What to Do When All Hell Breaks Loose

We had been sitting on the tarmac for over an hour . . . waiting . . . and . . .

. . . waiting . . .

. . . and waiting . . .


Straight up, Jesus has fabulous job security with me on two of the many huge issues I wrestle with:

  • I am not patient.
  • I am not a good traveler.

Both are very long works in progress!

That day on the tarmac, we were returning from an Insight for Living Ministries’ trip. My husband, Toban, and son, Jon, had come with me, hoping we could get some time together between book signings, speaking, and meetings. However, a few days into the trip, Toban got critically sick with a very painful intestinal infection called diverticulitis. The concern about diverticulitis is, if it’s bad enough, the intestinal wall can burst . . . which can be deadly if not treated immediately.

In addition, Jon was off his schedule, which due to his disabilities increases his anxiety and frustration. Knowing his dad was very sick exponentially increased his worries. When Jon is anxious and frustrated, he tends to ask the same two or three questions. And because anxiety floods the brain with chemicals that interfere with processing information, he really doesn’t “hear” the answers. Like a hamster on its wheel, he asks the same questions over and OVER and OVER. Plopped between the two of them on that airplane, I felt like a lazy Susan spinning from side to side, attempting to calm and contain the situation.

After an hour of waiting, we were finally airborne. I alerted the flight attendants of my husband’s illness, which explained why he spent most of the flight in the restroom. As we began our descent, Toban became pale and unable to sit up. Then the pilot’s voice interrupted Jon’s questions, announcing we were in a holding pattern due to weather in Dallas. He said we would be diverted to Austin if things didn’t let up in about an hour. Another hour, flying in circles, answering questions.

After 40 minutes, I told the flight attendants we had to land. They alerted the pilot, who immediately headed to Austin and asked if there were any doctors on the flight. They put an oxygen mask on Toban and started to monitor his vitals—all of which triggered Jon, who is deathly frightened by medical equipment due to a history of medical trauma. He burst into tears. Cloaked in his double set of sunglasses, weighted shoulder wrap, and sound-canceling earphones, still asking questions, he reached over and grabbed Toban’s hand as we landed in Austin.

While still on the tarmac, we quickly gathered our carry-ons and dashed to exit, where three emergency medical trucks were waiting. For a moment, I glanced at Jon, then Toban, and just sighed. We were a traveling mess with no end in sight! I had none of Jon’s medications, no clue where our bags would end up, and no one to call since we were hundreds of miles from home.

The doctors in the ER immediately got IV antibiotics going and ran tests while I tried to calm Jon, who HATES hospitals. By 2 a.m., things had quieted down. Toban was admitted to the hospital, we learned his intestines hadn’t burst, the medications were beginning to reduce his pain, and Jon was given free food by the nurses and finally fell asleep.

The following morning, we put together a game plan. We HAD to get home, due to Jon’s needing his meds. Upon our promise to the doctor that we would see someone as soon as we returned, Toban was released. One of our kids drove from San Antonio, picked us up in Austin, and drove us back to Dallas; another picked up our luggage at the Dallas airport, and by midnight we were home.

We are still dealing with Toban’s illness, but our perspective is clearing. In fact, we’re able to see how the Lord showed up and provided; we’re even able to laugh at some of the things that happened during the entire ordeal.

The Lord Provides

Now, travel with me back thousands of years ago to a scene in the Old Testament. The prophet Elijah was called by God to stand against an evil motley crew of blood-shedding, vile-acting people who worshiped false gods. For three years, God provided for Elijah, preparing him for a monumental showdown on Mount Carmel. God proved Himself faithful as Elijah continued to obey His commands.

Then, following the Mount Carmel event, all hell broke loose. The king’s wife was incensed, took matters into her hands, and threatened to kill Elijah. The prophet had been faithful but was fatigued and flooded with fear. Through a series of events detailed in I Kings 17–19, the Lord met Elijah in a cave for a little chat. There, the Lord reminded Elijah he wasn’t alone and revealed part of His sovereign plan, which included providing Elijah with a supportive friend. As Elijah did what God commanded, God faithfully protected and provided for all of Elijah’s needs.

At some point, all hell will break loose in your life. Even if you see God do amazing things, even if you follow Him with unwavering dedication, something will happen that is beyond your control. Maybe it already has!


When emotions flood your brain, your first instinct is to take matters into your own hands. The problem is, you’re human; you can’t get through what God has allowed on your own. Stop where you are and listen. He is calling you to “reframe” your circumstances and depend on Him. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Reflect on how God has provided for you in the past. Write down all the things that come to mind: How has He provided financially, relationally, emotionally, spiritually, physically, or any other way? He will be faithful today, just as He has been in the past.
  • Examine the choices you are making now. Are you allowing your emotions to take over? Are you depending on your own strength? Are you returning to Scripture to find hope or trying to do it on your own? Get into God’s Word and find what He’s promised: to be faithful, just, loving, and caring . . . to be your refuge, your strength. Write down those promises that provide strength, and harness your imagination.
  • Find support where you are. Whom can you call on to keep you grounded and connected to the truth? Friends, kids, doctors, and even flight attendants—people who are safe and trustworthy—will come alongside you to help. Ask them and let them!
  • Renew and remember your core values. Are you trusting and being honest? Are you being pure in your motives, unwavering in your faith, and speaking kindly—even when patience is running thin?
  • Affirm all the ways your needs are being met. What positive things have happened? Has God provided food, help, shelter, needed treatment, something else? Don’t focus on what you wanted Him to provide but on what He has provided . . . and thank Him. Shift your mind-set from what you don’t like to what He has done, and praise Him for being faithful.
  • Manage what you can and leave the rest to the Lord. Stop worrying about tomorrow. Focus on right now. Do the next right thing.
  • Explore opportunities to show God’s strength as He leads you through this hard time. Whom has He put in your path? Does that person know the Lord? Is your behavior revealing your faith in Christ? Do others see you depending on Him or on your own strength? Allow God to shine through every circumstance He allows, and praise Him for what He does through you.

When all hell breaks loose, we can feel paralyzed. BUT when we shift our perspective and choose to reframe our circumstances, we see God in new and amazing ways. It won’t be convenient or comfortable. But God IS at work, shaping your character and calling you to depend on Him. How can you use the reframing process in your life today? How can you encourage someone else to do the same?

Let Me Hear from You

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