As I write this, those of us that live in parts of the eastern half of the United States have just come through a difficult week. Just as we were getting some really good news about the Covid situation, we hit a major and totally unexpected bump in the road. Actually, the bump wasn’t in the road because many of us couldn’t get on the road because we had no gasoline.
And it looked more like a mountain than a bump. I mean every single station in many towns ran out of gas within a matter of hours! Not some stations- all stations.
If your area was affected, you already know the story. But just a quick recap for those that may not be familiar with the details.
The pipeline that provides a major portion of gasoline to suppliers along the East Coast was shut down by a cyberattack. So instantly there was no more gasoline flowing to storage tanks in this part of the country.
THE PROBLEM OF PANIC
But that wasn’t the immediate problem.
The immediate problem was that as soon as word got out about the pipeline, people panicked. Almost instantly, lines a mile long formed at gas stations. People showed up with every type of container imaginable to put gasoline in. And quickly, the stations ran out of gas.
Although there was plenty of gasoline in tanks at the regional suppliers, they could not transport it to the retailers fast enough to keep up with the panicked demand. And as stations ran out, the panic escalated.
Panic that made the toilet paper shortage of 2020 look minor in comparison.
As the panic and fear set in, we did not handle it well. Fear overtook many. Any trust that God would take care of us ran out as fast as the gasoline did. Selfishness exploded as normally good citizens reverted to a “take care of number 1” mindset, regardless of the impact on others. Any concern or compassion for the plight of those in our community got lost in the feeding frenzy at the pumps.
And it seemed that few were willing to sacrifice even a little for the greater good.
There were people putting gasoline in garbage cans, Tupperware containers and plastic bags. I mean this was not pretty and was about as far from what America and Christianly should look like as we could possibly get.
But fear always leads to self-protection. And in this case, it led to irrational behavior in many and lack of consideration for others in most.
So what should we have done? I mean didn’t we have an obligation to take care of our own families first?
Certainly, we have an obligation to our families first.
But that obligation should be balanced with a consideration for others. Both the American spirit and the Christian faith are based in the concept of sacrifice. The American spirit involves a willingness to sacrifice at some level for our country. Our Christian faith dictates the need to sacrifice for the good of others. And the irrational and greedy hoarding of gasoline in a time of collective need failed to honor either our country or our God.
So once again, what could we collectively have done better? What should this moment of adversity have looked like?
I believe our Bible can give us a clue.
CALMNESS AMIDST PANIC
If you are a church person, you have likely heard the term “fruits of the Spirit”. If you are not a church person, the term may be unfamiliar to you, but It is a list of characteristics found in Galatians 5:22. A list of characteristics that should be evident in the lives of Christians.
Key word “should”.
I have never found a Christian that exhibited every single one of these characteristics every single day. Maybe there are some super Christians out there who do, but I’ve never met them and don’t really expect to.
As the saying goes, “Christians aren’t perfect – just forgiven”.
But these nine characteristics should be our default settings. They should generally be evident in our lives. Our lack of them should be the exception rather than the rule.
“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22)
So let’s take a quick look at these in light of the gasoline apocalypse:
Love, kindness, and goodness should have dictated that we step back a moment and consider that we were all in this adversity together. And we should have considered how our actions would affect others. I mean we literally had people stranded because they did not have gasoline to get to their destination, while some of us were trying to hoard enough to last us for weeks. In every situation, our question should always be “What does love, kindness, and goodness dictate that I do?”
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:11)
It’s amazing how quickly a little adversity can rob us of our joy. While we were freaking out about a few days of gasoline shortage, there are many in our world who do not even have a car at all. Instead of stressing over some temporary inconvenience, what if we focused on our blessings instead.
“Always be joyful.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16)
Anxiety is the antithesis of peace. And it seems that our anxiety quickly gets the best of us when we sense a loss of control. And we had no control over the gasoline situation. But the realization that God is always in control is our truth in every circumstance.
“Don’t worry about anything, instead pray about everything.” (Philippians 4:6)
The quality of patience may be one of the most absent character traits in America today. We simply want things our way and we want them now. We don’t have time for disruptions like a gas shortage. But most of our inconveniences are rather temporary in nature and the old adage that “this too shall pass” is worth remembering.
“For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long.” (2 Corinthians 4:17)
Faithfulness at its core is about trust. Trusting in God for provision in times of plenty and in times of scarcity. Even the scarcity of gas. Panic at the first sign of scarcity is not indicative of solid faith.
“And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)
Frenzied panic is not operating in a spirit of gentleness and self-control. And we saw some crazed people out there. In such moments, we need to pause, take a deep breath, and get our bearings.
“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
OUR SOURCE OF CALM AMIDST PANIC
So you may be thinking that all of this sounds a little unrealistic in a time of crisis and panic. And it really is unless we are continually seeking to walk under the guidance and leadership of God’s Spirit. And the only way to receive that gift of the Holy Spirit is to accept, by faith, Jesus as your Savior.
Maybe you have taken that step but still need to focus more intentionally on cooperation with that available guidance and leadership.
Or maybe you have not accepted Christ as your Savior. If so, my prayer is that you will seek to take that step before the next crisis hits.
After all, you never know when it’s coming.