When Jesus’ brother James told us to find joy in our trials because they develop perseverance, he added, “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4). Maturity doesn’t occur overnight, or as a result of a quick fix that instantly cures our fears and doubts. For this reason, when we face a trial we need to take a deep breath, ask God to help us order our steps, and take on our struggle one question at a time. (yesterday’s post)
Several years ago the church I serve experienced a devastating fire when lightning struck the steeple of its worship auditorium. No one was seriously hurt, but we lost most of our facility and its contents. Church members came to weep as the place where they were married, their children were baptized and funerals for their parents were held went up in smoke. We prayed. And we wept some more.
The day after the fire our leaders met to begin charting a course for recovery. We were confident God would show us how to turn our tragedy into a triumph for His kingdom, but we knew the road ahead was long and we could only speculate how Satan might try to destroy us. The good news is we survived with flying colors. Our ministry emerged from our restoration stronger and more vibrant than ever.
I contribute our success first to a faithful God who guided us, secondly, to some of the wisest and most gifted leaders in the world, and third to a church family that responded with unwavering devotion. As the Body of Christ we put our personal goals aside for the season of need and pressed on day after day, year after year.
But we didn’t move without a plan. The first “day after”, we sorted through many necessary tasks, processes and priorities. We assembled teams of people to assume important roles. And most importantly, we resisted the urge to fix everything overnight. In fact, our first step was to take a day to pray, plan and rest. Many well-wishers came to help, but in most cases we wrote down names and phone numbers and told them we would contact them if we needed them in the future.
In times of crisis, there is an obvious need to take control and start “doing”, but sometimes what we need most is not control, but self-control. If we fail in this respect we may miss an opportunity to make the wisest choices, or find ourselves paralyzed by too many choices.
If God’s divine option is infinite, then it makes sense to take the time necessary to consider how He might be working when life rocks the certainties of our faith. Each step through the valley of fear and doubt needs to be processed. Like the standardized test, two right steps taken at the same time might result in a wrong decision because we are trying to take on too much at once.
How do you avoid the temptation to try to fix too many things at once? How do you know which steps to take first?
Dear God, give me the patience to put one foot in front of the other. In Jesus’ name, Amen.