Summary: Funeral sermon for Andrew Maybin, Navy veteran who had gone through a spiritual crisis about a forced retirement.
When you reach a crisis point in your life, you have only a few choices about how to respond. When those crisis moments come, all you can do in response can be boiled down to three things and three things only: either you can give up; or you can stand and fight; or you can learn something radically different, you can learn faith. Those are your choices; let’s examine them.
In response to a crisis, you can give up. You can let the situation defeat you. You can sit back and let it swamp you. I think of the Psalmist who cried out, “My soul is cast down within me ... all your waves and your billows have gone over me.” One response to crisis is to drown in it, let it wash over you, let it take over your life. Some folks are just immobilized when they are in crisis. But there are other choices.
In response to a crisis, instead of giving up, you can decide that you will fight the thing that has attacked you. You can determine that you will not let this problem get the better of you, and you will fight it to the last drop of your life’s blood. That sounds good, even heroic, and there are times when we must, as Churchill put it, “never, never, never give up”. But isn’t it also true that fighting against the inevitable can exhaust us and can lead us to frustration? Isn’t it true that if you just refuse to admit that a crisis exists and you keep on doing the same old same old, just because that’s what you do, you will end up emptied and dissatisfied? The writer of Ecclesiastes, for example, concluded that all is vanity, that we gain nothing from all our toil, that we are on an endless cycle of doing and working, and, as he writes it, “All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the streams flow, there they continue to flow. All things are wearisome.” What a sad commentary it would be to come to the end of your life feeling as though you had kept on keeping on, only to know that just as all streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full, so also your life has ebbed out incomplete, not full, not satisfied. No, there has to be more than that.
And so what else is there? How else can we respond to a crisis? If giving up and letting the waves and billows overwhelm us is destructive; if fighting back, knowing that all streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full, is unsatisfying, then what other choice is there? How may we respond to a crisis moment other than letting it defeat us, other than fighting futility? We can respond with faith. We can respond with trust. We can place ourselves in the control of the One who made us, and expect that He will give us contentment and peace. Ultimately the only victory over crisis is profound faith in God and abiding trust in the redemptive power of Christ. If you are in crisis the pathway from crisis leads through faith to Christ. From crisis to Christ.
The Apostle Paul provides us with a gripping account of one of his crisis moments. He lays it all out for the Corinthian church: II Corinthians 11:24-28
Wow! What a catalog of crisis moments! I am especially moved by the part that says, “for a night and a day I was adrift at sea”, because there is so little you can do if you are adrift. But then Paul points us to his response to the crisis. How did he respond? Did he give up and let it swamp him, drown him? No, not at all. Did he just stand and fight and descend into hostility and useless frustration? By no means! He responded with faith; he turned himself over to trust. From crisis he came to a fresh new experience of Christ. Listen to Paul: II Corinthians 12:9b-10. Therefore I am content with [all kinds of things – let’s just say crisis moments] ... I am content with crisis moments for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.
How right and how fitting it is that we should gather to remember Andrew Maybin during this Memorial Day season! Andrew was the consummate veteran. He loved his Navy duty. He invested nearly a quarter-century of his life in the United States Navy. In some sense, his family says, he never left. His heart was still there, and, in fact, in his last days it seemed as though old battles were being fought and old shipmates were brought to life. His experiences as a sailor were so vivid and so much a part of everything he was.