When life doesn’t go as planned, having the right perspective matters. When we read the book of Joel in the Bible, we will see that a crisis can be an opportunity for growth and change. A crisis may be the end of something, but it is not the end. There is always a tomorrow.
Challenges in life can empower us to make those life-changing decisions we have been putting off for so long. For some reason, they have the power to liberate us from the fear that has been holding us back.
Examples of crisis in the Bible
The Bible gives us some insight into this. The book of Joel describes how God’s people experienced a devastating economic crisis that threatened their livelihood. Masses of locusts had eaten up their crop and the Israelites were on the brink of a disastrous food crisis.
Some Old Testament scholars believe the locusts in the book of Joel are an allegorical interpretation of Judah’s enemies who repeatedly invaded the land, bringing death and destruction.
Whether the locusts were real or an allegory, God sent the prophet Joel with a clear message.
“I will restore to you the years that the locust have eaten. You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you.” (Joel 2:25-26, ESV)
God admonished his people to snap out of their misery and self-pity. He urged them to change their perspective and look towards the good that is to come.
When we are going through difficult times in life, we must be careful not to dwell in self-pity, false guilt or perpetual grief. Instead, we need to choose the right perspective and see crises as opportunities.
God wants to turn our loss into an empty vessel into which he can pour his blessing. When the old is gone, there is room for something new.
Every crisis is an opportunity
The word “crisis” comes from the Greek and means something of a “decisive moment”. In the New Testament this word is used for the Day of Judgment (lit. the “Day of Crisis”). A crisis is therefore the moment when a situation will either turn for the better or for worse. Sometimes it calls for an urgent decision that will have far reaching consequences.
In the Hebrew, the word crisis (משבר) means “birth canal”. The Hebrew equally underlines how critical that moment or season is. But it beautifully points to the fact, that although crises may be painful, they are an opportunity for new life!
God prunes us in a crisis
Also nature shows us that pain and difficulties can lead to something good. In John 15:1-2 Jesus compares his Father to a vinedresser who prunes the branches, so they bear fruit.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.“ (John 15:1-2, ESV)
When vine is allowed to grow freely and is never pruned, it will end up with plenty of leaves. It will look beautifully. But it will not produce fruit.
In order for vine to produce fruit, the vinedresser needs to prune it each year. The pruning throws the vine into a stressful situation – a crisis. Its life is under threat and so it goes into “survival mode”: it produces fruit to ensure that it will live on.
Crises are opportunities for personal growth
It is the same with us. Loss and crises can lead to great fruit in our life.
If we’re honest, we are often too scared to make life changing decisions, even though we know they are the right thing to do. Sometimes we are even unaware, that we need to change, or we don’t know what needs to be changed. But a crisis changes that. And a crisis can trigger the boldness we need to step out of our comfort zone.
The loss of employment can be a liberating experience. We may feel empowered to pursue that business idea we have been putting off for so long. It may be the moment to break with our unsatisfying career and start a different one.
When we move to another country, not all the friendships we had will last. But that’s ok, because we will have room for the new friendships God blesses us with in that new season of our life.
If we want to turn a difficult season in life into an opportunity, we must take the right decision. This is what we learn from the Greek and the Hebrew. A crisis is a decisive moment. If we throw in the towel and give up, we will risk living trapped in the past and remain in perpetual grief and regret.
Let go of the past
A loss or a crisis is never the end. There is always a tomorrow. And to a great extent, it is our perspective and our choices that determine what that tomorrow will look like.
Perpetually mourning over the loss will not bring back what was lost. It will only lead to disappointment and bitterness. Even by holding a grudge, we cannot change the past.
We cannot correct the mistakes we made, make the wrong we suffered as though it did not happen. And we cannot get back those years we wasted. We must learn to let go of the past and forgive ourselves. It won’t come back and it cannot be un-done.
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Choose life that you may live
Joel 2:25 affirms that in times of crisis, there are two ways we can deal with the pain and the loss and the disappointment.
In the wilderness, God set two ways of life before the children of Israel. They had to choose to live with him, or without him.
“I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.” Deuteronomy 30:19, NIV
The Apostle Paul also chose to let go of his regrets and past failures, and instead focus on what was ahead of him.
“Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Philippians 3:13-14, NLT
What will you choose to do? Will you look at what the locusts have eaten? Will you continue to grieve over what cannot be undone? Or will you let go of your disappointment and welcome the “new” into our life?
We have a choice. It may not be the choice we want but we can still choose: to live in the past or to embrace the new thing God is doing.
Let’s not be like Lot’s wife, who looked back.
After the crisis: It is time to sow again
Embracing the future does not mean we should wait for it to happen. Don’t let your life happen to you. Instead, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12, ESV)
Don’t sit idly while waiting for the promised restoration. After the locusts had eaten the crop away, guess what the Israelites had to do? They had to sow and plant again. (Read also: What to do while waiting on God’s timing)
If we want God to restore what the locusts have eaten, we need to sow and trust God for a plentiful harvest.
We need to present our five loaves and two fish – and leave it to him to feed the 5000.
We need to borrow countless jars and begin to pour the few remaining drops of oil into the first one before it can be filled to the brim.
What have the locusts eaten in your life? And what do you hold in your hands that to can sow to reap a bountiful harvest?
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