I’ve been thinking a lot about crisis lately. I’m in the middle of helping some friends deal with struggles in their marriage. My great aunt unexpectedly passed away in her sleep a few weeks ago. And then I read this morning that someone was robbed at gun point and shot in the leg on my street a couple of nights ago. Crisis is also on the minds of many this month because April is the month where Americans remember the tragedies at Columbine High School and Virginia Tech University .
It is easy to start living in fear when things begin going on around us in which we have no control over. There is a huge difference in being prepared and aware of our surroundings as we go about our daily living and between being paralyzed to the point of inaction. I’m pretty sure God doesn’t want us to be afraid.
But, then, how do we handle crisis? In this article, Barry Shafer shares two scriptures that deal with people facing crisis. The first is Daniel 3:16-18:
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king…“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
I can imagine that our crises can feel like fire that is about to consume us, but here, these three young Hebrew men are trusting God to deliver them from their crisis “but even” if He doesn’t they are not going to react out of fear and waiver in their faith. They are facing their personal crisis with faith in the Savior.
The second scripture Shafer directs us to is Acts 12:1-3; 6-11:
It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. … Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. … “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. … When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him. Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches…”
Here, two prominent disciples are captured, one killed, one rescued. Perhaps it doesn’t seem fair, like many of our crises often do, but Shafer reminds us that “Isaiah gave us the image of God's grieving people receiving beauty from crisis instead of ashes.”(Isaiah 61:3) We live in an extremely broken world and unexpected, unexplainable things are going to happen to us and cause pain. But what is important is where we take that pain.
In this article, David Olshine quotes from C.S. Lewis’ Voyage of the Dawn Treader: the story of Eustace, a young boy who becomes a dragon due to having been selfish and stubborn. Oldshine summarizes the scene before quoting Lewis: “Aslan, the story’s Christ figure, takes Eustace to a well to bathe, but the boy can’t get in the well because he’s a dragon. The only solution is to shed his skin like a snake, layer by layer. Later, when Eustace asks Aslan how many more layers he must shed, Aslan undresses him.
“I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you,” Eustace says, “but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back and let him do it. The very first tear he made was so deep I thought it had gone right into my heart.
“When he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve felt…then he…threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious, and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found all the pain had gone…After a bit, the lion took me and dressed me…in these new clothes I’m wearing.””
The pain from crisis can help bring healing to our lives, but again, the important step is where we bring that pain and what our response to it is. Sometimes doctors will break a bone in order to help it heal correctly. Sometimes we need to be broken by our creator in order to heal correctly. Olshine writes that “God often uses painful means to change us. Unless there is some situation to create discomfort, people often reject change” and later that “the pain of change is better than the pain of being unable to change.”
It is important that as we go through crisis that we trust God to deliver us while also leaving room for Him to allow the pain of crisis to help us grow and change so that we can experience His salvation. Bring your crisis to the cross and leave it there for God to deal with.