I thought it was remarkable for someone to declare, “My husband’s illness is the very best thing that has ever happened to us.” And she was sitting right next to him as she said it!
So, as if I heard things like this every day, I calmly asked, “Really?”
The illness she was referring to was no small thing. If he had had a bad cold or pneumonia or even a heart attack and was now on the road to recovery, I could have more easily understood what she meant.
For instance, I read about a man who was playing a game when one of his opponents punched him in the head. The next day, his head still hurting, he visited a doctor, who discovered that he had a serious medical condition that medicine could treat. Without that blow, the man wouldn’t have known about his illness and might well have died. So the punch in the head was the best thing that ever happened to him, because it saved his life.
But this was different. Her husband had an incurable form of cancer. The doctors had given him six months to live. That was six years prior to my conversation with his wife. Today, while he is still a sick man and while life has presented some major challenges, he’s not only very much alive, but his extended life means he has had the opportunity to be involved in raising his young son. And best of all, he has found hope for his long-term future in Jesus.
As his wife explained, his illness has caused his family to reassess their priorities, to decide what is really important in life and to make the changes they feel are necessary for their family to be truly Christian. And that was why the young wife and mother could call her husband’s illness “the very best thing that has ever happened to us.”
Fight or flight?
When faced with a crisis, we can react in numerous ways. It sometimes happens that people whose world is falling apart will turn their backs on God, believing their calamity is evidence that He doesn’t care.
Even the faith of the prophet Elijah was seriously shaken when the wicked Queen Jezebel threatened his life. And consider the context: during the previous three years, Elijah had received food from ravens, provided miraculous food for the widow of Zarephath and raised her son from the dead, and witnessed God send fire from heaven on the top of Mount Carmel.
Yet when a messenger brought to Elijah a death threat from the Phoenician princess, his default reaction was not to remember how the providence of God had so remarkably protected him up to that point. The Bible doesn’t record that Elijah fell to his knees and begged for God’s mercy and grace. He simply fled.
In fact, he was so despondent that he “prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, Lord,’ he said. ‘Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors’” (1 Kings 19:4). Crises cause even individuals of great faith to lose sight of God’s goodness so it’s no wonder that sometimes we too don’t hold up well under pressure.
Others react to crises by attempting to compensate in some other area of their life. Many turn to alcohol or drugs as a way out of their present difficulties. Some find refuge in food, others in gambling, still others in misdirected intimacy.
The key to strength
Then there’s Job. When a series of tragic events robbed him of not only his possessions but also his 10 children, he responded by saying, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21).
Satan, however, was confident that a more significant crisis would cause Job to abandon his faith in God, so he challenged God: “Stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face” (Job 2:5).
So God gave Satan permission to afflict Job “with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head” (verse 7). The man’s physical condition was so serious that even his wife urged him to “curse God and die!” (verse 9).
Yet Job’s response was that of faith and trust in all of this. This doesn’t mean that he never had moments of darkness. But he was able to say, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15, NKJV).*
And therein lies the key: Job was able to trust God, no matter the circumstance. I don’t mean to suggest that the only right way to handle a crisis is with stolid impassivity or quiet resignation. There may sometimes be tears and desperation.
The suffering Jesus experienced on Calvary caused Him to cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). But as He hung on the cross, He was able to trust His Father completely. The night before He had said, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39) and just before He died He said to God, “Into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46).
Like Job, Jesus was able to trust His Father, believing that His Father’s plan would ultimately work out for the best.
Whom do you trust?
So how did Job and Jesus develop that incredible level of trust? How can you trust someone enough that even when a crisis strikes, you can move forward securely? The answer is time—time spent together. Combine that with love and mutual respect, and that’s what makes the difference. In the same way, when we get to know God we learn that we can trust Him to help us through the most difficult of crises.
I’m fascinated by the way so many people dismiss God as distant or aloof, out of touch with our daily cares and concerns. Many have portrayed Him as intolerant and hateful. But look at what God says about Himself and ask yourself if this is the sort of Person who might be able to help you when things aren’t going right in your life: “ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’ ” (Jeremiah 29:11).
That remarkable statement declares that God has only the best intentions toward our world. And God uttered those words to a people who were about to go through a terrible crisis. The nation of Babylon would soon take Israel captive and for seven decades they would be prisoners in another country, stripped of their independence and robbed of their autonomy. And yet God told this rebellious, stubborn nation that His thoughts for them were to give them hope and prepare for them a viable, vibrant future.
So whom would you trust in a crisis? It might be difficult to have confidence in God, because the One—the only One—who had the ability to prevent your situation chose not to do so. And now you’re in a fix—maybe in a wheelchair or a hospital bed—because God chose not to intervene.
But balance those thoughts with what the Bible tells us about God’s love, His constant care and the promise of everlasting life in a land where there’ll be no more crises, and perhaps you indeed can then put your complete confidence in Him.
Trust isn’t always easy. It can sometimes be very messy. But to do so with God in the midst of a crisis provides certainty, security and a future filled with blessings and joy.
Sometimes crises demand that we take a leap of faith. Except that any leap God calls on you to make is not a jump into the unknown. In a time of crisis the God who promises to catch you is a Deity you know from experience; Someone in whom you can have complete, unreserved trust.
If God is calling you to take a leap of faith, you can drop into His arms knowing that He will never let you fall—even if it doesn’t look that way at first.
Getting to know Him
Read the Bible—it’s His love letter to you.
Pray to Him—it’s as simple as having a conversation.
Go to church—learn more about Him with other like-minded people.
Private reflection—we need silence to hear God better.
Visit nature—let the beauty of God’s creation calm your nerves.
This article is adapted with permission from Confidence in Chaos by John Bradshaw, Review and Herald, 2014.
* Scriptures quoted from NKJV are from the New King James Version, copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc., Publishers.