When Jake called with the news, I was shocked. He came home one day to find that Sandra, his wife of four years, had moved her personal belongings out of the house, leaving only a note that she wanted a divorce. In subsequent conversations, Sandra made it clear to Jake that the marriage, from her point of view, was over. Final. Done. She wanted out without having to answer a lot of questions.
But Jake had questions. And as he asked Sandra those probing questions - starting with "Why?" -his frustrations grew because she wouldn't go there. Her responses were nebulous and inexplicable to him. This is where Jake was on the journey - confused and imperiled, facing the greatest personal crisis of his twenty-nine-year-old life - when he called and asked me to pray for him and Sandra.
What in the world do you say to a friend at a crisis time like that? And how do you pray for him? More important, how does he pray for himself?
"Crisis," writes Roy Zuck, "whether national or individual, reveals our human weaknesses and prompts us to turn to God. That's what the nation of Israel did in the wilderness. 'They cried out to the LORD in their trouble.' " (Psalm 107:6).
Eugene Peterson draws this picture: "Prayer acts on the principle of the fulcrum." A fulcrum is a fixed position or defined point upon which a lever swings or turns. It is a necessary and strategic spot by where fluid motion can occur, and gradually great weight is transferred. Peterson passionately declares that prayer is "the small point (the fulcrum) where great leverage is exercised."
Prayer is never more leveraged than at the fulcrum point of crisis - be it individual or national. Prayer is that specific point, in the context of a specific circumstance, at which our cries to God set in motion the leveraging of our crisis, moving its burdensome weight from our shoulders to His.
The very definition of the word crisis complements the image of a fulcrum. The word crisis means a pivotal, decisive, or crucial moment - a sudden time of testing, for better or for worse. It originates from the ancient Greek word krisis, which means a time of testing or judgment. The word crisis carries with it all the packaging within that pivotal moment when one may question his or her hopes, fears, and even faith, in rapid succession. It is in times like this that we pause in pain and utter bewilderment. Such times are the unexpected striking of a match that lights a fire we can't control.
It's in these crisis moments that we come to a sort of emotional duality with what to do with this thing called prayer. Do we embrace it or neglect it? On the one hand, crisis often drives us to God because we know that there's no one else that can even begin to explain, much less make any sense of it.
On the other hand, if we've been negligent in our prayer lives, we may feel ashamed and awkward pursuing a new level of communication with God, now that crisis has come.
Crisis came to Jake's house. Maybe it has come to yours as well. Is this a fulcrum moment in your life? Are you at a point where you need some help?
I think a lot these days about pastors of churches. Maybe it's because I was a pastor for almost twenty years prior to my present assignment at EQUIP, a ministry created to train pastors around the world in leadership. Maybe it's because I grew up in a minister's home. Whatever the reason, I have great compassion for pastors and preachers. I love them and I love to be around them.
You may not be aware of it, but pastors are like members of the emergency trauma centre at your local hospital. These trained and talented men and women care for hurting souls on a regular basis, many of whom are experiencing genuine crisis in their lives. "Crisis care" is a normal part of the minister's daily work.
I can remember times when I would sit, absolutely speechless, in my church study following a meeting with a parishioner and hearing the nature of his or her crisis. This person's crisis took my breath away.
You know what I would do? I would encourage this person to cry out to God. Many times in the centre of my own crises I have cried, "Lord, what in the world am I going to do with this terrible situation I'm facing?"
It's so simple. Yet pride often prevents us from crying out to God and saying, "Lord, I didn't ask for this. I don't understand it. But now I've got to deal with it. God, please help me!"
If you are smack-dab in the middle of a crisis today, cry out to God. Tell Him exactly how you feel. He can handle it. Someone once told me that God is not embarrassed by the honesty of our prayers. Get gut-level honest with God and tell Him how badly you hurt, how angry you are, and that you need His help to get through this crisis. Don't worry about God - He can deal with this. When you cast (which means to "throw") your cares on Him, throw your best stuff at Him. He wants you to. It's a great first step in praying appropriately in the face of a crisis.