When we face a crisis—a foundering relationship, career, life or something else—our instinct is to run from the pain or even change how we see God. Terry Walling of Leader BreakThru shares how we can embrace these processing moments and emerge a stronger follower of Christ. 

The unexpected and the unexplained can be some of the most difficult moments in life, even for those who trust in Christ. In fact, often more so.

It is inevitable (at some point) that questions related to the “why” of the unwanted pain and circumstances will confront issues of sovereignty and God’s right to be God. When it/they do, those moments sometimes become defining moments where God shapes character.

The scenarios often go something like this (whether voiced or unvoiced):

“God, we have leveraged it all. We have given you everything, and have stepped into the unknown, just like you asked. So why the hardship and struggle? Why now? What could you possibly be doing that is good in all of this?

“God, where are you in all of this?  I don’t get it, Lord! What is the reason for allowing all of this pain? There is no way any of this can make sense.  In fact, anyone can see that this only serves to make people doubt you more. I just don’t get it. In fact, I don’t get you at all!”

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Crisis processing refers to those special, intense moments in life. God uses difficult situations to test and refine trust, deepen character and expand dependence on Him. In crisis processing, God often challenges how we view Him.

Acknowledging God’s sovereignty in the unexplained moments of life has its stretching points.

Trusting Him during times of life crises often promotes new growth and greater voice recognition of the Good Shepherd. Regardless, these “don’t make sense” moments are still very hard. God uses these moments to challenge our view of success, redefine our purposes and clarify why we serve Him.

The key to life crisis processing is learning to live sovereignly, not situationally.

Types of Life Crises typically deal with some type of threat to life, relationship, property or way of life. It is one of several, strategic processing items God uses to shape the life of a follower. These moments can include:

  • Painful endings or separations in relationships
  • Changes to current situations requiring urgent change
  • Inner turmoil and frustrations resulting in emotional turmoil
  • Persecution, spiritual oppression and warfare
  • Past abuses, dysfunctional relationships
  • Personal or family sickness; physical pain and issues
  • Mid-life struggles regarding loss of focus, direction and/or purpose

When life crisis happens early in the development of a leader, it often creates a defining, crossroads moment. “Will my future be about “me” and my ambition, or “Christ” and his call on my life”? Life crises can drive emerging leaders away from God, and life crises can net a greater commitment to live a life focused on Kingdom ministry.

In the mid-game, life crisis can be used to stir leaders who have become restless and ineffective. Mid-game leaders are often able to do ministry with a sameness, disregarding daily dependence on Christ. Life Crises can result in a call to refocus; shifting a leader from “doing” to “being” and propelling a new level of spiritual authority.

In the end-game, life crisis can produce a turning “away” from God, or it can mean a final turning “into” God.  How a leader process this pain (loss of job, loved one, etc.) often forecasts how they will complete the race. Leaders often try to  mask their responses to the loss or pain, or it takes them into depression, resulting in a loss of passion and resolve.

The Result:  Life Crises are not caused by God, but are often used by God to expand a leader’s deeper journey with Him. Do we serve Him or love Him? Or we in it for Him, or for us? Is the Christian life about worship, or leveraging God?

Greater spiritual authority (God’s presence and power resting on a life) is at the heart of God’s purposes in these moments, and His desire for each of His followers. The question is whether He can trust us with more of His power. That issue is often determined during times of life crisis.

As hard as this may sound… make sure to not waste a time of crisis processing. It is important to get all you can out of even the pain and difficult moments of life. Awaiting you is a deeper knowledge of the character of the Holy.

Terry Walling is the founder of of Leader Breakthru to resource leaders who are called to make a difference in local churches and the marketplace. He has authored numerous resources on leadership development and corporate revitalization, including his latest, STUCK! Navigating Life and Leadership Transitions. Contact Terry