Survivor’s Guilt and Hope

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 

                                             Romans 8:28


Back in May of 2001, when I had been working at USAA for almost 15 years, I moved from a management job in a call center area into the world of projects and project managers. It was an utterly different skillset and thought process, and I was overwhelmed but thrilled to be in my new area and learning new things.


A mere six weeks later in July, USAA had its first ever round of layoffs. I was convinced that I would be one of the first to go, given the typical “last in-first out” type of action that I wouldn’t have faulted anyone for. The day that it happened, we were all told to stay at our desks and that management would be calling those who’d been laid off (my team was especially skittish and worried, as our Assistant Vice President had been let go just days before when layoffs at the executive level had begun). Meetings were cancelled and everyone just sat at their desks, praying for their phone not to ring. As the day passed, two of my co-workers were called and the remaining were told to go home for the day to allow them to clean out their desks in peace and privacy. The layoffs were complete, and I was left unscathed. Well, I was left unscathed physically, since I got to keep my employment; but mentally…that was another story.


Even though the layoffs were difficult and unheard of prior to this time, those of us who remained understood that they were a necessary evil, albeit traumatic for most involved (some of the more tenured employees who were close to early retirement were able to retire early with a full benefits package, so I don’t think that they were overly traumatized at all). My mind still reeling at the unfathomable thought that I got to stay as such a newbie in that area and others had to leave, I would walk through the halls where friends from other areas would tell me that they were glad to see me, and I’d tell them that I was glad to be seen! The company even brought in counselors to help those who suffered from survivor’s guilt. I did not partake of the counseling at the time, though admittedly I probably should have. I continued in my new job, going through training to learn it as well as a couple of other roles, to do what I could to ensure that my value to the company was left intact so that if subsequent layoffs or RIFs (reduction in force) occurred (which they did and I survived each time). Survivor’s guilt motivated me to make sure that the company would be pleased with the choice they made to hang on to me.

There are other circumstances that this world can throw at us that can induce survivor’s guilt—health issues that can plague the spouse who eats healthy and exercises daily instead of the one whose only exercise is the lifting of the fork to the mouth; family situations in which abuse is imposed on one child but not another; and the most defining one of all—survival of one person in a life-threatening situation and not the other who was in the same or similar event, be it war, car accident, natural disaster, cancer, and the like. Survivor’s guilt can be mentally debilitating, and I encourage you to seek professional help if you were to ever find yourself in such a situation. Help is there—you do not have to bear this burden alone.


An important point to remember when we experience such a valley in our walk is that God is with us in that valley. He is there in our deepest point of pain. Ask God if He would help you understand the “why” behind it all, but know that He may say “no”—and that’s okay. He is still God, He is still in control, and we do not have to be able to make sense of things. Cling to His promise in Romans 8:28, and know that even though we may never readily see the good that He is working, it is there. I promise, but even more importantly, He promises.

Prayer Requests

  • Praise for the fact that the entire Thai youth soccer team and coach were freed from the flooded cave – He is so good!
  • For the families of first responders whose loved ones risk life and limb to save and render aid to those hurting
  • Rejoicing over Session’s approval of the Pastor Search Committee’s recommendation to call Pastor Ray when he is available to be our pastor
  • Urgent prayers for the ever-growing division in our country over politics and points of view regarding social injustices


Friends, we will never fully understand all the things that happen in our world while we are on this side of Heaven. If we hold fast to His promises and Word, and ask Him to help us grow our faith, He is happy to oblige.



“The same boiling water that softens the potato hardens the egg. It’s about what you’re made out of, not the circumstances.”


“The God who can level mountain ranges and topple superpowers is the same God who carries the weakest and most tender close to His heart.”                      –Sam Allberry