Thinking, Acting, & Thriving Beyond Adversity
By Dr. Cathie Dorsch
“It was 43 hours of trauma, from the time he collapsed until there was finally some medical attention…we had not slept for even longer than this…no one could take him.”
My conversations with Dass in South India always give me a sense of perspective. Covid restrictions here have been inconvenient compared to the life and death agonies our dear brother has endured leading his community through the latest surge of Covid. There were times his voice betrayed the fatigue I knew he was feeling, that deep ache of mental and emotional weariness from carrying family, friends, and neighbors through wave after wave of uncertainties and troubles. Where would meals come from, when and where would supply come in the face of vast joblessness, and in spite of it all, Dass has been a champion throughout, even in the hours he felt alone, neighbors dying, friends dying, dead remaining unburied. Yet he continues, resilient and resolved.
The collapse of the man described by Dass was of the husband of one of our teachers in the elementary school, Suresh, father of two little girls under the age of 7. This is an active family in the community, all of course terribly shaken when this patriarch suffered a massive stroke. Dass & Ruth sprang into action in a neighborhood already been overrun with deaths and emergency vehicles taking away the dying. So they carried Suresh, unresponsive, to the hospital in Kolar, which could not admit or treat him. They ventured again to the next town, with the same results – Covid patients filled the hospitals and he was rejected again. They drove on, town to town, as far as to Bangalore hospitals where he could still not be seen. Finally, after an exhausting 40 hours of driving, carrying, trying to gain admission in 9 different hospitals, Suresh was admitted to a mission hospital and treated. The pastors stayed with him, and the outlook was overwhelmingly bleak.
Dass called for prayer, and I could feel his concern and sense the weight on his shoulders. It was our turn to swing into action oceans and continents away, bearing the need by hitting the deck in prayer. If we can’t fly there to help, if we can’t be in the flesh, we can be in the Spirit instant in and out of season in prayer. Day by day was tentative…until just a few days later. Hospital staff remarked, “This is miracle of miracles, he is out of danger and improving.” Within two more days, he would be moved to a ward, and while the family will address his rehab needs together, they are relieved and blessed to have husband and father alive. By the time of this writing, he had gone home! Doctors said they had never seen someone come back from so far gone. There is no small comfort in the community.
Yes, many have suffered and many have died…my own heart still feels the ache of my dad’s passing in October 2020 after a grievous home-hospice battle of several months. I wonder if my mother, his wife of 61 years, will ever be the same. Will my own heart quit feeling punched when I see his picture, when I remember he’s not there, when I hear an Elvis song?? “Normal” has left the building. Little feels normal. I don’t always feel normal, so how could Mom, after the majority of her life had been spent with her love? These are soul-issues not often discussed, so we can be ill prepared in knowing what to expect from the abnormal ache. I am deeply, deeply grateful for every moment I spent with Daddy in the last three years, having downsized to be nearer and to work on my doctorate. We have no regrets. Then I am whiplashed with the wish “if I could only have done the work faster and harder, Daddy could have seen that graduation.” If only. How many regrets suck the air out of people? Regrets about how time was or wasn’t spent, about jobs left or not left, all the people and places in the wake of our choices or procrastination… Only by the grace of God and the oxygen of His Word can we live and move and have our being.
Then there are my dear friends in Israel and our precious Gan BeShalom, still growing and thriving, outside Jerusalem. Our Seven Species Garden and the long strip of Judean land with olive trees and other productive trees - all done in mitzvahs and the volunteerism of many wonderful friends and youth - has continued on, even when fires were burning not far away and threats attempted to terrorize. While media outlets decried Israel’s self-defense as she moved into war, thousands of rockets blasted away inside her borders. The sudden onset of a war underscored our need for the bomb shelter further south at the Red Mountain Therapeutic Riding Center, and reminded me why so many children suffer stress disorders in a land that must always be on the ready. Daniel Jacob, who promises me “We WILL be back!” in regards to touring and visiting Israel again, has also described life in an upside down ‘normal,’ in the face of hardship… “in the presence of my enemies.” So, too, the amazing RMTRC staff keep children and recovering soldiers moving forward a day and horseback ride at a time. Life. Goes. On.
Heroes Daniel and Dass attribute grace, and a very great grace at that, for life, living, and breathing, strength in the face of adversity. “Nothing but the grace of God, Sister, do I have strength to go day by day. Only by His grace does construction continue on our land,” says Dass. Finally, he can report that restrictions are lifting, and teachers will return to work, preparing for the return of students to the classrooms. The community has not suffered hunger; all have been fed, many employed to at least some extent, by miracle upon miracle.
In the grace provided by the matchless love of God and in His great shalom, there is not just “enough” but more than sufficient grace, ability, energy…and we stay hooked up to that with our prayers of thanksgiving, verbalizing gratitude, with our eyes on Him in trust, turning and returning to give time and attention to a strong and loving Father who will be with us in the midst of it all, through the struggle, with His Spirit and supply. He does not always remove us from the situation, but rather changes us in it by an ‘exceedingly abundantly above all we can ask or think’ kind of power. That phrase isn’t meant to be a prosperity platitude; take in its given context:
“Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height, to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” – The Apostle Paul in Ephesians 3:13-21
These are words closely connected to the Judaic concepts voiced in Psalm 145 and other places, that the glorious works of God, the manifold grace of God, the powerful presence and love of God, are meant to sustain His people and bring Him glory forever. His maod gadol chesed, if I may state the Hebrew simply, His very great loving kindness and goodness will cause men to speak of His might, to make known His glorious majesty and dominion to all generations, as He opens His hands to satisfy, sustain, lift up, and answer the cries of His own. His own heart yearns for His people and His Land, His own compassion and compunction are the force in His defending and preserving presence. Ezra and Nehemiah reminded a generation that despite their failures and captivity and the broken condition of Jerusalem, God would not forsake them.
No matter what has or hasn’t happened, center on Him.
He is the source of comfort, encouragement, and hope, as He is, "...Father of mercies, God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort we ourselves are comforted by God." - 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Compassion, the driving force of comfort, is the very nature of God, seen in His racham on the face of the waters in Genesis, and seen in His nacham using a man like Noach to bring a reconciling comfort in the world and to Himself. God demonstrated awesome miracles out of Egypt and in the wilderness, with the same emotion and power that prophets also demonstrated to widows and fatherless. It is the same compassion that Rabbi Yeshua responded out of for a widow losing her only son, and in miraculously feeding the hungry multitude. The Divine Dispenser of chesed acts this way because “God is love,” and He enjoys using skin & bone here on earth to represent that love with heartfelt deeds of service. We are often His supply and His witness.
Set aside moments to live in.
Simply thank God for little things that expresses His miraculous power and provision from your heart to your table, from the ICU or to the interstate where He spared you from an accident… and just celebrate Him, call on Him, Redeemer, Restorer of the Breach, Peace Giver, Provider, Husband, Everlasting Father, Abba… That’s Who He is, He was, and He always will be, and that gives me strength (Philippians 4:13).
“And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.” – Moses in Deuteronomy 31:8
“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. -For our God is a consuming fire…” – Hebrews 12:28-29
To my friends who have buried loved ones, suffered trials, or are still dealing with issues from which resolve was expected a long time ago, don’t let those deferred hopes sicken your heart. And whether you are stateside or in a recovering nation, here is my simple reminder. We may at times be achin’…those around us may be shaken…but by the grace of God, we are never forsaken.
Snapshots from my heroes: Left, middle: Daniel Jacob & youth plant trees in the Seven Species Garden in Nofei Prat, Israel, adding the drip irrigation and a pergola for enjoyment. Did you know how to mix concrete when you were 15? Right: Dass loads again for rice & groceries to be distributed in his community. Against all kinds of local adversities, our champion friends keep a Can-Do spirit.