I once heard George Barna say, Never let a good crisis go to waste. As it turns out, he may have been quoting Winston Churchill who said the same thing. Whoever said it first, I think it’s true.
If something terrible, heartbreaking, or even just plain disappointing happens in my life, it seems those are also the times when I am most aware of my need for grace, for hope, and the kind of help I can’t give to myself.
Sometimes crisis bursts through the roof, tears through the rafters, crashes into the room without warning or welcome, leaving us shocked, wounded, and in the dark.
And it screams in our bloody, bruised faces, Deal with me now!
Other times a crisis might present itself more like a slowly dripping faucet. One day goes by and another day, and then maybe a fissure, a transition, a shift. But the days continue to pass and the fissure is never acknowledged because it was just this small thing, maybe even a good small thing. But it was a change nonetheless.
This time crisis only whispers like a niggling thought in the back of your mind, the kind you can’t quite place.
So you carry on without attending to the impact of that change in your soul and you look up one day and realize, Oh. I’m lonely here. I’m lost. Something is off and I’m not sure how I got here.
And so crisis may burst through like a storm or it may whisper like a doubt, but one thing we can count on is that it will come.
I haven’t had many storm-like crises yet in my life. But I’ve walked through many of the more quiet ones. It can be hard to walk through the subtlety of fog and the slow crawl of darkness simply because it isn’t obvious you are in pain – maybe even to you.
I’ve experienced some of this fogginess lately, deciding finally to share it with a spiritual director. She asked which person in the Bible I most closely related with these days. My answer came without hesitation.
John the Baptist.
She suggested I spend some time in Matthew 11, so that’s where I’ve been lately. I’ve become acquainted with him – John, who leapt in Elizabeth’s womb at the sound of Mary’s voice because she carried the Messiah; John, a man who prepared the way and spoke the truth and lived wild; John, a man whose entire life pointed like a locust-colored arrow straight to Christ.
He was fiery and passionate and unique, but not for the sake of being different. He knew the call of God on his life and he lived like it was true. Jesus even called him the greatest man who ever lived.
Good to know, but none of that is relate-able to me.
Until I look at John’s life after he baptized Jesus. Maybe for John it all felt a little anti-climactic, the whole voice-in-the-wilderness thing. Because as soon as the baptism was over, John was arrested for opposing Herod’s illegal marriage. Not only that, Jesus didn’t look anything like John expected Him to look.
And so after some time in prison, John the Baptist asks his friends to ask Jesus a question on his behalf: Are you the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?
I tear up every time I read his question.
Because it doesn’t seem to me that John the Baptist is angry or suspicious here. As I read it and sit with these words, it just seems like he is feeling tired, lonely, and small.
John was in crisis.
How Jesus responds to John’s question from the darkness feels important to me. Here is a man who is questioning, not just his entire life’s purpose, but God himself; a man who seems disappointed in the way things are turning out.
What will Jesus say to him? Will He get angry or become defensive? Will He reprimand John for his lack of faith?
None of this. Instead, He simply points to two places.
First, He points outward, telling John’s friends to listen, look, and then tell John what they observe – blind people see, lame people walk, deaf people hear, sick people are made well.
Evidence of me is everywhere.
But then, just as John’s friends are walking away to deliver the answer, Jesus turns to the crowd and begins to talk about John.
Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist.
Jesus praises John in the midst of what was perhaps the darkest, most discouraging time of John’s life.
First He points outward at the evidence of His presence. But this isn’t the part that reaches down into me and touches something true. The part that makes me cry is when Jesus shifts from pointing out there to pointing within to the heart of John himself.
In other words, my works are evident in the world, but my life is evident within you.
Does He speak this to me as well when I am in my own crisis? Does he remind me of the track record of His faithfulness in the world around me even when it feels dark and lonely and off-balance? Does He gesture intimately, kindly, fully back toward me and remind me that not only has He been faithful out there but He is faithful within me? And He has made my heart His home?
Even if I can’t feel Him. Even when I question Him. Even when I am unsure.
And I practice thankfulness and rehearse truth in the fog, saying words like these as I walk:
When we wander far, your truth finds us.
When we run fast, your mercy catches us.
When we bury deeply, your grace reaches us.
When we set up our defenses, your love embraces us.
When we push back, your compassion gathers us.
Are you experiencing any type of crisis these days – raging storm or quiet fog? Is there a person in the Bible you’re most relating to in the midst of it? We would love to hear your story.Leave a Comment