If you asked a wide variety of believers what was the most spiritually formative influence in their lives, what do you think they would say? One study done on this issue revealed an amazingly consensus. The most frequent answer was not “my mother,” or “my home church,” or “Pastor so-and-so.” For some reason the most repeated answer was: crisis.
The word “crisis” comes from the Greek word for decision or judgment, and indeed that is often the way crisis is experienced. It is a kind of judgment day, a day of decision. It reveals people for who they are, tearing down things that they thought were strong and important, and revealing where the steel-strong fibers of personality and faith lie. Crisis creates vacuum, providing an opportunity for God to fill the gap. Sadly, people often choose a God-substitute like other people, entertainment, or substances to fill the void. Crisis is the pre-eminent moment for the church to show itself at its best, as the community which is a safety net and a life line. People who have been caught in the loving arms of this community will never forget it, and it inevitably becomes one of the truly formative experiences of their lives.
Anybody who has been in ministry any length of time knows that crisis is an undeniable norm of life. There is “a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance” (Eccles. 3:4). The curse of Genesis 3 is a description of a world where pain, difficulty, enmity, and broken relationships would be normal. Jesus said, “in this world, you will have trouble” (Jn. 16:33) and indeed a multitude of biblical stories–Joseph, Job, the Psalms, Lamentations, Jeremiah–are stories of crisis and restoration. The smarter and wiser we are, the more we will see and apprehend the cracks and fissures of this life, as Ecclesiastes says: “for with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief” (1:18).
Who but you, Lord, could bring sweetness in the midst of bitterness, pleasure in the midst of torment? How wonderful are the wounds in my soul, since the deeper the wound, the greater is the joy of healing! John of the Cross d. 1591
Would you agree that crisis plays a major role in changing us, or in making it possible for us to be changed by God?