Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Reacting to trouble

"How are you?" may be one of the most common and most disingenuous questions that we ask. Sometimes we ask without really wanting an answer; it has become a replacement phrase for "hello." I have often participated in conversations that go something like this:

"Hey, how are you?"
"Good. You?"
"Oh, you know. Same old, same old."

Or like this:

"Hey, how are you?"

"Hey?" That's really an answer? At least the first conversation pretends to engage the question. Full disclosure: I have not just heard the answer "hey" but have used it myself. I don't recall having someone answer "hey" and being offended by it. In my experience we get (and give) the level of answer that is expected. But of course there are also plenty of times that the question is meant to elicit a deeper response. But how often do we really want to share how we are doing? I guilty of having a canned response no matter how things are going. If things are going good the response is usually, "good." If things are going rough the response might be, "not bad." If things are crashing down around me the response might be, "not too bad."

I think that my response is due to a couple of reasons. The first is our individualistic culture and private nature. There are certain things that we all hold as private. The topics and amount of information may change from person to person but we all have things that we will not share. The second reason is our pride. We generally want people to think well of us and usually don't want people's pity. (On a side note, there can be times when we share our troubles for the sake of pride as well. We can get a sense of pride when we share just how difficult we have it.) Both reasons come down to our desire to control how others see us. In the day of social media we have even more control over how we are perceived by others. (I've written on this before here and here.)

I think that another reason that I respond this way is because of the perception that I am supposed to react this way. It is very easy to read Matthew 8:23-27 and scoff at the disciples reaction:

"And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, 'Save us, Lord; we are perishing.' And he said to them, 'Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?' Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, 'What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?'"

Some of the guys on this boat were fishermen. They made their living by being on the sea and I am sure that this is not the first time that they faced a storm. I am sure that they would know when a storm was just a storm and when to be afraid of sinking. Yet Jesus rebuked them for having little faith and being afraid of the waves. So one of the lessons that we take away from this story is that we should never be afraid of a storm–no matter how bad it seems–when we have Jesus on our side. Buck up. Put on your happy face because no matter how terrible things are going we are "not too bad."

Yet most of us face things in life that look like real crises. They may in face be real crises and near impossible to put on a happy face. There are times when it takes all of our strength just to say that things are "not too bad." So why do we try?

Notice that the storm that the disciples faced was very real. Their fear was also very real. It was so real that they cried out to Jesus to save them. There are times in life that crying out to God is the only thing that we can do. But this doesn't guarantee that the storm will be calmed. Jesus tells us as much in John 16:33:

"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world."

There are times when we are going to face trouble; real trouble. And when we fear the worst we can take heart in the fact that no matter what we face in this world that we have a Savior that has faced just as much as we will ever face. He might not get rid of all of our trouble but in the end–in the life after this one–he will more than get rid of our troubles. We do not need to be afraid of calling out to him for help. It is the first thing that we should do. What we shouldn't do is put on a false front and simply answer "not too bad" when we are asked how things are going.


Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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