Living Life in Crisis Mode

Being the pastor of a church, it is common for me to encounter people in crisis.  Most people (rightly) turn to the church when life gets difficult and when they are in need.  At least once a week, I would say, I talk to someone - either over the phone or in person - who is the midst of a crisis.  Many of these people are from our own church, but many also come in for help from outside of the church. 

Experiencing a crisis is a unique challenge, because in general, it can't be prepared for.  There's not much we can do to get ready for it.  Unexpected difficulties wouldn't be unexpected if we could prepare and plan for them to happen.  For instance, people don't usually anticipate being laid off from their job or being diagnosed with a debilitating illness, so we don't typically plan for those kinds of things in our regular, daily lives.  And so, when a crisis hits, we are usually left feeling like we're standing on the edge of a cliff, getting ready to be pushed off, all the while struggling to find answers and resources to help. 

While it is certainly true that we don't know what is coming up around the bend on the road of our lives, the Bible tells us that it is wise to prepare for unexpected and difficult times in life.  We may not be able to anticipate the physical resources we will need to navigate difficult waters, but the Bible gives us more than enough to prepare our hearts and minds for uncharted territories. 

Jesus experiences something of a crisis in Luke 4 when the Spirit leads him out into the wilderness.  (Listen to the sermon on this text here) He's there for 40 days, in an inhospitable place having not had any food.  To top it all off the devil is there, pestering him with temptations.  Considering the desolate landscape of the wilderness, the fact that he hasn't eaten for 40 days, and the temptations of the devil, Jesus must have been miserable.

But there's a significant way in which Jesus deals with this crisis - he calls to mind the word of God.  Three separate times in this narrative Jesus remembers things that God has said in his word.  This knowledge helps him to overcome temptation and deal with the generally bad circumstances of his condition.  Specifically, the scripture that Jesus recalls to mind reminds him of God's provision, God's faithfulness, and God's presence.  Incidentally, these are the main aspects of God's character that we are likewise tempted to doubt when we find ourselves "in the wilderness" or in a time of crisis: we are tempted to doubt that God will provide for us, that God will do what he has said, and that God is actually there with us in the midst of our difficulty.  And as Jesus demonstrates in Luke 4, knowing God's word can help us to fight that temptation.

But here's the rub: in order for God's word to be most beneficial during a time of crisis, we have to know it before the crisis occurs.  Knowing God's word will help us to look at times of crisis through a biblical filter that will help us to see that God is faithful and will provide even in difficult times.  Waiting until the crisis happens to study what the Bible says about God's providence is faithfulness is, quite frankly, too late. 

Think of it like this: if I'm going on a camping trip, I will anticipate my needs that will arise during the trip by packing accordingly.  I'll bring a tent, some extra blankets, sufficient food and water, and also a first aid kit in case of any accidents.  I preparenow for what I will need later.  This is very similar to how Christians should be preparing for hard times and crises: we should be getting ready now for when life gets harder down the road.  And the way we do that is to study what the Bible says about God's provision now so that in lean times we can fight the temptation to think that God will not provide.  We should study what the Bible says about God's faithfulness now so that when things get difficult we can know that, no matter what, God will always keep his word. 

Also, it behooves Christians to perform some thought experiments about future difficulties.  What I mean is that it is perhaps a beneficial and healthy thing to think about what I would do if the unthinkable happened.  For instance, how would I respond if I were diagnosed with a fatal disease? What scriptures would I turn to?  What if I lost my job?  What scriptures could I turn to in order to be assured that God will provide?  Think of it like military training: soldiers train, and train, and train so that they will know how to react in a given situation (and most times, those situations never even happen, but at least they're ready).  This is a picture of how Christians should be "training" to handle the crises that are likely to rise in life. 

The key to all of this is to start your training now.  Don't wait for the crisis to occur before you start training (that would be like an army just beginning to train after the war started!).  Unfortunately, many Christians wait for the crisis to occur before they ever begin studying the Bible intently.  Instead, immerse yourself in the Bible so that you'll be able to remind yourself of the truth of God when life gets hard.  You'll be able to weather the storm and simultaneously fight off any temptations to fight the provision, faithfulness, and goodness of God.