A Devotional Thought
How do You Respond?
Some people are pessimists while others are optimists. How do you respond to crisis or change?
In my many years as a teacher, I have observed teachers and students alike who fall into one of these two categories. During this pandemic, I noticed the same response. Either people are pessimistic about the outcome of this crisis, or optimistic. Which way do you tend to respond?
Every time crisis or change comes into your life, you have the choice to respond negatively or positively. Researchers tell us that the way you respond matters. When we develop the habit of responding with hope, our brains register that response in healthy ways. Conversely, if we respond with pessimism or negativity, our brains record that response in a, yes, negative way which leads to sickness and even death.
When Jesus, our Creator, inserted himself into human life, how did He respond to crisis? The most serious crisis was His (divine) knowledge of his upcoming (human) arrest, mocking, scourging and crucifixion. He tells his followers in advance several times what is going to happen to show He is God (foreknowledge). Only God has that capability. Imagine knowing the pain you will suffer beforehand.
At first, Jesus responded with grief so great that he sweat drops of blood, indicating unbelievably severe stress. Did this mean he was weak? No, it meant Jesus was a human being who would experience every pain we experience as human beings. Jesus did not allow himself a free pass even as God.
Jesus then prayed to his Father, checking in with the other person of the Trinity (Trinity is a word that describes God who is one in essence and three in persons, not that there are three Gods but that God has three selves). After the Son prays to the Father, Jesus got up and confidently faced his accusers while also encouraging and admonishing his followers. Jesus is in control and strengthened by his time of prayer. He steadily follows the purpose He, as God, had prepared from the beginning. How was he able to do that? Jesus shows us how—through prayer. We can receive power to move ahead, rather than be paralyzed by fear, through prayer.
Even while suffering inexplicable pain on the cross, Jesus had the wherewithal to attend to the thief next to him with comforting words,
“Today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Even while he experienced what human beings experienced,
“Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”
The cumulative pain of sin and death of all humanity fell on Jesus barely allowing him to breathe. Yet, instead of retribution or revenge, Jesus asked one of his disciples to care for his mother. While Jesus experienced unbelievably extreme physical, emotional, and psychological pain, he forgave his abusers and tended to those in need.
On the cross, Jesus showed how it is possible to have hope and display hope at the most hopeless time.
But how is this possible if you have led a life responding to events with pessimism or a critical spirit? Jesus said,
“WITH GOD all things are possible”
(Matthew 19:26). You do not have the power to respond in your own human capacity. You only have this capacity with God behind you. What was impossible is now possible. Jesus said,
“Everything is possible for ones who believe”
God gives each one of us the power to overcome. Jesus said,
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world”
(John 16:33). If you believe Jesus then you have the power to change and respond to crisis with hope. Now it is, simply or not so simply, an act of your will. You either believe Jesus and have hope, or you don’t.
The Apostle Paul tells us, "
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good"
(Romans 12:21). John wrote the reason why:
"You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world”
(I John 4:4). God is greater than anything that can come your way and will make a way for you to be able to bear it (I Corinthians 10:13).
As always, those inspired by God, as well as God himself, show us the way to overcome our tendencies to think the worst when we face crisis or change. The answer is not to run away or rebel but to endure.
”For everyone born of God overcomes the world.
This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.
Who is it that overcomes the world?
Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
(I John 5:4-5)