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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Staying Out of Crisis Mode

By James Meredith
Mar. 11, 2012

“No More Ashes to Lug!”

It was 1912, and the Glenwood Stove Company announced an invention that would relieve the average household of a most undesirable chore. The ad explained that Glenwood’s new stove was designed in such a way that the ashes automatically flowed through a sealed pipe into the basement ashbin. As a result, families would never again have to deal with the mess, labor and concern of keeping a stove clean.

The original readers of that ad could never have imagined the life-altering inventions that would fill the next 100 years. Chances are they’d marvel at the thought of how carefree life would be with the luxuries we enjoy today: microwave ovens, cell phones, Internet, even the simple thermostat on the wall. Compared to 1912, one need not leave the comforts of the living room sofa to accomplish many daily responsibilities.

Yet our lives are anything but carefree today. A recent Gallup poll notes that over 80 percent of Americans feel stressed at least some of the time, with nearly half noting those feelings frequently. Despite our efforts to make life run more smoothly and organized, we often feel overwhelmed by the pace of each day.

God never intended for us to exist within the constant bustle of a life that always seems to be moving in fast-forward. He didn’t design us to feel overwhelmed by our circumstances and responsibilities, no matter how challenging or important they might be.

Instead, He invites us to enjoy His peace — a promise that accompanies the gift of the Holy Spirit into our lives (see John 14:27). But how can we grasp such a promise when life presses us from all sides? How do we rise above “crisis mode”? Scripture offers some important principles.

Live by God’s clock

When pressures and responsibilities seem to overwhelm us, there’s a tendency to look to the latest time-saving invention or time management strategy to bridge the gap. But God calls us instead to change our perspective — a principle found in a familiar portion of Scripture.

When we read Exodus 20:8-10, we immediately recognize it as the fourth commandment: Observe a Sabbath rest. Yet the verse that follows provides us with a principle that offers freedom from crisis mode. It identifies why God calls us to a regular time of rest: He himself rested after creation (Genesis 2:2).

Have you even wondered why God rested? Surely He wasn’t exhausted from His work. He’s omnipotent, after all. No, the reason for His rest runs deeper than that. The work of forming a perfect universe was finally complete; I believe God’s time of rest represented a moment of reflection upon the glory of what He had just accomplished.

And so, the Sabbath rest represents more than relief from our labor. It reminds us of our need to divert attention from world-centered activities to meditate on our Creator.

In essence, it calls us to live by God’s clock. He has ordained a pace, a rhythm, to our lives. Woven into that rhythm is a constant recognition that the Creator of the universe guides the events of each day. In order to escape crisis mode, we must first recognize our need to pause for thoughtful reflection on who God is, as well as His place as Lord of our lives.

Such a pause challenges us when responsibilities and tasks weigh heavily upon our schedules. But when we surrender to His lordship over every moment, we prepare ourselves to embrace the second principle of staying out of crisis mode.

Remember your top priority

Breaking out of crisis mode requires choices. Some of these are obvious. If your life seems chaotic, spending endless hours each week on Facebook or watching the latest reality TV program will only compound the problem — and possibly divert your focus from the One who brings peace. But the challenge to prioritize can be more subtle when we feel drawn toward doing something that is inherently good.

When I was in Bible college years ago, professors repeatedly urged us to establish our top priorities in this order: God, family, then ministry. Through the years I’ve found this to be more challenging than expected. It’s easy to become so focused on doing what God has called us to do that we neglect the very foundation of our faith: our relationship with Him.

This principle doesn’t just apply to full-time ministry. Urgent spiritual needs all around us capture our hearts, spurring us to action. Likewise, we see the value of investing ourselves in the many worthy causes and projects that call for our attention. We’re wise to keep in mind the simple truth of Proverbs 3:5,6.

The command to “lean not on your own understanding” can be challenging when our understanding seems so obviously correct. Why wouldn’t God want us to do good things in His name? But while adding another commitment to our docket — no matter how worthy — may seem vital, it will only create anxious days in the future if our schedules are already filled. Worse yet, our walk with the Lord, and responsibility to our families, may suffer.

When we find ourselves in crisis mode, we’re wise to check our priorities. Are we trusting Him to guide our choices as He sees fit, recognizing our limitations? Or do we make decisions and allocate time based on our own understanding? As we surrender our priorities to Him, the urgency to accomplish our plans will be replaced by a gentle peace of knowing that His unique purpose is at work in us.

Find contentment in Christ

We hear the messages everywhere: media, entertainment, advertising. If you want a happy and fulfilled life, you need this product, this experience, this look. Those who come up lacking have somehow missed out.

Such are the pressures of living in a materialistic society. But if we yield to these forces, we’ll soon find ourselves entrenched in crisis mode. It takes time and resources to “keep up with the Joneses.” And we may even find ourselves pressed to become something God never intended us to be. It’s hard work living up to someone else’s expectations.

However, God calls us to a different standard. Perhaps the greatest example is the apostle Paul. In Philippians 4:11, he declared that “I have learned to be content in all circumstances” (NIV).

What makes this verse truly amazing is that Paul wrote it from a prison cell. He was the most prominent leader in the first-century Church, yet amid the squalor of a Roman jail he made peace with his circumstances. He didn’t feel the need to compare himself with others who had it better, nor did he worry about what others thought of his situation. Instead, Paul allowed God to define the value and the direction of his life.

This is the kind of attitude that will insulate us from crisis mode. When we’re content wherever God has placed us, there’s no pressure to chase after things we don’t need, or live up to expectations God never intended us to keep. So be content with where God has placed you. Live in peaceful surrender to the promise that He will promote you, bless you and change you according to His plans for your life.

Staying out of crisis mode is a constant battle. There will always be “ashes to lug.” Financial needs, family responsibilities and job pressures are all a natural part of life. Add the occasional, unseen catastrophe, and things can become overwhelming.

The antidote is found in adopting a new perspective, one that looks to God to prioritize our time, guide our decisions, and define our values. When we surrender every need and crisis to His care, we’re free to experience the peace that can only come from Him.

JAMES MEREDITH is technical editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.

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