This post is the first draft of a classification paper written to demonstrate the necessity of the revision process. Check back next week to see the improvements.
Life is hard. Many unexpected things are often thrown at us, and we have to choose how to respond to them. People lose their jobs, find themselves in the midst of a health crisis, or struggle with relationships that are out of their control. These battles not only take a toll on us, but they also challenge us, strengthen us, and mature us if we allow them to.
It seems that there are times in our lives that we face a crossing of some kind. Perhaps it is a railroad crossing and it seems the road is blocked. Or it could be a pedestrian crossing and we are just trying to get through it without getting hurt. Maybe, though, the crossing is a bridge, and we travel across to a new place as a better person.
I have discovered that I respond with several different reactions when I face a crisis in my life. In some of those responses I feel like I must be in control, even when it is not possible. In others, I completely give up and become apathetic in my response. However, as the Lord deals with me in these situations, I am finding that there is a more mature response. I have not learned all that I need to yet, but as I look back over my life, I can see more and more lessons I have learned and tests I have passed.
While I have no problem being spontaneous in my day to day life, I am a long-term planner. I need to know where I am right now, and what I will be doing next week, next month, or next year. In my mind’s eye I can see the expected course of my life, and when something threatens to disrupt it, I fret. I worry. I plan out scenarios, and they are usually the worst case scenarios. My stomach can be tied in knots for weeks on the inside, but externally I appear calm and rational. Once, when my husband was having some health issues, I remember literally chanting Philippians 4:6-7 over and over again as I did my daily walk. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything …” Even during a period of time in which I had no control, I would think, “if I can just make it until Friday,” or “by the first of the year this will all be over.” Thankfully, although I cannot say that these thoughts never plague me, I am certainly much better now. I have learned that my times are in His hands, and I would rather be a part of His story for me than my own.
Another passive reaction I have is one in which I leave the results of a situation or crisis to luck. To be sure, this is not the same as faith. This is more of an apathetic approach that borders on denial. My mother says that my mantra has always been if I don’t look at it, it is not there. This is how I have handled many stressful situations. When my cholesterol was high, if I didn’t get it regularly checked, I wouldn’t know it was high. When we were struggling financially, if I didn’t look at the bank statement, everything was fine. Even when I had a cold, if I denied it enough, I wasn’t sick. This approach is one that I still deal with. I have a hard time finding the line between denial and faith, and I still feel as if not acknowledging the problem will make it go away. I need to find the place where I can recognize the problem and trust God for the solution.
Crossing my T’s
The first two responses involve a very passive response from me. I do not try to accept any control over the situation. However, there are several other responses that require me to take too much control. For example, sometimes I think that if I just do everything perfectly, it will mute the impact of the crisis. If I pray hard enough, spend enough minutes doing my quiet time, or memorize the right scripture, then the hard times will go away. In a non-spiritual sense, I feel pressured to follow the doctor’s orders exactly, research a new business excessively, or micro-manage my children’s lives. If I exercise enough, or manage my time well, or drive the speed limit, I will avoid catastrophe. Unfortunately, life is unpredictable. It happens, and sometimes it is hard. My efforts will not keep me and my loved ones from crisis.
Crossing the line
Sometimes I actually try to manipulate God. I pray for Him to guide my daughter in her relationships, then I bombard her with opinions and advice. I pray, “If it is Your will for us to make this purchase, provide the money,” then I consider more credit card debt as an option. I ask God to open doors of opportunity, then I want to pick and choose which opportunities I want. In other words, I try to answer my own prayers. It is as if I don’t believe that God is big enough to handle the requests I throw at Him, or I think that I have better ideas and plans. I don’t rely on Him to be sovereign with my best interests at heart.
Every once in a while, a situation will just make me mad. My anger leads to irrationality and a distortion of reality. When I am upset, I might blame or offend someone who has no more control of things than I do. I spout off without thinking and put up a wall around myself that guards against the truth. I am a very passive person, so these reactions often occur internally, but they are no less lethal. Once anger has gained a foothold, bitterness and resentment is not far behind. Once I become angry, the trivial matters grow in importance and consequences seem more dire. It is very difficult to let go of this anger.
Of course there is a solution to all of the false ways of handling crisis situations, and it is found in the cross. Jesus died not just to save us from our sins, but also to give us abundant life. Life is a series of lessons that grow us closer to the likeness of Jesus. Instead of being cross, we need to be …Rather than crossing the line into manipulation, we need to realize that God loves us even more than we love ourselves and has specific plan for our lives. When we want to rely on the fact that we have dotted all our i’s and crossed all our t’s, we must realize that whatever control we think we have has been given to us by God. While it is easy to just cross our fingers and hope everything turns out well, we need to actively place our trust in His plan for us. There is no need to cross bridges before we get to them because many of those bridges lead to nowhere. In fact, FEAR actually means False Expectations Appearing Real. By contrast, a life of faith is a life of Fabulous Adventures in Trusting Him.