In more recent years, Americans have tasted the bitter pill of trouble. History-making events such as Pearl Harbor, the Kennedy assassination, the Oklahoma City bombing, the World Trade Center tragedy, and now the COVID-19 virus, have worked to reinforce our awareness of great and various times of trouble.
Response to times of trouble
Times of trouble leaves a mark upon its victims. Those who have lived through catastrophic events understand this all too well. This becomes evident when you hear of people recalling specific details, such as where they were and what they were doing when trouble struck. It’s almost as if such memories were branded upon the minds of the participants.
On a positive note, some who have experienced severe times of trouble begin taking life more seriously than they did prior to the event. Witnessing, or personally experiencing, sudden loss often encourages some people to begin appreciating life and the many blessings that accompany it. Things such as eating, taking a walk, watching the sunset and even waking up in the morning are transformed from the realm of the mundane to that of invigoration.
Times of trouble can work to revive battered relationships as well. It was reported in the weeks following the World Trade Center disaster, that many couples seeking divorce, sought to repair their relationships with hopes of making a fresh start.
Another thing that may occur is the beginning of acts of goodness. New Yorkers are often known for their abrasive personalities. Yet, when trouble struck New York on September 11, 2001, some of the world’s most abrasive people began to freely offer their hearts and their lives in the service of others.
Lastly, when trouble strikes, some people begin thinking more about religion and their relationship with God. Prior to the World Trade Center tragedy, America was fighting over the separation of “Church and State.” Some fought to ban any form of prayer within public schools and institutions supported by the taxpayers. After the tragedy, prayer became commonplace. People began to attend worship services and the like. God’s name was once again being called upon by Americans, rather than cursed upon.
Indeed, as much as most of us dread times of trouble, strangely enough, it tends to foster positive growth in the lives of some. Of course, no one ought to wish for trouble, yet when it comes, it does seem to encourage the best in some people.
Response to times of normalcy
Sadly, once we become acclimated to our troubles, our emotions begin to settle, memories start to fade, and complacency tends to set in. With complacency often comes a dulling of our appreciation for life, relationships, acts of goodness and our relationship with God. Little by little, those things we found to be so important, gradually slip into their former state.
Tragedy shocks us out of our complacency. Normalcy gently draws us back into it. Clearly, humans are creatures of habit. That which comes natural to us tends to win over with little or no fight.
What are we to do? Are we doomed to failure? Not necessarily. Let’s consider five weapons that can help us in our mission to overcome complacency.
To start, we must recognize that we are prone to be complacent. Failure to recognize this weakness tends to encourage its presence all the more. Great debaters, athletes and soldiers often find their most effective weapon in the discovery and exploitation of an opponent’s blind spots. A blind spot is a weakness or shortcoming that may be seen by others, but remains hidden to us. Often such blind spots remain hidden, not because they are impossible to see, but because we refuse to be honest with ourselves. Self-love, self-defense, wrongful pride, arrogance and a lack of humility, work to bury our shortcomings deep within; so deep, most of us are doomed to repeat our failures time and time again.
Jeremiah 17:9 helps us better understand why man struggles so much when it comes to being honest with one’s self when it says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” The obvious answer is—no one. The fact is, you cannot solve a problem apart from recognizing its existence. By recognizing that we are prone to complacency, we make a giant stride in overcoming the problem.
Secondly, if our goal is to overcome complacency, we must make a long-term commitment to do battle with it. If we approach it as a one-time obstacle, we are doomed to failure. Complacency is something each of us must wrestle with for the rest of our lives.
The Bible encourages all Christians to approach life not as a sprinter, but rather a long distance runner. Hebrew 12:1 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
Thirdly, it is essential we develop our own personal plan of action to overcome complacency. No two people are alike. Each of us wrestles with different issues. The means by which complacency strikes varies from person to person. As a result, the wise person studies and searches inwardly for pockets of weakness. Likewise, they enlist God’s aid through studying scripture and personal prayer. If need be, we may seek the assistance of loving and trustworthy family and/or friends, as well.
Another helpful thing would be to perform periodic assessments of where we stand. Such times may also act as a regular reminder for our need to continually recommit ourselves to maintaining our long-term goal of overcoming complacency. In doing so, we will lay the foundation of personal accountability for our own growth and development. Scripture says in 1 Corinthians 11:31, “But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment.”
Lastly, if we are going to overcome problems such as this on a long-term basis, it is essential that we develop a contingency plan. Such a plan acts as a safety net to catch us if we begin to fall. In short, our backup plan should once again involve trusted family or friends—people who truly know us and are willing to share an honest assessment with us, if need be.
Throughout the course of history, times of trouble have dogged man much like its next of kin-death. Times of trouble have shown themselves in many ways—disease, famine and war have led the list of some of man’s greatest tormentors. The Bible recognizes the ongoing presence of times of trouble by stating in Matthew 6:34, “Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Hebrews 3:13 says, “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” The primary goal of our support team is to tell us if they see extended signs of renewed complacency in our lives. Why is this necessary? Because, at times, even the best of us fail to maintain long-term consistency over problems we are seeking to overcome. When this occurs, someone who knows and cares about us can act as a stop sign for unhealthy behavior.
If we choose to enlist the help of others, it is very important that we be prepared to hear and heed their warnings. Many a relationship has been ruined by those who demonize the bearer of “bad news.” No one likes to be confronted, but if we truly desire to overcome our shortcomings, we must be ready to hear and heed the warnings of family and friends we have asked to be on our team.
Times of trouble shall be with us until the day we die. Such times can either bring us down or help lift us up. They can create a short burst of enthusiasm or a long-term commitment to growth and development. As you stand before the Lord God, the Holy Creator, what choice will you make? What is your plan? Success? Failure? Indifference? The ball is in your court!