As I think back through the most recent months and years at the events that make up our history – whether it’s wars, natural disasters, terrorism, illness, or death – it occurs to me that amid these terrible situations, or in response to them, we often see the best that mankind has to offer. People seem more compassionate in the face of disaster, they seem to give more sacrificially when they see someone in dire need, and they are quicker to defend when they perceive injustice toward the helpless. What is it that keeps us from living life from this position all the time?
I see this in families as well. When a couple has to work through something really difficult together like an infidelity or loss of a career or trying to get through a financial crisis, often when they come out of the challenge there is a deeper connection and closeness as a result of having overcome together. Why does a nation’s economy go from economic peaks to depression and back as a common cycle? While there are many factors to consider in an economy as well as in relationships I believe it boils down to how humans respond to circumstances.
When the economy is good or relationships are good, we tend to become complacent. We spend money as if the good economy will last forever and we fail to nurture the relationship and its growth because it’s good right now. As a result, we stop doing things that kept difficulty at bay and assume it will continue as it is without having to work so hard. Or we overuse the surplus of money, credit, patience, or grace that we have access to.
Often the only way back is to go through a crisis that initiates the cautious, intentional attentiveness to rebuilding that economy, bank account, or relationship.
This concept causes me to think very differently about the passage in James 1: 2-6 where Scripture encourages us to “count it pure joy” when we fall into trials and tribulations. Not because we like a good challenge but because we know that the best and worst are kin. When we encounter the “worst”, we know that the “best” is not far away. And like in other relationships, the difficulties we endure are opportunities to deepen our relationship with God and mature us in our faith. Verse 6 of this passage says that as we mature we are less and less affected by circumstances because like a big oak tree our faith puts down deep roots to know that we are not alone through the crisis, and it will bring about a “crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him”.
Are you wondering what it takes to endure the circumstances I am talking about today? Whether you are facing a spiritual, financial, or relational crisis, the book of James gives us the qualities we need to handle a crisis.
James 1:19-20 says, “be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath. For the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” I’m guessing that some of you, as I was previously talking about relationships that deepened as a result of going through a crisis together, were thinking about a relationship that got worse or crumbled as a result of going through a crisis together. I would submit to you that you can probably identify the reasons why in the previous verses.
We tend to speak quickly, listen hesitantly, and react to emotions impulsively, particularly anger.
When we exercise patience and are being slow to speak, we can hear and respond to the Spirit of God whose fruit looks like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
As followers of Christ we are called to “live and walk in the Spirit” and when we do, we have hope because we know that the best and worst are kin.