The Chinese language uses two characters to form the word crisis: one means danger, the other opportunity. A crisis can blindside you, bringing pain and added hurt, or it can provide an opportunity, leading you to a new adventure and a new season. The outcome is dependent on your response.
Here are five choices you have to make in a crisis.
- You can give up or go on.
On a consumer flight from Portland, Maine, to Boston in the summer of 1987, the pilot heard an unusual noise near the rear of the aircraft. Henry Dempsey turned the controls over to his copilot and went back to check it out. As he reached the tail section, the plane hit an air pocket, and Dempsey was tossed against the rear door. He quickly discovered the source of the mysterious noise. The rear door had not been properly latched prior to takeoff and it fell open. Dempsey was instantly sucked out of the jet.
The copilot, seeing the red light on the control panel that indicated an open door, radioed the nearest airport requesting permission to make an emergency landing. He reported that Dempsey had fallen out of the plane and requested that a helicopter be dispatched to search the area of the ocean.
After the plane had landed, the ground crew found Henry Dempsey holding onto the outdoor ladder of the aircraft. Somehow, he had caught the ladder and managed to hold on for 10 minutes as the plane flew 200mph at an altitude of 4,000 feet. What is more, as the plane made its approach and landed, Dempsey had kept his head from hitting the runway, a mere 12 inches away. According to news reports, it took several airport personnel more than a few minutes to pry the pilot’s fingers from the ladder.
That is a picture of perseverance—the ability to hang on when it would have been easier to let go.
Persistence jumps to the forefront for those people who survive a crisis. Persistence is the key that keeps us from giving up and letting go.
The dictionary defines perseverance as “the power of going on in spite of difficulties.” Popular colloquial phrases describe it as: “Keep on keeping on.” “Hang in there.” “Put up with it.” “Stick-to-itiveness.” “Don’t quit.” Its synonyms are determination, endurance, tenacity, plodding, stamina, and backbone. When perseverance is used in the Bible it means “to abide under,” “to bear up courageously,” and “to tarry or wait.”
Henry Dempsey would just say it is holding on for dear life.
Perseverance prevails. “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him” (Jas. 1:12 NIV).
So don’t quit. Never give up. Keep going. Hold on. It has been said, “Life is like reading a book. It begins to make sense when we near the end.” Perseverance maintains the stamina needed to endure through the pains and hardships of life. So hold on, hang in there, don’t quit. Like Henry Dempsey, don’t let go.
2. You can retreat to the past or move forward into the future.
Crisis by their very nature are frightening and depressing. There is a tendency to retreat to the past—what is familiar, what is comfortable, what is known.
God has always challenged and rewarded people who move forward. When the Israelites were leaving Egypt in a mad dash, they came to the Red Sea and were momentarily stopped. They faced a crisis of monumental proportions. What do they do? They panicked. They feared the unknown. They wanted to go back. God says to Moses, their leader, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the sons of Israel to go forward” (Ex. 14:15 NASB). Some forty years later, the Israelites had returned for the second time to another body of water—The Jordan River, not as big as the Red Sea and with no one pursing them from the rear. But, they, nevertheless, were apprehensive. To Joshua, who was now leading the children of Israel into the unknown waters of the Promised Land, God said, “Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you for your own” (Jos. 1:11 NIV).
In each scenario God commanded them to move forward. Faith was required. Faith is always required in moving forward. To move past the dangers to meet the opportunities of a new day, to move ahead in life, to grow, always requires faith. As we move forward on faith that the unknown becomes known, that the darkness becomes light, that the night becomes day. Moving forward in faith is like walking toward an electric eye opening door. The door only opens as we move forward toward it.
God has some wonderful new beginnings and exciting new blessings awaiting us as we move forward in faith. Patrick Overton describes our movement and God’s corresponding response so beautifully. He writes: “When you walk to the edge of all the light you have and take that step into the darkness of the unknown you must believe that one of two things will happen: Either there will be something solid for you to stand on, or God will teach you how to fly.”
Our faith should make a difference when we face a crisis? If not, then we should question our faith.
Facing a crisis often feels as though the rug of your life has been pulled out from under you. But remember that if the rug has been pulled out, God is under the rug. He will catch you, support you, encourage you, and soften the blow of the fall. You can count on him for that. He can be trusted. Oswald Chambers wrote: “It is no use to pray for the old days; stand square where you are and make the present better than any past has been. Base all on your relationship to God and go forward, and presently you will find that what is emerging is infinitely better than the past ever was.”
3. You can withdraw from people or connect with people.
Too often when faced with a crisis the human tendency is to isolate ourselves from others, going into hiding.
We need to connect with others for help, support, encouragement, and strength.
The first-century Christians faced crisis daily through persecution. But through it all they connected with each other. They shared with each other such as food, money, supplies, encouragement. They shared their needs and their hurts. They shared their possessions, their money, their expertise, their homes, their meals, their very lives with each other.
A pagan intellectual in the Roman Empire at the beginning of the Christian movement observed Christians and said, “Behold, how these Christians love one another.” While his remarks about Christians focused on their lack of intellectual polish, their moral scruples, and their lack of civic loyalty, the critic had to admit that they were a loving and caring fellowship.
Connection is at the heart of our faith. Emile Durkheim, one of the founders of sociology, spent years in the South Sea Islands studying the religion of primitive natives in order to discover what religion was like before it was formalized with prayer books and professional clergy. In 1912, he published his important book, Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, in which he suggested that “The primary purpose of religion at its earliest level was not to put people in touch with God, but to put them in touch with one another.”
Think of the church like a quilt. Many pieces are drawn together in a pattern characteristic of each individual church. Alone each piece would be a remnant providing little, if any, warmth and comfort. But together, knitted by strings of love and threads of pain, they provide warmth and protection to the elements of the world.
Crises are a time to connect with others, not to withdraw.
- You can fear the future or trust the Savior.
Fear is very much a part of crisis. Fear is a God-given emotion. Yet, if fear is out of control, it is the most paralyzing emotion of all. Fear makes a person doubt their abilities and paralyzes the free use of their talents. It brings on “cold feet,” makes one a “chicken,” and eats away at one’s “guts.” Fear causes one to miss a sure two-foot putt, a free throw in the closing seconds of a game, a budding opportunity for financial gain, a friendship that could last a lifetime. Fear motivates us to make more money, “just in case;” to always have the resume out, “you never know;” and to look over your shoulder, “you can’t trust anyone.”
In the ancient Greek language, the word for fear meant flight. It’s the picture of pheasants being flushed from their nesting areas and taking flight because they have been frightened by the approaching danger of a hunter. It is the soldier in battle fleeing the enemy when being shot. “Did you hear those bullets?” asked one soldier to another. “Twice,” he said, “once when they went past me and once when I passed them.”
While fear is present when facing a crisis, it does not have to paralyze us.
An antidote for fear exists. Isaiah wrote, “But now, this is what the Lord says . . . ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine'” (Is. 43:1 NIV). In fact, “Fear not” appears 365 times in the Bible. Like a daily vitamin, God has provided just what we need in the Scriptures to conqueror the daily unknowns. And what do we need? One faces their fears with fact. God says that we do not have to fear because of the fact that his presence accompanies us through the crisis events of life. God continues his discourse, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom” (Is. 43:2-3 NIV).
God is saying that we can walk through a crisis because he walks with us. It’s only two words—F ear not—easier to say than to practice, but easier to practice when we know that God’s presence accompanies us.
Here’s what God wants for you. He wants you to persevere, to not give up, to go on. He wants you to let go of the past event, don’t let it define you. He wants you to move forward by faith into a future he is preparing for you. He wants you to connect with people. That’s what the church is for. And lastly, he wants you not to fear, but to trust the Savior, who faced the crisis of the cross for you.