When I worked as a hospital chaplain, on tough days a colleague and I would laugh in respite about the real meaning behind our words on entering a patient's room: "Hello, I'm the chaplain on your floor..."
Life can floor us, can't it? By definition without warning, often without choice.
There is choice however in how we view it.
For me, the question is will I view it on the vertical or horizontal?
Horizontally, I can question why something happened. Could I have changed it? Was it to do with me personally? Where did I go wrong? Why me? What now? What if?
Vertically can take me somewhere. What can I see through the lens of my relationship with God?
I have not been invited to something:
Horizontal: Why don't they like/value/notice me?
Vertical: God withholds from me no good thing. It's a different plan to the one I thought, isn't that often the way? I've given God my life, this day. What has God got for me instead? What is He calling me to? Who else do I see?
Horizontal: Why? Why? Why? ("Most often," another chaplain told me quietly, "an answer is not what's needed.")
Vertically: Death wasn't the plan, God is weeping with us. Mourn with those who mourn. The story is not over.
The Lord does not willingly bring grief or affliction on the children of men.
An insuperable obstacle stands in my way:
Horizontally: Why in the heck did that happen? I was sure this was the right way. This makes no sense.
Vertically: God will not leave me until He has done all that He has purposed for me. No plan of the Lord's can be thwarted. Lord, you will make a way through or this is a turn in a different direction. I'll wait, watch and trust to see which.
I've been passed over:
Horizontally: Totally my fault. People will think/say x, y and z. It's not fair.
Vertically: Is there a reason for this that I cannot see? I don't know nor can I see all the pieces. My times are in God's hands. I am fully persuaded that God has the power to do all that He has promised. In this challenge, I will expect God's unanticipated gift.
The path goes off in a whacked direction:
Horizontally: What the Sam Hill is going on? I heard wrong. This can't be right.
Vertically: Consider - is this attack? Possibly. Or is this God's design? I couldn't go West here if He hadn't brought me this far North. It's His prerogative to choose the route. His thoughts are higher than mine and His purposes are good. He's got a "bigger play." Duh.
Horizontally: Everyone else has someone. I am entirely alone.
Vertically: I'm never alone. In me is the well of God that never runs dry. Whom can I bless?
A relationship ends:
Horizontally: I'm a big fat loser: Debbie NoMates. Maybe I smell? Look at everyone - blissfully happy and worry free.
Vertically: That relationship perhaps needed to end? The fruit was rotten. God is love. He will not leave me with a deficit even as I grieve. My pride is hurt - so what? I am loved, so are they. I will bless them in their going (which will also totally fox them).
I let someone down:
Horizontally: I'm rubbish. Who would want to be my friend? I'm always doing this.
Vertically: I can apologise. Isn't this why I need a Saviour? There is grace, and mercy, if I am sorry. We all let each other down, the key is how we repair the breach and give space for hurt and forgiveness.
Vertically: There is no fear in God, and He's got me. Breathe. Breathe. Praise Him. There's a good plan.
Life's a bitch and then you die:
Horizontally: My life is nothing in comparison to other people's. Nothing has turned out the way I hoped. Now I'm alone/middle-aged/old/single/unemployed/fat, what's the point? I've got nothing.
Vertically: My life is a gift. I have been made with purpose and fulfilment beyond my imagining. It's an incredible thing that I can even breathe and move my limbs! I'm STILL HERE! Look around - even if it's just at the beauty of a rainy day. God is all of that. What is the purpose of my life? How much money I made?/Friends I had?/Recognition I got?/"Successful" marriage?/"Incredible kids"?/Enviable career? Or is it my character, my contribution, my road map and my destination?
Horizontal thinking keeps us exactly where we are, and stuck. We can only see what we can see.
Vertical thinking keeps our head up and looking forward into the coming landscape. We always have more to give. And that's where the blessing lies.
Which way will you look?