There is a saying in politics, ‘Don’t let a crisis go waste’ meaning when bad stuff happens, after the immediate crisis is over, during the ‘crisis recovery’ phase when people are vulnerable and impressionable, the shrewd politician should attempt to channel the emotions poured out into avenues that further desired policy agendas. Case in point… the President Bush used the opportune window that 911 to pass the in the Patriot Act,the President Obama sees the Newton incident as an opportunity to promote his agenda on gun control laws.
Politics apart, the idea of ‘don’t let a crisis go waste’ has some significant applications to Christian living too. Often in life we come across disappointments. A disappointment depending upon the magnitude of it can be a crisis. Every time we face disappointments there is accompanying set of emotions from anxiety to anger to despondency. During the ‘crisis recovery’ phase, depending on the nature of the crisis and the personality of the individual, people will process and respond to it differently. Some live in a state of depression of regret over the past, others are anxious about the prospects of future and some others live in a state of denial ‘kicking the can down the road’ (if you will) and then there are people who to escape the dreariness will get into addictions and waste away.
The question to the Christian is how do we channel ourselves as we get through the crisis recovery phase. There are three aspects to channeling the emotions as we work through a crisis recover phase which are distinct and stand on their own but still are related to each other as well.
1. Take up a healthy enterprise you enjoy and discover yourself. In C.S.Lewis’ last novel ‘Till We Have Faces’, Orual is depressed out of her senses. In her recovery phase, she finds pleasure and a way back to stability by learning the skills of warfare and governance from the King’s Commander Bardia. When I went through a minor personal crisis, I found my joys in reading good books, watching good movies, and at work. Books I read were the Holy Bible, ‘Doctrine of Knowledge of God’, ‘The Great Gatsby’ etc… I watched good movies made by independent filmmakers, ‘Safety Not Guaranteed’, ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape’ etc… Then I worked hard at the office, my journal then at the gym… In all of this, I experienced God extending the grace to me so that I will enjoy them and worship Him through them. Such healthy enterprises were also a means to spend some time in solitude and get to know myself.
2. Share your burdens with the community and allow them to provide for you understanding, companionship and comfort. A deep instinct that we have when they are in phases of ‘crisis recovery’ is that we crave anonymity We want to disappear. We do not want anyone else to know about the vulnerability, pain and suffering. In wanting to disappear from the community some may follow a healthy pleasure in some enterprise (# 1 stated above) and find comfort in seclusion. Though # 1 is good, in an off itself, it will not help. We need the community. It is at such times that you really know who really cares about you. Being away from family, I found comfort in the community among my christian friends. I spent time eating dinner, watching movies, talking, having coffee at Starbucks etc… The community is a place were you get to know other people and experience God’s grace by hanging-out with folks that love the Lord.
3. Look up to God to save you! Even as # 1 & 2 (stated above) are good and great, they are still not complete. Ultimately, you need to know that you are eternally loved with a steadfast love… If we aren’t assured of this eternally secure love, doing # 1 and 2 no matter how great it may be, amounts only to enjoying a peg of wine, a game of poker or some other indulgence on deck of the sinking Titanic. It is the assurance of the eternal love of God that gives us the security to freely enjoy # 1 and 2 as God’s gifts to us. Enjoying a healthy enterprise (# 1), enjoying community (# 2) cannot truly flourish unless God gives us eternal protection in Him. All this to say, that when we go through challenging crisis recovery phases, primarily, we need to look up ‘unto the Hills from where comes help’. Every time we look up at Him through the crisis, we get to know Him better. By the time you get out of the crisis recovery period you’ll be glad you went through it. For, by losing a part of you in the pain and suffering, by looking up at God, you would have gained knowledge of God that is invaluable. After all, Paul compares ‘everything else’ to manure when compared with pleasure of ‘knowing Christ’.
As I was looking up at the Lord by reading through the Word of God to soothe my soul during my crisis recovery, I came across the passage below that showed me how much God really loved me, and that my soul being in turmoil is ok, for ultimately my salvation is in the Lord. I just have to remember His ‘steadfast love’ and prayerfully be in His presence.
5. Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
6 and my God.
My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
from Mount Mizar.
7 Deep calls to deep
at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
have gone over me.
8 By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.
11 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.
Of course, what I have described isn’t a 1-2-3 technique… To say, ‘Just perform this 3 step technique, and you’ll be fine’ is a hoax. Life is too messed up for there to be an easy way out of loss, pain and suffering. After all even Christ wasn’t exempt from life’s crisis.
Even as you enjoy healthy enterprises, commune with healthy people and look up to the Lord for help, you’ll still find yourself slipping through the cracks, you’ll have ups and downs, but for a while the overall trajectory may continue to be downward. You’ll keep going down until you hit the rock-bottom. Depending on the nature of the crisis it may take only a little bit, or it may take a long time. But you will hit the rock-bottom. Once you have hit the rock-bottom you will realize that you really are standing on the Rock, the Redeemer the Christ. From that point you will ‘soar up in Eagle wings’…
27 Why do you complain, Jacob?
Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord;
my cause is disregarded by my God”?
28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
As we feel like we are going down the spiral, we may be tempted to complain and ask God what it is about. It is ok to complain to God as long as we also listen to 1) God’s response that He is ‘understanding’ of things is better than ours and 2) God’s promise that no matter what happens He will not allow us to grow weary or be faint (even when we are at the end of our strength). Christian life is a long road, we will come across many a crisis. God promises that no matter what we will be renewed in strength, even as we walk long tough paths, we may complain, but will not grow weary. It is through crisis that we get to experience God’s grace that upholds us through our long lonely walks. Such experiences of God’s grace are worth the long lonely walks.
The shrewd people of the world use crisis for personal benefit. The foolish people of the world let the crisis define them and waste away. As wise Christians we use the crisis to know ourselves by involving in healthy enterprises, know people around by being vulnerable about our weaknesses and to know God by looking up at Him for help. Even when things are bleak, we keep walking onward trusting God’s got our back. Every crisis is an opportunity for us to courageously cherish life, commune with sympathetic people and worship a Brilliant and loving God more. After all, the crisis is worth it if we don’t waste it but with God’s help use it to walk, run and soar up on Eagle wings.