By Pastor David M. Choi
What is volatility? Even if you don’t know what that term means exactly, chances are that in these past couple of years you have felt it in ways you have never felt it before. You see volatility in the world by way of economic fluctuations (e.g. people losing their jobs and homes), racial injustice, political violence and war, climate change, and so forth. And yet perhaps you’ve been hard hit by volatility in your own life as well, as you’ve found the opportunities you once hoped for slipping away, friends coming and going, loved ones passing, structures of life (e.g. school, church/youth group, extracurriculars) rapidly changing, or even your own self-perceptions shifting and ambitions fading (i.e. “I’m not who I thought I was”). Volatile events like these are experienced as incredible disruptions to life, to say the least.
To deal with this, you’ve probably ended up resorting to different tactics. One response is denial, since your brain is hardwired to screen out real or potential threats. Another response is to seek some kind of normalcy. When things are rapidly changing, it’s natural to want stability and to surround yourself with things that feel familiar. A third response is to try and control everything, to the point of being utterly exhausted and overwhelmed. In volatility, you feel like you have to manage and control all the million pieces that are changing or slipping away in your life, and so you quickly feel overwhelmed. The last response is to resist the opportunity presented for growth. Oftentimes, volatile events make you want to move backwards not forward, and thus denying or underestimating the potential growth-impact of the moment.
Indeed, while you cannot control the volatile moments of life as they occur, that doesn’t make them meaningless moments of change, but rather as Christians we understand that that makes them opportunities for us to further grow in and through what Christ is doing, that is, in the midst of volatility. I think there is something poetically salient about how the Chinese symbol (危机) for crises is a combination of two characters: danger and opportunity. You’ve been experiencing the danger of volatility, but perhaps you haven’t yet realized how God has also been presenting you with an opportunity. What opportunity? To experience in greater measures the power of God’s grace and love at work in your life, as you live in the trust of God’s good purposes not only for your life but all of creation. For this reason, Paul writes in Romans 5:3-5:
We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Reflection + Prayer Journaling:
Think about how you’ve been experiencing volatility. What has been your response? How is God using these things/experiences to grow you as a follower of Christ? Spend some time reflecting on the Romans passage and praying about this, and afterwards in your journal write out what the Lord is telling you.