Thursday, November 24, 2016

Coping With Crisis – and Crises

With the arrival of Thanksgiving Day, we’re officially in the midst of the holiday season. Time for fun, frivolity, family and friends, we’re told. But what if this time of the year only magnifies feelings of frustration, failure, and even fear? When it seems you have little reason for giving thanks?

Recently I heard a description of the human condition: It seems there are three kinds of people – those who are in crisis, those who have just gotten out of a crisis, and those who are about to get into a crisis (whether they know it or not).

There’s good reason the term “crisis mode” is so widely used. Just when things seem to be going smoothly, and we’re about to proclaim, “life just can’t get any better than this!” some not-quickly-resolved dilemma decides to pop up, placing unavoidable bumps and ruts in the road.

Suddenly, rather than reveling in the ease of living, we’re more apt to agree with Mr. Murphy, whose law insists, “If anything can go wrong, it will.” If this describes your frame of mind right now, when the prevailing holiday mood of “happy, happy, happy” seems to have escaped you, take heart. You’re not alone.

This is why apostles Paul and James felt led to write we’re to “rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4), and “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).

In the midst of the struggle, particularly in a season when we’re supposed to feel overflowing happiness, it’s not easy to “rejoice” or “consider it pure joy.” Not quite the words that come to our minds. But if we trust in God and His revealed Word, we’re assured this is exactly what we should do – and can do.

But again, we’re not alone. We’re not the only ones suffering pain inwardly, even if, like us, they force their faces to display happy smiles. And we shouldn’t have to endure our trials and hurts alone, either. We can turn to others for comfort, and thank God as we’re doing it. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 Corinthians 1:2-4).

Sometimes, in the midst of our own adversity, the best remedy is offering comfort to someone else. It can take our minds off our own troubles. We might discover our difficulties aren’t as bad as we thought. And we may find that giving comfort to another is the greatest Christmas gift we could give, one that gives both ways.

Lastly, and most important, we can turn to Jesus. We’re told, For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are -- yet he did not sin (Hebrews 4:15). Having taken on human flesh, enduring all of life’s challenges, He can say, without hesitation, “Child, I understand. I truly do.”

So if Thanksgiving for you is just the beginning of weeks of festive celebration, enjoy it! But if, like many others, the happiness of this season only serves to heighten your personal pain, look to the Lord with hope and confidence, knowing He is using this time in your life – no matter how hard – for your and His ultimate good and purpose.

Believing God is in control, and trusting that He genuinely has your best interests at heart, you then can do as 1 Thessalonians 5:18 exhorts us to do: “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

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