“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”John 10:10 (ESV)
Crisis mode. Those seasons in which you can’t possibly see enough to plan ahead at all— not even to Friday. Those days in which you are struggling to make it to bedtime. Those times when life gets crazy, and the kids end up watching way too much TV and consuming way too much fast food. The times when you don’t have the mental bandwidth for a conversation.
We’ve all been there. Sometimes, it’s when you’re adding a new baby to the family. Or when your parent is sick, and you’re spending your mental strength getting them and yourself through that. Maybe you moved, and your feet aren’t quite under you yet. You’re in crisis mode. You’re just trying to get by each day. You just need to eek into tomorrow.
There are times when really and truly, that is all we can do. We can only do this moment and simply cannot think past it. We lean into Jesus, and we just hang on as we pummel to the bottom of the valley.
But crisis mode doesn’t last forever. Yet for far too many Christian parents, we spend the majority of our children’s lives parenting in crisis mode. We never get our feet under us. We never see beyond this moment. We certainly don’t plan for the future. We spend our entire parenting life just trying to eek into tomorrow. We make decisions that aren’t for the long-term good of our family.
The thief would like for us to continue that way. He’d love nothing more than to steal your joy, intentionality, and love for your family. He’d love nothing more than to destroy any hopes for discipleship and community within the family (and the Family of God). He’d love for you to stay so busy and so tired that you cannot possibly see a way out of this moment right now.
But Jesus has bigger plans for us. Jesus wants us to have abundant life. He wants us to thrive, not just eek by.
So how do we get there? How do we get out of the cycle of crisis mode? How do we get beyond this moment? How do we reclaim what the thief is trying to steal from our family?
First, we pray. Often, when we say we’re holding onto Jesus, we’re just holding onto some vague idea of hope. We aren’t actually praying. We aren’t actually reading the Bible. We aren’t actually availing ourselves to His grace in our lives. We’re holding onto the idea that Jesus will be like a fairy godmother and sweep into our mess at some point and just bippity-boppity-boop it all okay. We aren’t asking Him to step in; we’re just holding out a weak hope that perhaps He will. Faith is bigger than that, fam. Jesus is more than that. He is our hope for the future, but also our hope for today, for this moment, for this situation. We pull away from His people, where He works. We pull away from the hands and feet He sends. We just wait for that magic wand to turn our pumpkin into a carriage. Stop vague hoping and find a hope that is deep, real, and lasting. Pray. Seek Him. Give Him your cares in prayer. If your faith is floundering, I suggest keeping a prayer journal so you can watch God at work. Write down the date and your specific requests. Leave some room for the answers. When a prayer is answered, write down the answer and the date. You’d be surprised at how much and how quickly God works. We tend to forget. We get short-sighted. We forget we were praying about the kid’s cough last week because that is gone now, so now, we’re praying for something else. But God is faithful, even if our memories are not.
Don’t pull away; lean in. Often in times of crisis (which we’ve established is just a way of life for some of us), we pull away from the Church. We pull away from our friends. We don’t share our burdens with them. We don’t want people to know our struggles, and we certainly don’t want them to help. The thief likes this about us. Isolated people are easier to tempt. Isolated people tend to magnify their own problems. Isolated people are easier to destroy. Don’t pull away from the grace God gives us. He gave us one another. He works through His people. Stay with His people. Let them help lighten your burden. Let them help bring some perspective to your situation.
We tend to pull away from spiritual discipline. We become too busy and too burdened for that “just one more thing”. So, we stop reading our Bible. We stop fasting. We stop feasting. We stop worshipping. We stop listening. We just stop. Shutting out the voice of God doesn’t make the thief’s voice quieter—it amplifies it. Shutting out the voice of God isn’t going to alleviate your burdens; it is only going to make them heavier and make you weaker while trying to carry them. Don’t pull away.
Next, we sort our priorities now. Today. We don’t wait for things to get easier. We don’t wait for things to get lighter. We choose today whom we will serve (Joshua 24:14-15). So, whom do you really serve? Many of us live our lives to serve ourselves. We want to say we are Christian families, but if we look at our priorities, it is clear we are serving the great American god of Self. How do you know your true priorities and not just the “look good on paper” versions? Look at your calendar. Where is the most time spent? Where is the best time spent? Where is the first time spent? Which parts are written in pen, and which in pencil? (Metaphorically, of course; I know some parts might actually be written in crayon.) Look at your checkbook. Where is the most money spent? Where is the first money spent? What parts of the budget are non-negotiable? If you’re like most American families, you might be surprised to see that your serving children’s sports and activities above all else. You might find that your entertainment and “me” time have become those non-negotiable, written-in-pen activities. You may find that, while you say you’re a Christian family, nothing about your calendar or bank account will verify that claim. You may find that you’re trying to “squeeze in” those religious things to appease that part of your brain saying, “I’m not doing this life-thing right.”
We find ourselves living in crisis mode outside of a crisis because we’re devoting ourselves to the wrong things and to too many things all at once. When we choose a child’s sport activity before worship, what we say with our actions is that faith isn’t as important. When we find ourselves choosing personal entertainment over family dinner, what we say with our actions is that I’m more important than the family. (And I’m talking about consistently choosing, not a once-in-a-while thing.) Are we teaching our children that my personal comfort and temporary amusement is more important than Jesus? …than them?
Take a long, hard, critical look at your priorities. Pause everything else for as long as you need in order to get first things first. Take a family break from everything that isn’t top billing. This will help you actually live the life you intend to be living. It will get you out of crisis mode and just eeking by.
Those things on pause— don’t add those things back in without thinking through what you’re giving up to have them in your life. Every ‘yes’ also comes with a ‘no’. Be aware of that so you can say ‘yes’ wholeheartedly, with intention, and say ‘no’ without guilt.
When you are in actual crisis, go back to these priorities. Start saying ‘no’ to the extras more so you can still live with intentionality and not be crushed under the current burden. (Also, let others help you carry the load.)
Live life intentionally. Raise your kids intentionally. Don’t just run from one crisis to the next. When you are in crisis, know which things are immovable and which things are extras. Jesus wants your family to have abundant life. The thief wants to steal your hope, joy, and family. The thief wants to bury you. Don’t help him.