May 8, 1991
Not too long ago, the world experienced a “Middle-East crisis.” A college student friend of mine joked she was trying to make decisions regarding her future and going through “mid-life” crisis... Car accidents, illness, house fires, unexpected bills, marriage problems, upset plans - all tumble into the same category - crisis!
One of my college professors drew the Chinese symbol for crisis on the chalk board just before final exams. He challenged our attitude towards difficult circumstances by explaining the symbol is really a combination of two symbols; one stands for danger, the other for opportunity!
That little bit of oriental wisdom encouraged us. Although most of us believe there is something good in everything or at least God has a good reason for it, we so seldom live that way. Rare is the person who genuinely finds purpose in losing all their possessions in a fire or in losing a child through an accident. We seldom think during the height of the crisis that this tough trial will not last forever, this cancer can be removed, this destruction can be rebuilt, this thorny marriage problem will be solved, or these horribly upset plans can be reworked. All we can think about is the discomfort of the thing and the mountain of obstacles that face us.
In spite of our humanness in connecting a crisis with the danger symbol only, and our tendency to forget to look for any opportunity the crisis might present, God offers many reminders. Some of them include:
James 1:2-4: Christians are told to “consider it pure joy” when various trials come. We can do this “because we know the testing of our faith produces perseverance.” The Bible says perseverance is a mark of maturity in our faith. In other words, without the crisis, we will not grow.
Matthew 5:11,12: Jesus said, “Blessed are you when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven...”
In this crisis, God wants us to realize human response to godliness may be unpleasant at times, but His response will be a great reward. Without this kind of crisis, not only are the greater rewards forfeited, but being without the crisis of persecution may indicate we are not living for Him the way we should.
2 Corinthians 12:9: The Apostle Paul had a problem that he called “a thorn in the flesh.” While we don’t know what it was (perhaps a physical infirmity), we do know he asked God three times to take it away. God told him: “My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”
From that, Paul realized if He wanted to experience the strength of God in his life and his ministry, he had to accept the crisis of his thorn in the flesh and the helplessness and weakness that went along with it.
He understood and accepted the oriental idea of danger/opportunity by responding: “Most gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” No crisis, no grace.
The past six months of my life have been marked by one crisis after another. At times, danger has loomed large and frightening, yet the grace of God has taken each crisis and turned it into marvelous opportunity for personal growth, deeper relationships with those I love and increasing awareness of the power of God to change lives. While I may not have jumped up and down with glee at each new trial, He is teaching me I don’t have to react in fear or fall apart during a crisis. He pulls the mask off disguised danger and reveals tremendous hidden opportunities.