Some days it seems as if the whole world is falling in on you. Often it isn’t the case that the crisis are in your own life but the lives of people around you. But what is so challenging is that it seems one crisis breeds another and they pile up on you instead of being spaced out over a period of time. During the same time that you are trying to recover from the death of a loved one you learn that you have cancer or even worse that one of your children has cancer. The same day you learn that one of your closest friends has been involved sexually with someone other than his wife and it has all come out in the open today.
Crisis come in all shapes, colors and sizes and you don’t normally get the opportunity to choose which one you will have. In many ways it is true that there is no way for a person to prepare for a crisis in their life since the very nature of the crisis is that it comes unexpectedly.
In the Bible James said, “Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces enurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4) In 2 Corinthians 8:1-7 Paul was encouraging the church in Corinth to be generous in their help for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. In doing so he gave them the example of the churches of Macedonia who were in “Deep poverty” and “Going through a great trial of affliction” yet the grace of God was given to them so that they gave what they were able to give and even beyond that to help those who had more than they did. Paul evidently didn’t feel good about asking them to give at all because of their situation. But they begged him for the opportunity to participate because they had first given themselves to the Lord.
In many ways one could say that the Bible is the story of how different people reacted to times of crisis. When Joseph faced the crisis of being sold as a teenager as a slave to people in a foreign land, he chose to continue to show integrity and faith. He faced thirteen years of rejection, imprisonment and estrangement. But he lived right the whole time so that God eventually was able to use him to save his family as well as the nation of Egypt.
When the Israelites faced crisis in the wilderness because there wasn’t enough water or the water they found was bitter their response was to cry out against God and against Moses, “Why did you bring us out into the wilderness to die?” When Hosea the prophet was betrayed by his wife who left him to carry on a sordid affair with one man after another until she was old, sick and alone, Hosea faced the crisis by going to find her, paying her bill, and bringing her home again. He said to her “From now on you will be faithful to me as I will to you.”
One of the most powerful teaching of the Bible on handling crisis times is found in the book of I Peter which is about how Christians should handle suffering. In chapter four beginning in verse seven it says, “Now the end of all things is near; therefore, be clear-headed and disciplined for prayer. Above all, keep your love for one another at full strength, since love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another wihtout complaining. Based on the gift they have received, everyone should use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God.”
I don’t know what the crisis was that they faced. But it was going to be catestrophic. Peter described it as “The end of all things”. Their world was coming apart. It may have been the destruction of Jerusalem that he had in mind. In looking at what was about to happen Peter likely felt about like the people in Egypt have for the last several days as they’ve watched everything around them unravel. But Peter’s challenge was for us not to lose our head, but to be clear-minded in prayer. In every crises there will be many, probably most, who will lose their ability to think straight and will panic often to their own hurt. The wise thing is to plan for times of crisis and determine ahead of time how you will react.
In such times, Peter said to cover everything and everyone with love. Love will cover a multitude of sins. I suspect that the point Peter is making is when we love people we won’t focus so much on the sin in their life but will see them as ones made in God’s image. In times of crisis keep being hospitable without complaining. Our normal attitude when crisis comes is to pull inside, to close the doors, the windows, the shades and refuse to come out or let any light in. In such times if we would heal, we must think of others instead of just ourselves. When your heart reaches out to help someone else, it is amazing how it opens up your whole being to the healing and comforting power of God.
We can’t avoid the crisis. We can grow through it and show God’t compassion through it all.