Let’s play a game, shall we? It is called “Have you ever?” and it is quite easy to play. One simply takes a hypothetical situation and the aim is to see if it applies to you. You must determine how you will respond. Okay I will start it off.
Have you ever felt that you did not matter? Yes. Now before someone groans and states “Great another pity party!” that is not the point of this game. In fact, it is quite the opposite. It is a question geared towards self-examination that reinforces lessons taught on how to apply biblical principles to times of adversity or challenges throughout your life. You are meant to question and then answer if this applies to you directly and then state how you would respond to the circumstance at hand. So please put some thought into it. Let’s look at more questions to ponder, shall we?
How about have you ever taken one for the team? Many times may be your answer.
Have you ever been awakened at an obscene early hour of the morning because someone just wanted to talk? Too many to count, but glad that I did.
Have you ever been hit up for money? Too often to keep track of.
You get the drift of the game. How are we to respond to those uncomfortable situations that call for action from us as Christians or when we ourselves are going through a crisis?
Do we remain calm and offer sound advice or a shoulder to lean upon? Or do we huff and puff and then blow up because we feel put out or used? How are we to respond? First, we need to apply these scenarios to our own life to determine how we would respond personally before we can learn how to respond to others going through a similar situation. Let’s see what the Bible advises us to do.
Face it, in this life we all are either in or will be in, one of these stages at some point: facing a new crisis, in the middle of one, or coming out of one. It is important how we respond during all facets of these stages.
We first must set or fix our eyes on Jesus. Next, we need to seek peace as the foundation to build upon. Peace that only Jesus can provide.
In Philippians 4:4-9 Paul reminds us to do just that.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
It is here that people get confused about what joy entails. It is not running down the street joyfully proclaiming that you are going bankrupt or suffering from an illness, but rather it is contentment in the circumstance at hand because you know God is in control and is taking care of this. This knowledge is why we should not fret or worry. He has it – He is in control. Let it go and let God work. Easier said than done, but we need to fully surrender it all to Him first.
Think about a recent crisis in your life. Do you remember how it all felt so foreign at first and you seemed to be overwhelmed and unsure of what to do? But then when we let it go, some semblance starts to take shape and more details become evident. We could see that God was moving through this and everything was falling into place as He deemed it to be. Whenever I go through a medical crisis for example, the old me would have fallen apart instantly and cry and cry and cry. However, I have learned now to look at what is going on behind the scenes so to speak. There is a reason for this trial. I may have brought it about by making poor choices and suffering the consequences of those choices or maybe a weakness that I was unaware of had to be addressed; thus, needing to be changed or refined within me. Now I look at the mystery in the background of the trial and search for the lesson being taught instead. It changes one’s perspective. I think more about what God wants to show me that would surpass any hurt or pain the situation may bring. I need to take a deep breath, find strength from Him, learn the lesson and then, progress further down this spiritual walk. He is at work and I need to trust that and move with Him and not against Him.
God wants us to mature – to grow. He wants us to shift our focus off ourselves and our selfish desires and shift it on to others instead. See those who need help. See those who cry out for justice. See those who are in pain and then act and comfort them by meeting their needs. That is called serving the Lord and being the servant, that we, as Christians, are destined/called to be.
Instead of crying over spilt milk (pitying or wallowing in sorrow) we are to see others and experience the joy of the Lord by being the hands and feet He calls us to be. By shifting our focus from ourselves onto others, we get the honor and can experience this wonderful gift He has bestowed upon us.
But we need to go further than that. We need to carry it all to Him in prayer. Remember the line in the hymn What a Friend We Have in Jesus that advises us what to do when we are downtrodden and feel that we have lost all hope? We are to “take it to the Lord in prayer”.
When we put our focus on Christ, think of the needs of others, pray on the trial or adversity -circumstance at hand and then meditate on His word, we find that the need or desire to worry will fade and that peace can come. Keep in mind that this is a process and all steps are vital – shifting our focus on others but not focusing on Christ will not work. All steps must be recognized and followed. A man going through AA for example does not pick and choose what steps to follow, nor does he decide what steps to discard (unless he is determined to fail instead of making a breakthrough). It is the same reasoning here. God remains with us when we continue to follow Him and His plan and that brings an everlasting constant peace of mind.
You may be asking what can we do for someone in need? You have been armed with a vast vault of tools. In fact, more than you know. You bring hope, encouragement, assurance, patience, compassion, coping skills, empathy, listening skills and words of sound wisdom to apply if needed or accepted by the individual at hand. We have walked through the fire to come out the other side and along the way we acquired not only a vast supply of information, but the experience that only comes from surviving a crisis. So, use these tools effectively. Keep in mind however, that we are to encourage and support someone during their trial, but we should not step out of bounds and determine how they are to deal with the situation. We must listen for cues that they are asking for advice and not assume that they are. More importantly is to let them know that you are there to listen, let them vent and please do not judge. Slowly ask questions to see where they are at emotionally or how they are coping thus far. Gently offer suggestions only if asked for your advice. This is their experience and we cannot know how it affects them or challenges them unless they convey that to us. Keep in mind we cannot transfer one experience to the other. This is not a magic one size fits all remedy that we all follow at the same pace or timing. Everyone processes information and experiences in their own unique fashion; thus, we cannot jump in saying “When it happened to me this is what I did…”. That would be presumptuous of us and can close doors that were once open. Share your story only if you are asked or prompted to do so. When we are present and loving with others in need, they can feel more comfortable to open up and reach out for help. We need to be the conduit for His glory and let Him work through us. Just being there and ready to listen is a great step to start things off.
An opportunity arises here to be the witness God calls each of us to be. This person may or may not know Jesus and we have an open window to share the good news and the teachings within His word to meditate on during the trial. We have tools to use to teach a lost person how to pray because we have a connection to the lifeline who brings us through this crisis – Jesus. Through Him we can show that there is hope because He is constantly with us. We also have an opportunity to encourage or strengthen someone who does believe, but has either weakened their resolve, or has started to backslide. We can remind them of the power of prayer and reinforce their weakened walls by refocusing on Jesus and His word. We need to reflect that and be the light we are called to be. Hope will bring assurance and assurance will bring contentment. It all goes hand in hand. His hand, our hands and the hands of those needing comfort or help.
In short, situations will arise that test us and interrupt life as we know it, but it is how we respond to the interruption that matters the most. See the trial, run to God and pray, then assess what needs to be done and act upon it. He is with us the whole time, holding our hand, carrying us when we cannot find the strength to do so on our own. He will fill you with much peace so that you can continue forward with your walk. The trials come and go, but He promises after a little while they will cease. We need to trust that and hold on to the joy that is waiting in the background for us to receive. It is there all around you, but you must let it in and not shut it out. Let’s reap the joy and praise His holy name. Rejoice! Again, I say rejoice!
So, arm yourself with His word, be ready at a moment’s notice for any cry for help and then do what we are asked to do. Share, care, comfort and love everyone. Meet their needs by drawing on Jesus and reach those very people who need to know of a love so vast and so deep that will envelop them if they seek Him. I hope that this brings some comfort and closure to someone who needs to hear this. Remember our God is good all the time and all the time God is good. How blessed are we!