There is a little phrase that has occupied my mind in recent days, “Don’t waste a good crisis.” We usually hear it in a negative connotation, in reference to someone taking advantage of the opportunity a crisis affords to push one’s agenda, whether it be in relationships, the workplace, politics, or another arena. The phrase is frequently used by those who feel such a move is dishonest or underhanded and that they are being manipulated. Using a crisis to further your own plans seems selfish. Unless you are God.
God knows that a crisis is often the thing that drives His apostate children back to Him. The theme of rebellion, retribution, repentance, and restoration runs through the Bible from beginning to end. It is the discipline, or retribution, of God that brings mankind to the end of his rebellion and to repentance and restoration. The book of Judges is a good place to see this sin cycle. Psalms 79 and 80 declare Israel’s plea for mercy and willingness to return to the Lord in worship and obedience after He has punished them for their apostasy.
God also uses crises for other good purposes. Philippians 3:10 tells us that God uses suffering to conform us to the image of Christ. Romans 8:28-30 and James 1:2-4 also describe God’s use of suffering to make us like Christ. Suffering can help us gain a greater understanding of God and His ways and bring us into deeper relationship with our heavenly Father (Deut. 8:3). Crisis can teach us to depend more fully on God (2 Cor. 12:8-10). And God uses suffering to testify of His greatness to a watching world (Hebrews 11).
Crisis and suffering are not just to be endured, but embraced. At the end of a crisis, we say, “It’s over!” God says, “It worked!” Those are two very different perspectives on suffering. Escaping suffering is the natural response of humans. But God’s perspective is the one we need to adopt and pursue, because in the end it produces godly character in our lives (Romans 5:3-4) and brings eternal reward (2 Cor. 4:17). We triumph over suffering when we work with God to accomplish His purposes in our trials.
With that little glimpse into God’s purposes for suffering and crisis, what next? How do we actually pursue the goal of cooperating with God in His efforts to rid us of sin, conform us to His image, build into us godly character and perseverance, and make us true witnesses of His glory?
First, it takes intentionality. This isn’t the normal response to hardship, friends. This isn’t the easy way, this is going against the flow. Think about it. The internet is suddenly awash with ideas for “surviving” the current social distancing guidelines and shutdown of our economy. There has never been such a deluge of suggestions for how to escape this pause until life is back to normal. I’m talking about suggestions for adults, not ways to engage with our children. Lists of movies you’ve forgotten about, series to binge-watch on Netflix, hobbies to take up, and projects to pass the time. Not that all of those things are bad, or should even be avoided. I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling the pull of all these suggestions. But this time-out from the normal frenzy of life is a gift of time for other things, important things. And God has a purpose for this time-out in each of our lives. Don’t miss it. Use this gift of time carefully.
Second, take your cue from God. Spend some time in prayer and consider how to use this gift of time to pursue Him. What areas of life, what spiritual disciplines, are suffering from neglect? What has God been saying to you that you have allowed to disappear into the noise of life? What issues of life need clarity in the light of God’s Word? What part of God’s Word have you been wanting to learn or memorize? What would God have you journal to help you remember what He is teaching you?
Many ministries have stepped up to provide resources to help Christ’s followers seize this gift of time for His glory and our good. I’ll list a few:
Ligonier Ministries ligonier.org
All their group learning resources free through at least June 30, 2020.
The entire library of hundreds of teaching series are free to stream, with free downloadable study guides.
And other offers available on their website.
Thought-provoking and encouraging blog posts at challies.com.
Lots of links to trustworthy free offerings for God’s people while we wait:
All the-free and discounted stuff for these difficult times
John MacArthur and Grace to You
Always free at gty.org, watch, listen, read.
There are many more resources available from solidly biblical ministries, just too many to list here. The U.S.A. has just received word that our shutdown and social distancing will be extended for a month, until the end of April. This isn’t good for our economy, I know. But I pray it saves lives and relieves pressure on our healthcare providers, and turns people to God. And in the meantime, I intend to make the most of the time for God’s glory and my spiritual growth. I’d love to hear how you’re spending this gift of time God has given us. This time it’s a good thing – don’t waste this crisis!