Responding Like Jesus in Stressful Times

The beginning of May, 2016, will be remembered for the gigantic wind-driven fire that sent some 80,000 residents of Fort McMurray packing. It is definitely one of the largest evacuations in Canadian history. There was no warning. When the decision was made to evacuate there was no time to pack or save personal items.

The stories from the evacuation are amazing. “There was smoke everywhere and it was raining ash,” one resident said. The heat was so intense and could be felt from a great distance away. It was reported that traffic was so jammed that it took two hours to move just 4 kilometers. Vehicles and campers left behind could be heard blowing up as people headed to safety.

So many volunteers worked around the clock to try to save as much as they could. In fact, the city’s infrastructure was largely saved so that rebuilding can begin sooner than later. There were so many acts of kindness too. Gas or water given freely. Food distributed. It has been amazing to see the help and support that has been offered in this time of crisis.

In the first century Christians were in crisis. Discrimination against the followers of Jesus was encouraged and celebrated. They were becoming discouraged. It was into this environment that Peter wrote a letter to “the pilgrims of the dispersion” (1 Peter 1:1). Peter wrote to encourage them how to live their lives during such perilous times. They really thought that “the end of all things [was] at hand” (1 Peter 4:7).

Unfortunately there was precious little help for these persecuted believers from the world around them. They had to find support from among themselves. Those in crisis around us, like those displaced from Fort McMurray, are finding support from so many. The church is a big part of that. Here is advice from Peter as to “how to respond like Jesus in such stressful times.”

First, respond in Prayer. Peter tells them to be “serious and watchful” in their prayers (1 Peter 4:7). Truthfully, prayer is something that no one can take away from you. Oh, public prayer can be outlawed, and it has been in places! But don’t let anyone make you think that you can’t pray. It’s Abraham Lincoln that said, “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.”

Second, respond in Love. Peter had given lots of advice already in his letter and then he says, “above all things have fervent love for one another” (1 Peter 4:8). That’s an incredibly strong statement! “Above all” means that showing love is our most important priority.

Third, respond in hospitality. We are to receive one another “without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9). Jesus turned no one away. In fact, Jesus received all those who had been marginalized. He received the outcasts, those in the sex trade, lepers, and public servants... without grumbling! He still receives all those who come to Him today.

Finally, respond in serving. “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another ...” (1 Peter 4:10). Every person is one-of-a-kind unique and God has given each of us a unique way in which we can serve. It can be as simple as giving a jerry-can of gasoline to someone who has run out of gas! When we serve others, we are serving Jesus.

These are stressful times for the displaced people of Fort McMurray. Have we responded like Jesus? I think the answer is an overwhelming “Yes!”