great for his seizures he became a very mean and aggressive person. LOL, you will appreciate that our return to the doctor included me telling them to fix it or I had a skid loader and a manure pile…well as usual they tried another prescription, oh and it appears if there is a side affect Will is right in there to have it, 1 in 10,000 get hives from this, yep he got them, I called they advised to stop taking immediately, well you think?? Anyway they insisted we needed to make another 2 hour trip and another $200 office visit to prescribe something else, hummm let me think on that for a minute….no. So I researched and researched and I found Vinopetine, in the USA sold as a supplement and praise the Lord, I do have my teddy bear back with absolutely no side affects, I say all of this because you spend your time with them, you know what works and what doesn’t. I am one of the most anti-doctor people out there, people tend to treat them as Gods and refuse to tell them they are wrong, and yes sometimes they are wrong! You may want to research this further for Daniel http://www.jarrow.com/product/178/Vinpocetine.
      God Bless and sending prayers!

      • Patty,
        OH MY GOSH!!!!! I love this! I am one of those “Can’t we collaborate and all get along” kind of caregivers. Sometimes the docs have excellent things that help; AND, there are so many things that contribute to health and wellness that docs will never touch. It is totally maddening! I’m with you, let’s look at the WHOLE person….genetics, DNA, environment, history, any mutations, diet, sleep, exercise, weather, SO many things to consider. How WONDERFUL to have your teddy bear hubby back…the joy must be incomprehensible! And, thank you for passing along this info. I plan to check it out TODAY! Thank you, thank you! Jon and I both have genetic mutations that cause us not to metabolize essential vitamins and minerals; when it gets out of whack, it’s a mess. Please send any info that has helped along the way; I’m always looking to treating the whole person, not just the symptoms. This is fabulous! Thanks so much. Blessings, Colleen

        • Patty Sherwood

          Colleen we have found some great things that work for Will, his balance tends to get out of whack…well when you are 6’6″ and 254#s that can be quite a problem! It’s his ears, so I candle them, and not on any schedule, when I notice he’s starting to be unbalanced I do it and it’s amazing how it works. I am not saying all the “all natural, homeopathic” suggestions work, I am just saying think outside the box 🙂 I also find that if his magnesium is low all kinds of little things start to show up, he takes a supplement, but magnesium is taken through the skin more efficiently through your skin, so we use an Epsom salt foot soak, which he has no problem following this suggestion LOL. I just know that taking more drugs on top of drugs isn’t always the answer and some of those simple things are all that’s needed. Stand strong and praying with you!

  • Mary Tutterow

    Oh, Colleen, Renee, Patty! Our daughter Mary Addison was seizing many times each day for 25 years!!! In September 2016 she was greatly effected by Hurricane Matthew and the blood moons that came that winter (the moon cycles “lunacy” and barometric pressure make her seizures worse). She lost her ability to walk, talk and eventually eat solid food. We were told this was permanent and we sold our home and moved into a wheelchair accessible condo – each day watching her decline. I wrote about this horrible time on my blog http://marytutterow.com/great-expectations-the-enemy-of-change/. However, by some miracle we were invited to participate in a high level NIH genetics study (we had done many levels before). They found a mutation. Of the 10 people identified in the world with the same mutation, miraculously two were treated at our local medical university. Our neuro checked to see what, if anything, was helping them. They both were on Dilantin – THE ONE drug that no one had ever tried on her in 25 years. It worked! She is not seizure free, but dramatically better. Friends and family asked why we weren’t irate that such an old drug had never been tried before. However, we know that these 25 years have been a gift from God. We have been through the Valley of Insight. We have learned to love and serve on a new level. We know who and Whose we are and with that comes peace, joy, freedom, love – the very things the world is searching for in all the wrong places. Take heart! God is not doing this TO you. God is allowing you all to discover who you truly are that He might do amazing things THROUGH you. My husband and I willl pray for you by name. With empathy, compassion , admiration and love – Mary

    • Mary,
      It is so, so good to hear from you!!! I love your blog; your writings are so real, honest, pure. Your response to what has happened reveals how deeply rooted your faith is; so inspirational to me and all of us here. Like you, we have to ‘reframe’ our perspectives; we can’t look back in anger because that changes nothing. We CAN however look forward in hope because we are held by Christ who promises to never leave us or forsake us. I wonder who you would be had the last 20+ years not happened as they did. I wonder how many hearts you wouldn’t be able to reach today if it weren’t for the chiseling challenges you have endured. Transformation is so painful at times but when we cling to the belief that God’s see’s the whole picture and has a good plan, the passage through pain is more tolerable. What a witness you are, a light in this angry, dark world. Thank you so much for surrendering, for pressing through, and for taking time to write here. You have encouraged my heart in many ways! Thank you so very much! May God shine upon you in the days ahead! Colleen

    • Patty Sherwood

      I will never forget the first seizure, a month to the day after we were married, my first instinct was “hey I didn’t sign up for this” lol, although I knew I would do whatever was required. Unlike some of you I actually know the reason for Will’s, he fell 2 stories and landed on his head setting steel over 30 years ago. He was in a coma for 3 days, and other than broken bones, etc he mended with no real consequences until almost 6 years ago. I am sure God has set me on this journey for a reason, and I will try to remain strong and “patient” for his guidance. Thank you Mary for the prayers and I will count my blessings that I have not endured this for 25 years, (it has been a short 5 in comparison with you). I will add your family to my prayers also!

      • Patty,
        Oh my gosh….to the day! Do any of us know what we sign up for when we marry???? I believe everyone has an element-sometimes more like a cyclone-of surprises in marriage. You seem to be doing well and I so appreciate your encouragement to all of us. You are wonderful! Colleen