Points of Crisis – Points of Conversion There are crisis moments in all of our lives where we come to the end of ourselves – where all our powers are rendered impotent, all our resources have run dry, and we are faced with the brute fact of our finiteness. This “point of crisis” might be learning of a terminal condition of one you love; it might be the overwhelming realization that you may not be able to find healing from the sickness that plagues you; it may be being caught in a natural catastrophe (like an earthquake, tornado, or fire) or in an all-consuming addiction that you can’t shake and that you realize is destroying you, or the dark despair and hopelessness that grips your stomach at the break-up of your marriage.
When we face these “point of crisis” the normal human response – whether we are Christians or not – is to feel overwhelmed, powerless, and impotent. The crisis begins to take on ultimate proportions in our life. It is all we think about. It consumes our emotions, our thinking; and every moment of the day we are plagued by its silent but insidious presence.
In the gospel of Mark, chapter five, we find Christ stepping boldly, confidently, as one who reigns over all, into two intense, seemingly “ultimate” points of crisis. Here is how the narrative unfolds: a synagogue ruler named Jairus falls at the feet of Jesus and begs Jesus, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hand on her so that she will be healed and live” (5:23).
As Jesus goes with Jairus, a large crowd accompanies him, pressing in upon him. A woman is in the crowd who has been subject to bleeding for the past twelve years. We are told “She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse” (5:26).
Both Jairus (and his daughter) and this unknown woman face a point of crisis in their life. And, for both Jairus and the unknown woman, these points of crisis – when their resources have run out and they are faced with their finiteness and powerlessness – are moments of conversion, of turning to Jesus in faith.
This should not surprise us. Points of crisis are also, almost inevitably, “points of conversion” – a turning-point in our life where we turn either to or from God.
C.S. Lewis’ experience of pain
In his classic book The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis winsomely explores how God uses pain to heal the sinful pride and autonomy of our soul. In our relationship to God, “We are…rebels who must lay down our arms…Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Lewis had experienced a great deal of pain in his life, and this book continue to be one of the great articulations of the Christian view of pain.
But then Lewis experienced the Great Crisis, the Great Pain of his life (greater than losing his mother as a boy, greater than the wounds from his distant and strained relationship with his father) – the death of his beloved wife, Joy. The loss of Joy to cancer, rocked his world, and shook his faith at the deepest and most guttural level. It also shaped – or reshaped – his faith in God. In his brutally honest account of his loss, A Grief Observed, he writes: “Meanwhile, where is God?..When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself with gratitude and praise, you will be – or so it feels – welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become. There are no lights in the windows. It might be an empty house. Was it ever inhabited?”
Lewis' honesty in his relationship to what felt like a distant and removed God shows how the Great Crisis, the Great Pain of our lives easily moves us to turn away from God.
Lewis’ anguished writings reflect, to some degree, the heart of every person faced with a similar Great Pain. Ultimately, C.S. Lewis did not lose his faith or turn from his trust in God. But you can see how deeply, how profoundly, his Great Pain shook him.
Shaken by their Great Crisis, their Great Pain, Jairus and the unknown woman, turn to Jesus. And in turning to Him, with empty hands grasping him in faith, they experience the One who is more ultimate than their sickness and their death.
As Christians, our hope is not that faith in Jesus erases our Pain but that He is more ultimate, more real, more final, more foundational than the Great Pain of our lives.