Crunch time happens to all of us at various points in our lives. We can usually identify courses and term projects when we were still involved in being educated that can cause us to shudder. I get a close-up view of those with my grandchildren who are at various stages of academic pursuit, but crunch time doesn’t end when we leave the classroom or lecture hall.
Crunch time…it’s that time period when there is great pressure to succeed or handle something unexpected. We feel it when we are running out of time or the task seems to be too big for us. It’s when our mettle is tested and we will be judged by the outcome of our efforts. We can get caught when our efforts slacked off. Maybe we wait till the last minute to get the work done or have failed to study.
Crunch time also happens when a sudden illness strikes, we are in an accident, our job disappears, or a temptation crops up when we were sure we had that thing defeated.
A lot starts happening during crunch time. We feel the stress building up inside of us and our blood pressure may jump up. We might develop a headache or migraine. We tend to be irritable with anyone and anything. Our sleep gets disrupted.
What happens next will generally go in one of two directions. We will dig in and summon up something from somewhere deep inside us and face the challenge head on or we will cave in, give up, try to run from it or withdraw with a certainty we are not only failing but are also a failure.
That decision will largely be determined by the habits we have practiced all our lives up until that point. These are not only behavioral habits, but habits related to how we communicate, habits about what we believe, and habits about our value for relational connection.
Developing good habits is not something we get excited about. They require discipline and practice over time…even when everything is going well. Ugh! They also chafe at our desire to be free to do what we want when we want while believing we will always be able to do what is necessary when the time comes. How the enemy of our souls delights in such folly.
Good habits, healthy habits, don’t just happen. They always require something of us.
Think about the challenging training Navy Seals, Marines, and other service members go through. Many do not make it.
Why is it so tough?
Their leaders know the training must bring these individuals to the end of themselves again and again so the training in good habits kicks in automatically when they are in actual crunch time situations.
Bad habits are quite the opposite of good. They require no practice and initially they may appear to cost us nothing.
There is a snare with them, however. Unlike good habits requiring time and practice to become part of us, bad habits seem to adhere to us almost right away and the longer we practice them the more deeply embedded into the core of us they become. Then they are so entwined within us they are usually hard to break. We discover we are not free at all as we first thought.
Make no mistake: the habits of a lifetime show themselves at crunch time or in extreme circumstances.
The book of 1 Samuel gives us a contrast as we hear the story of two leaders: Saul and David. Over and over again we see David has learned to “strengthen himself in the Lord his God.” It’s what he draws upon when he faces Goliath and when he faces the unexpected attempt by Saul to take David’s life. Over and over again in the book of Psalms, in good times or bad, David calls on the Lord. Sometimes he rejoices. Sometimes he laments. Sometimes he shouts in anger. He could do none of those if he had not first practiced strengthening himself in the Lord and laying a sure foundation of what he believed about the Lord.
David also listens to and humbly accepts encouragement to stay steady in his relationship with the Lord. That is evident in his close covenantal friendship with Jonathan as one example.
Saul doesn’t appear to think of God a great deal and gets caught up in situations and circumstances as they are happening. It doesn’t show evidence of developing discipline and training in good habits. As a result he goes ‘with his gut’ and loses the position of the first king of Israel as a result. As we go through his story, we see him on a roller coaster of emotions depending on those circumstances. He can be prideful and threatening or quickly fearful and rash in decisions.
The Bible God gave us leaves us plenty of clues on what habits to develop so we are prepared for crunch time. You can find them on every page from Genesis to Revelation. They are not there to deny us anything, but to help us navigate through whatever life or the enemy may throw at us knowing with certainty what we believe, whose we are, and who will be with us.
It can be easy to balk when someone exhorts us to practice these things, to make time each day to read in the Bible and pray, to take our thoughts captive, to love others and forgive quickly, but those who do so are those who love us. They want us to be ready for crunch time.
Are you ready for crunch time?