God Gave Us a Crisis- Why We Can’t Waste It


When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways- 1st Corinthians 13:11 ESV

The popular quote “never let a good crisis go to waste” is nearly always attributed to Saul Alinsky. Mr. Alinsky may have taken the concept to new heights, but it was Winston Churchill who first said it.  But, in my view, it is God who deserves the credit for inventing the whole notion of never allowing a good crisis to go to waste.  We need look no further than the last ten weeks to see clear evidence of this reality.

 Think about it.

 Until recently most people have spent their entire existence enveloped in a never-ending haze of frenzied activity.  COVID-19 brought a hasty end to our frantic way of doing life. The pandemic has allowed individuals to see clearly, some for the very first time the lives they built in the midst of all their busyness. Much of it is decidedly not pretty. Many have been left staring at emotionally detached marriages, mountains of debt, shallow community, poorly behaved children, addictions, meager coping skills and myriad of other nasty issues that were easy to hide or ignore in a world without shelter-in-place orders. The result has been a deep sense of discomfort and distress for many. Everyone has been affected in some way. Many Christians have realized they lack the personal theology and relationship with God to effectively deal with their personal fears and answer the questions that arise when life suddenly gets difficult. Many non-Christians are seeing that every human life will have an ending point and that there are questions that cannot be answered by science or reason alone.

 God has used this crisis to bring all people to a place where they are asking the hard questions about life, death, and what it really means to have faith in God. I do not know if God caused COVID-19 or is simply using it for His purposes. I hate those kinds of debates (1st Timothy 6:3-5, 2nd Timothy 2:23, Titus 3:9). Silly arguments no one knows the answers to do nothing but distract from the things that really matter. There are two questions we have to be really real about right now if we want to make the most of what God is doing:

 First, what strikes fear in you post-COVID-19?

 Is it fear of death? That fear reveals something critical about our faith. Is it fear of government encroachment of your rights? If so, then perhaps, you have bought into the notion God is good because He allowed you to be born in country where you have rights. Are you afraid of losing your faith in persecution? That fear indicates something about the level of faith you have in your faith.   Do you fear poverty, loss of control, being alone or maybe you’re just scared spitless of losing the sweet little life He’s blessed you with?

 The second is a bit different:

 What is it about you or your life that makes you want to turn your head away? Is it your screwed-up kids, anger issues, shaky marriage, lack of faith, poor self-control or a past that haunts you? Maybe it’s the addiction you developed in an effort to ignore those things. 

 Here’s the thing.

Whatever IT is that keeps you up at night or makes you want to turn your head away, that’s where God wants to meet you. He wants to help you root-out the sin that is creating the fear so He can heal you. He wants to take your weakness or fear and turn it into strength He can use for His glory (Hebrews 11:32-35).  God can transform anyone into a stronger, braver, healthier and more faithful version of themselves. But God can only do that if they come to a place of decision and humility. To be changed we have to want to change. We must also be willing to admit our fears, weakness and problems. God will not heal us if we choose to run from our issues with busyness, drown them in alcohol, numb them with porn, pretend they’re not real or blame our choices on outside forces. We must take fears and problems to God as many times as necessary until we get to a place of freedom from sin and to where we can accept in faith that if our worst fear were to come to pass it would be okay because God is in control of whatever scares us.  

 God is using COVID-19 to make Christians and non-Christians aware of changes that must be made in their lives. He is stripping people of the coping mechanisms they have depended on in the past. This realty has resulted in personal discomfort, but discomfort is not the end goal. With God the end goal is always to bring people to a place where they are more dependent on His power and His strength than their own. God does this is to prepare His people for deeper relationship with Him and for new opportunities to serve Him with greater power and success.   

 Our responsibility is to cooperate with the process and then wait patiently for what’s next.

 

 

How Fear Steals From Us-

 For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you- Isaiah 41:13 NIV

I love dogs so much that I point excitedly at every dog I see and I stop to pet every dog I pass on the street. I love dogs so much that I don’t even care that some people think I’m a nutcase for doing these things. However, for a good chunk of my life I had some serious misgivings concerning people who were insanely devoted to their mean, yappy, horrid little dogs. 

Then we got a mean, yappy, horrid little dog. 

His name was Bruno and believe it or not, he was a pug.  My husband and I decided to we wanted a pug because pugs are not typically aggressive. We wanted a sweet little dog everyone would love.  Unfortunately, Bruno was only sweet to us and almost no one loved him. He was slightly larger than a football but he would bark and growl and bully full-grown men into doing whatever he wanted. Mostly what he wanted was for everyone to stay far away our family. When the little jerk got riled up he was so fierce and ferocious that big, burly men would literally run away from him in terror.  But he loved us and we loved him and now I get why people allow horrid little dogs to live in their homes. 

One day after an exceptionally embarrassing encounter between Bruno and a three-hundred-pound realtor, it occurred to me that Bruno and the emotion of fear had a lot of similarities. 

Bruno was not really capable of hurting anyone. He was short and squat and weighed twenty pounds after a big meal. His teeth were bad and even in his prime they were not really all that sharp. But boy could he act scary.  He had the power to make people believe that he really was going to hurt them. 

Fear should never be dismissed out of hand. There are times when fear can be logical, reasonable and even healthy. The Bible commands us to fear God (Leviticus 25:17, Psalm 96:4, Proverbs 1:7, 1stPeter 2:17). It also makes good sense to fear crazy people with weapons, stupidity, poisonous snakes and things that kill people. Sometimes fear is even our friend. We have all had those moments when we did something (or didn’t do something) because we suddenly became afraid of doing (or not doing) the thing. Later we learned that if we had done the thing it would have killed us or at the very least ruined our day.  

However,

Those situations are the exceptions. Most of the time fear is just a thief and a liar. There are five things fear will steal from us if we let it and none of them are things any of us can afford to lose:

Our trust in God-

Fear is not usually a “God thing”. The God who commands His people to be strong and courageous would only plant fear in their hearts if there were a really good reason for it. Fear is usually a “Satan thing”. Fear is Satan’s most effective tool. Fear persuades us that God isn’t really good and that He can’t do the things He says He can do. Fear can also convince us we can’t do the things God says we can do (John 14:12). 

The ability to accomplish our mission-

 If a person is drawing breath there is a reason for it.  Every individual has people only they can reach and tasks only they can accomplish. Fear wants us to believe the lie that God cannot empower us to be good enough, smart enough or capable enough to do what God wants us to do.   

Our boundaries- 

Boundaries are the bottom line of what we will and will not allow into our lives. They are like invisible shields that protect us from people and situations that might bring us physical, emotional and spiritual harm.  Good, solid boundaries keep us from sinning and being sinned against and the people who want to lead us into sin. Fear often causes Christians to accept the unacceptable in relationships. Fear of not fitting in, fear of making people mad or fear of not being liked inevitably cause our boundaries to be breached. Anytime we allow our boundaries to be breached misery and sin are sure to follow. 

Our joy-

It is literally impossible to be fearful and joyful at the same time. Anytime we allow fear to run the show we lose our joy, faith and peace of mind.  Fear steals our joy and peace of mind by getting us focused on the “what ifs” of every situation. What if I fail? What if no one likes me? What if the worst happens?

Fear is like my horrid little Bruno. Fear has no power except what we give it. Fear feels scary and it makes us believe that something horrible will happen if we don’t do what fear is telling us to do. We must remember that feelings are not facts and that faith is the enemy of fear. The more we choose to trust God and believe that He can do what He says He will do the less power fear has over us. 

Slaying the Worry Monster-


Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken~ Psalm 55:22

 For the record, I do not consider myself to be an unusually anxious person. Nor, I am under the illusion that I am an extraordinarily relaxed or chill person. I probably fall somewhere squarely in the center of the anxiety spectrum (if there is such a thing).

 That said, I have had more than a few flashes of panic recently on account of all the stupid, weird and vexing things that have occurred over the course of the last week. As a result of those things I have a list of legitimate concerns that is long, diverse and growing rapidly. The list includes (but is not limited to) a really nasty cold (more annoying than worrisome, but still) my identity potentially being stolen (again), serious issues with an aging parent (again), and some troublesome logistical glitches with helping one of our kids move to another state. Complicating issues further, the above-mentioned problems have led to some irritating time-management snafus, which, in turn, has only compounded all my other worries. Then, last but definitely not least there was the fallout from the embarrassing (but not life-altering) antics of one of our teenage children.

 Sigh.

 Anyone who has been a Christian for any length of time (like me) knows that Christians are strongly cautioned against worrying about things they cannot control (Luke 12:22-29). That said, anyone who has been a Christian for any length of time also knows that even for people who are not excessive worriers there are times in life when it is far easier to recite Bible verses forbidding worry than it is to obey said verses.

 Sigh.

 Because I have worried more this week than I typically do, I have also thought about worry far more than I typically do. As I was thinking through the ins-and-outs of this issue it occurred to me that worry is dangerous from myriad of different perspectives, some obvious, others less so. Most of us know, at least on an academic level that worry is pointless, wastes mental energy, and has been proven to trigger a multitude of psychological and physical health problems. However, I am also convinced that worry is destructive from a spiritual and a relational perspective. Mostly because it’s a behavior that can easily lead to other behaviors that eventually lead to sin.

 Worry really is the antithesis of faith.

Faith, by its very nature leads to trust and confidence in God’s ability to solve our problems. Conversely, worry inevitably produces doubt and leads to fear of the future (Hebrews 11:6). For many individuals, the doubt and fear that worry breeds leads to skepticism regarding the goodness and sovereignty of God. This skepticism can cause even really good people to take matters into their own hands, doing whatever looks and feels right to them in the moment (Genesis 16). When this happens we nearly always step outside the will of God in the process of attempting to figure life out without God’s assistance.

 For others worry leads to anger and frustration. Because there is little in this world worse than being stuck in a relationship with an angry person, and because angry people are typically selfish and tragically terrible at communication; unresolved anger creates all sorts of relational issues. Anger leads to serious spiritual issues as well. Ongoing and excessive worry has caused many to turn away from God in a spirit of bitterness because He didn’t do what they thought He ought to do (Hebrews 12:15).

 Everyone agrees that worry is pointless and solves precisely nothing (Matthew 6:25-34). However, knowing that does not stop most of us from worrying. Nor do I believe that simply pretending that we have no problems is the only alternative there is to worrying our heads off about our problems.

 Dealing with worry successfully involves both the practical and the spiritual. Practically speaking, doing a realistic evaluation of our situation and then fixing the things we are capable of fixing is not only sensible, it is our sacred duty as creatures made in the image of a rational, intelligent and wise God.

 However, the nature of this life is such that there are some things we simply cannot fix, no matter how smart we are or how hard we try. When we come up against one of those things (or a dozen of those things) then our worries need to be transformed into prayer (1st Peter 5:7). We need to take our worries and give them over to God in prayer as many times as necessary until we feel the peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:6-7)

 Then we need to wait and see what God does.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surviving Unwelcome Change-

 

Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there~ Genesis 39:1 NIV

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when I believed with all my heart I was one of those unicorn-like individuals who actually liked and even thrived on change.

 I now know I was an idiot who probably aggravated the decency out of anyone unfortunate enough to have a conversation with me about the subject. I am sure there were those who quietly contemplated homicide, as I waxed eloquent on my love for change and ability to adapt to whatever came my way.

 Then about five years ago I had an unpleasant reality check in the form of at least a dozen different changes I did not like, want or understand.

 Sigh.

 The good news is that I got to be a lot less annoying really quickly as I figured out that I, like all normal people really only like change I have some control over. Change is wonderful in the abstract or when you’re contemplating something fun, like a move to a new city or a job promotion.

Change is just not nearly as thrilling when it is thrust upon you like ugly and unwelcome blind date. Or when change shows up on your doorstep in the shape of something awful and unwanted like a job loss, a car accident, a death in the family, a grim diagnosis or a divorce you didn’t ask for.

 However.

 As Christians we have to have the confidence that nothing enters our lives without God’s foreknowledge. And that if we choose to live for God in the midst of circumstances we do not like or understand, good will eventually come out of even the ugliest of situations (Romans 8:28). Because I truly believe those things to be true, I came to terms with the fact that God had a purpose for the changes disturbing my peaceful reality.

 I learned some hard lessons during that period of my life; and not just to shut my pie-hole about circumstances I didn’t fully understand.  I also learned that whether or not we barely survive changes or thrive in the middle of it all depends on whether or not we understand and live-out these four truths…

 Unwelcome change brings losses that should be grieved-

 I am not intimating that the trauma of an unplanned pregnancy is somehow equal to the trauma of the death of loved one. However, both changes involve loss and all losses deserve at least a quick trip through the five stages of grief. Taking the time to feel the feelings that come with loss, rather than pretending those feelings don’t exist, will prevent emotional problems (such as depression) and spiritual problems (such as bitterness) in the future.

 Guard your heart against bitterness and hate-

 The greatest danger in unwelcome change is bitterness. We can easily become embittered towards the people who wronged us, didn’t see our value or who betrayed our trust in some way. We can also become bitter towards God for not working our circumstances out in a different way. Bitterness towards anyone is poison to our souls and must be dealt with decisively by grieving the loss, forgiving the jerks that hurt us and choosing to accept the new normal.

 Embrace the opportunities change brings-

 I hate trite sayings.  However, it really is true that when one door closes another opens. That being said, we can get so caught-up in what we are losing that we don’t see the opportunities that opening up right in front of us. If you find yourself in the center of unwelcome change, ask God to show you the doors He’s opening on your behalf. I guarantee there will be some.

 Unwanted changes are a time for reflection and self-improvement-

 God did not bring unwanted change into my life because I was doing anything wrong or sinful. However, in retrospect I was really bad at being assertive with certain people. As a result I was going in a direction others had chosen for me and I had little inclination to do the things I was actually called to do. That period in my life gave me the downtime I needed to self-analyze and eventually become a lot more assertive when I needed to be. I also got to know God and myself a whole lot better. In the process of all that reflection I figured out who I really was and what I was really good at.

 Joseph (Genesis 37-50) is the poster-child for surviving and prospering in the midst of unwelcome change. He was sold as a slave by his brothers, jailed for a crime he didn’t commit and forgotten by the person who had the power to rescue him. Through all that he never stopped learning, growing and trusting God. As a result of his willingness to embrace the opportunities that came with unwelcome change he literally transformed the future.