Thursday, March 17, 2011

Normal Crises

From a recent investment Q&A:
Q.  How will investors know that the financial crisis is finally over?
A.  It would be a mistake for investors to think of the crisis as a discrete event that at one point will end and return financial conditions back to "normal...."

The question itself hints, I think, at a cultural expectation of ease.  And it's not just in financial matters, but in life as a whole.  We tend to define "normal" as good health, job security, housing comfort, consistently agreeable colleagues, and so forth.  Without all of these, there is a sense of waiting and/or working toward that "normal" state of affairs.

And optimism is good.  Hope is wonderful.  Intentionally working toward a better situation is healthy and generally effective.  But to have all parts of life in a no-stress zone all the time?  Best I can tell, that isn't "normal," and false expectations don't help.

Like in the financial Q&A above, the answer includes developing a broader perspective, one that recognizes ebb and flow within the complex interactions of life.  Crises will come -- that is "normal."  The question remaining is how we choose to respond.

I recently read an article by John Ortberg titled "Don't Waste a Crisis."  He cites a survey which revealed that the number one contributor to spiritual growth was not learning scripture or practicing positive emotions or attending church or serving others.  Rather, it suggested that the most significant opportunities for growth come from suffering.  There will probably always be debate about whether God causes suffering or simply allows it, but no matter where comes of that, I can stand firmly in the belief that God redeems suffering.

I want to celebrate and savor times of abundant well-being, without grasping them too tightly.  And I intend also to faith-fully, hope-fully, love-ingly endure difficult times, knowing those, too, will come to an end, and that in the meantime, God will bring about something good.

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