Crisis Management

If you were to draw up a list of your own personal attributes I wonder if you would include being “good in a crisis”? Of course, it takes a real crisis to come along in order to find out. This was certainly the case when Jonah’s ship bound for Tarshish hit a storm of divine proportions, terrifying the brave mariners: “All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship”(Jonah 1:5). It’s a single verse of scripture but I believe that we can draw some principles from it to help us respond biblically in the storms.

Let’s notice the very first thing that happened. The sailors were afraid. In other words, they had an emotional response to the crisis. Sometimes I wonder if in our desire to be men and women of faith and confidence in God, we can often miss this important part. To be fearful or upset during a trial might be viewed by some as sinful, but people are designed to be emotional beings and some of these emotions are bound to surface, particularly when strolling down Valley Close. Christians must always develop and maintain a church culture that allows people to be honest as they come through Sunday’s doors, especially if they are in a winter season. In the Bible, men and women always behaved emotionally when confronted with terrible challenge. David grieved for his son, as did the early church when they heard what had become of Stephen. Jesus Himself wept at a funeral. You don’t contradict victory and faith when you shed a tear or wrestle with fear. If tragic news comes to your door, by all means put Darlene on and sing, but don’t forget to have a good cry as well. God grants the gift of tears. Sometimes, to “lose it” is what it means to be “good” in a crisis.

The second response the sailors had was a spiritual one, as each prayed for divine help. Of course, these were not Christians or Jews and they called upon pagan deities, but the principle remains. Yes, we may need a moment to gasp and grasp our dilemma, but this must not become a resident dwelling place but rather the vehicle that takes us speedily to the living God. We have all met people who have thirsted for care but not cure; looking for the sympathy of the crowd not the solution of the Christ. If your heart breaks, let that pain move you, not to bitterness, but to Him who binds up the broken. True Christian prayer does not deny the present facts, but believes that God is bigger than the mountain. James says: “Is anyone of you in trouble? He should pray” (James 5:13). So, the second step is to dry your tears and to seek God.

Thirdly, and vitally, there was the practical response to the crisis, as the valuable cargo was hurled into the sea. Prayer led them to take action. I have a conviction that one of the ways in which God answers prayer is to help us make the wise decisions needed to solve the problem. Sometimes, rather than God removing the difficulty, He helps us to overcome it. It is fascinating that after prayer, the ship’s captain finds himself knocking at Jonah’s door. Popular though it is, nothing in this verse about “leaving it with the Lord.” Many problems have a key source, a situation that needs to be actively changed before the sun comes out again. This is often the purpose of the storm. Who knows? The solution may be to deal with the person we look at each day in the mirror! Of course, if you move to this practical part without prayer, you may find yourself taking some very wrong steps – like the ditching of tens of thousands of pounds worth of cargo into the deep sea. Genuine prayer should lead to inspired activity.

Three responses in a crisis: emotionaI, spiritual and practical. The same pattern can be seen during David’s crisis at Ziklag (1 Samuel 30) and Jesus’ challenge in Gethsemane (Mark 14). Storms aren’t pleasant, but you can drop the mask if you like and lift up your eyes – the Lord is your helper. Listen to His wisdom, in prayer and through the pages of His infallible Word. His Advice Bureau is open twenty-four hours and guaranteed to transform.

JOY Magazine, October 2008

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