Crisis or Awakening?

“The difference between a crisis and an awakening is the way we deal with our discontent.”

J.D. Walt continues to rock my Advent-world in his Advent Devotion Book, Not Yet Christmas. This time he brought up the notion of “holy discontent” – that nagging feeling that something isn’t quite right or that life is missing something important.

Then came, “The difference between a crisis and an awakening is the way we deal with our discontent.” And I stopped reading. Really? Is this what happens when that discontent takes hold? We either deal with it or we hit crisis?

I’m still processing this…

What have been my moments of holy discontent? And how have I dealt with them?

I had a big discontent toward the end of my senior year of high school, though I don’t think there was much “holy” about it. Then again, maybe it was my response that was unholy, rather than the discontent itself.

I definitely had the “there’s got to be more than this” feeling, but, now that I think about it, I let it fuel self-righteousness and resentment. And those attitudes led me down a path of bad choices. I suppose if God hadn’t intervened, I could have hit real crisis. (It’s pretty easy to imagine what those crises could have been.)

Hmmmm. This is all new revelation to me!

When I got out of college, I jumped right into marriage and a teaching career I’d wanted since I was a kid. Much to my surprise, neither were easy, and teaching especially had me quite disillusioned – it wasn’t what I thought it would be.

That’s a discontent. What was my response?

At first, it wasn’t much different than my high school reaction – I had a stinky attitude and felt I deserved better. Year three of teaching, though, I turned a huge corner. I hit a groove, was surrounded by a great team, and for the first time, I liked teaching.

But the bigger thing that happened about that same time was I’d found a church home and was discovering a new and deep love for God. The Bible was coming to life for me, and I was being poured into by some pretty fantastic ladies of faith.

My heart was changing – and so was my response to the discontent I could feel when teaching (and grading) left me depleted and exhausted. By my fourth year I was discovering that God could use teaching as a ministry, and that “ah-ha” couldn’t have come at a better time — I had changed jobs, and I felt like a first-year teacher all over again.

I’m not gonna say I did everything right that year, because I DID NOT. But, God was definitely doing a work in me. My responses were changing.

And as I roll this around in my head, I’m figuring out J.D. is right! Instead of hitting a full-on crisis (like quitting my job and jeopardizing my marriage), I hung in there. I looked for God every day, and some days that meant every minute of the day.

And that discontent took on a holiness. Christ at the center of that discontent brought me to my knees – literally. I prayed. A lot. And over the course of that year, I felt a new stirring in my heart.

That feeling of “there’s gotta be more than this” started to take on an excitement rather than a dread. It had a hope instead of feeling like death. As I searched Scripture and continued those conversations with God, He began to point me toward seminary – something I’d never considered (or thought of) before.

And that is what I’d call an awakening. In a very hard season, when I turned to God, He helped me deal with that discontent then awakened in me a desire for something good and right and, yes, holy.

I’m so grateful to have listened to Him even when what I wanted to do was to stomp my foot and pout. But because I sought Him first, He met me in my discontent and helped me avoid crisis…and discover awakening.

Wow! I had no idea! Thank you, J.D. Walt!

How about you? Can you think back to seasons in your life where discontent had a hold of you? What did you do with it? What are you doing with it?

Praying for that amazing awakening,

Shelley Johnson

Published by Shelley Linn Johnson

Lover of The Word. And words. Cultivator of curiosity about all things Christ. Lifelong learner who likes inviting others along for the journey. Recovering perfectionist who has only recently realized that rhythms are so much better than stress-inducing must-do's.

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