In “How the Mighty Fall,” author Jim Collins analyzes how once successful corporations cycle through predictable patterns of decline. In his analysis, problems begin when companies take their success for granted and begin to stray from what worked for them in the past.
Collins goes on to say the tendency is for managers to overextend themselves, deny the risk of doing so, and then grasp for a “silver bullet” to reverse their course before giving in to forces of irrelevance or death.
He begins the book pointing out that corporations tend to get in trouble long before they realize it.
The cycle reminds me of predictable national cycles described in the history of the Judges (i.e. Judges 2:10-19). There we read of good times followed inevitably by spiritual decline, the wake-up call of trouble, desperate cries for rescue, followed by God’s help, good times, spiritual decline….
These patterns have often been likened to the seasons of our lives:
- The springtime of new beginnings
- The summer of growth and good times
- The fall of harvest and spiritual wandering
- The winter of spiritual barrenness
Most of us would probably agree that we see in ourselves our tendency to wander in good times and to wake up to our need of God when the sudden noise of trouble disturbs our sleep.
But here’s the problem that I’m guessing some of us struggle with. According to the cycle I’ve just described, trouble can be God’s wake up call letting us know something is wrong. Or, as in the case of Job, Jesus, and the Apostle Paul, trouble can be Satan’s effort to test our faith—because he sees that something is too right.
Job made a huge mistake by thinking that his troubles were expressions of God’s contempt for him. He blamed God for what his spiritual enemy was doing when he wrote, “For the Almighty has struck me down with his arrows. He has sent his poisoned arrows deep within my spirit. All God’s terrors are arrayed against me (Job 6:4)
But who can doubt that some of us are just as inclined to blame the Devil for problems we bring on ourselves, or to miss God’s loving intent when he uses trouble to draw us closer to himself.
Wish we could help one another by comparing notes on how we process whether the problems of our lives are part of the predictable cycle of decline—or a test of the best– that God himself is doing in us. Or both. Or something else…