I recently read that if you’re alive, you’re either IN a crisis, coming out of a crisis, or heading into a future crisis. Well, to that, I say … BLEH. I don’t like crisis. I want stability and ease and most of all … control.
Merriam-Webster’s definition of crisis includes:
- an emotionally significant event or radical change of status in a person’s life
- the decisive moment
- an unstable or crucial time or state of affairs in which a decisive change is impending, especially one with the distinct possibility of a highly undesirable outcome
In James 1:2-4 (MESSAGE), James suggests, “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”
I don’t know about you, but my general response to that has been: Thanks, James, but I’ve already been through plenty of challenges and that’s a gift I can do without.
Yet major crisis is where I found myself in the past year-plus, not by choice. Leveled to the ground. On the outside, my life might not look much different. On the inside, I am a re-ordered person. Which is why I’m blogging. It has taken awhile, but God has convinced me that He didn’t teach me some of the most important things of my life for me to keep it to myself. I’ve struggled to write this first blog because the sheer amount of good things from Him is so overwhelming that I hardly know where to start.
(Start at the beginning, Terri.)
OK, a little over a year ago, I learned that, short of a miracle, my marriage of 34 years was going to end. Major health worries and other losses and hard situations piled on at the same time. I had a whole handful of the major life stressors happening at once. Sometimes it felt staggeringly heavy. I didn’t want any of these things. I didn’t choose them. They hurt. And I had no control over them. Plans I had built over a lifetime disappeared. I had to let go of every single good hope I’d had.
Maybe you know: You can follow God and do your best and plan and be a responsible person and still find yourself in crisis and feeling like a failure? Maybe you feel like a failure as a spouse or a parent or a child or friend or PERSON? Or life is taking you into a new season and you’re not sure where you belong in it? If you still have worth in it? Or you’ve lost the relationships or loved ones that meant the most and you feel alone?
I finally hit a point where I had tried everything I knew to deal with all these complicated things … I’m not one to give up easily … but nothing had worked and nothing was clear. And so a year ago, I wrote this in my journal: “Over the past few days, God has taught me that I have one task of importance: to immerse myself in His presence for as long as it takes. And that is all.”
In my blog, I don’t plan to share details of my situation with you. This blog isn’t about me. It’s about putting God’s Way into practice, so we’re not just “hearers of the Word,” but we also know how to apply God’s sound psychological advice to life’s hard stuff. And that one decision – to immerse myself in seeking and finding God alone – has made all the difference. Sometimes our situations don’t change, but we change. And that matters more. I didn’t get a miracle. But I got truth, strength, direction, and peace of mind.
Last time we were at the ocean, I walked on the beach early to see the sun rise. It was still night, with huge gray clouds towering above the dark water. I was disappointed, wondering if the sun would show up at all. But edges of light began to appear, and it took awhile, but eventually the clouds began to step aside. I took a picture …
With God, there’s always light waiting. Right now, I can see so much light ahead.
I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them, I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them. Isaiah 42:16
When the foundation of my earthly life crumbled, God, in His great mercy, allowed me to see more Truth through the cracks. It has rocked my thinking on the worst of days and in the best of ways. I learned much more about who God really is, what His Way is, and what matters. Looking back at my life, I have learned so much more in times of crisis than through years of other Christian pursuits. Like James says, it really is sheer gift. I don’t know how to describe it other than to say I’ve walked on parallel roads at the same time this year: a wobbly, scary life road, but with a rock-solid Way underneath.
One thing that I kind of knew before, but I didn’t really know know is this: Jesus didn’t die so that I could have a long and easy life, a perfect marriage and family, a fulfilling career, great medical care, a beautiful home, a retirement fund, and the respect of everyone I know while I live in a peaceful and perfect world. Please understand what I’m saying: Those are all very good things. Things to work for. Things for which we give thanks when we have them. Things that we complain about when we don’t. But think about it: Jesus, God wrapped in flesh, had none of those things. They’re not the ultimate goal. Not the end game. Jesus died to save me from my sins, to show me the way to live with meaning and fulfillment, and to secure eternal life for me. Period. Yes, loving parent that He is, God also gives us many good gifts here on earth. But His greatest desire is to give us the things that last beyond our short time here.
Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy, went and sold all he had and bought that field.” (Matthew 13:44)
My past year has been spent buying that treasure. This year will be spent in the same pursuit. Now the challenge God gives me is to somehow write about the incredible riches I am digging up.
So back to crisis. If you’re in one, I am so sorry. There are things you wish you could fix or change or escape, and maybe you feel like you have no choice. The truth is: Crisis can be a dark and confusing prison … or it can be a dark and fertile ground where good roots take hold and new life begins to break out. And that choice belongs to you and no one else.
To start: Settle right into the suffering. Look for how you can grow in it instead of how you can escape it. Immerse yourself in God. It’s the decisive moment. I’m down here with you.
You’re either growing or you’re dying. — Lou Holtz
(and I might add … Sometimes you have to die before you can grow.)