You Need to Embrace the Crisis that Wrecks You

Photo by Kyle Broad

You Need to Embrace the Crisis that Wrecks You


I read a very thought-provoking book by Bill Hybels called “Holy Discontent: Fueling the Fire that Ignites Personal Vision.”

I had heard this phrase, "holy discontent," from Catholic colleagues working in the Alpha program. It stands for the restlessness that God gives you about a certain thing because he wants you to act on it.

Hybels says it starts with a "Popeye point." In the old cartoons, Popeye seemed to put up with a lot. But at a certain point he would hit his absolute limit. At that point he would say:

"That’s all I can stands. I can’t stands no more!"

In Hybels thought, it's a good thing to have a Popeye point. And when we uncover what it is that we "can’t stands no more," we can begin to do the work that God has in mind for us.

What is your Popeye point? Is there something that you can’t stand leaving the way it is?

Hybels gives some different examples of these moments in different people’s lives. He shows how a moment like this can lead people to one of two different places, and it depends on perspective.

“If you expose yourself to all that’s broken in our world but neglect to view the brokenness from heaven’s perspective (which promises that everything is in the process of being restored), then you’ll get sucked into an impossible, downward spiral of aggravation and anger.” (p. 28)

This is one option: bitterness and despair.

The other one is hard: embracing your holy discontent and acting on it.

Says Hybels, “the most inspired, motivated, and driven people I know are the ones who live their lives from the energy of their holy discontent."

“They have a constant awareness that what is wrecking them is wrecking the heart of God."

Rather than run away from it, he advises that you increase your exposure to the thing that “wrecks" you.

So what wrecks you?

I can tell you what wrecks me. I cannot stand a Church that is viewed by the masses as irrelevant. It kills me.

Pope Francis speaks of a Church that goes out to the margins of society, to the existential suburbs, to reach every person “without exception or exclusion.” (cf. EG 35)

Can we truly say we are responding to this goal?

The result of delaying a response to this goal is the continued widespread perception that the Church exists for an elite group, a chosen few. In other words, what it does and what is says is irrelevant to the masses.

The result is multitudes of people never meeting Jesus. His image is on every person. He is the desire of every human heart. And yet, so many never meet him.

How can we stand for that?

If you feel something in your stomach as I describe this, praise God. Run towards it and not away from it.

If you haven’t found your discontent, pray for it. If you have, embrace it. Then the work begins.

What are you doing with your holy discontent?

Note: Pope Francis writes with a lot of holy discontent in Evangelii Gaudium. If you want to stoke the fire, read it.

Let us go forth, then, let us go forth to offer everyone the life of Jesus Christ. Here I repeat for the entire Church what I have often said to the priests and laity of Buenos Aires: I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. I do not want a Church concerned with being at the centre and which then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures. If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life. More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us: “Give them something to eat” (Mk 6:37). (EG 49)

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If you feel something in your stomach as I describe this, praise God. Run towards it and not away from it. — Josh Canning

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