For the last five years or so, my kids have taken Tae Kwon Do classes. After working hard at a sport for so long, it was exciting for all of us when they tested for black belt last month.
The dojang where the test took place is a two story building. The students who were testing that day sat on the blue gym mats on the bottom floor while those watching the test gathered on the top floor where there was a railing overlooking down to the floor below. I leaned over the railing with all the other moms and dads and watched my kids demonstrate what they've learned these last five years.
It took more than half an hour for them to go through all their forms. One after another, the group of twenty students stepped as one—kicking, slicing, jabbing, turning—doing the forms for each of the ten belts they had learned so far. They did so, following the instructions shouted out to them in Korean by one of the Masters.
Tao Kwon Do, like other martial arts, is a method of self defense. They say that just taking one self defense class isn't enough to protect yourself in the case of an emergency. That's because when we are in a crisis, we revert back to what we know best. Our minds aren't thinking clearly as adrenaline mixed with fear courses through our bodies. It's only if you've taken self defense classes for years that you are likely to use it to defend yourself in an emergency. This is also why schools practice fire drills every month—we respond with what we know best when faced with a crisis.
The same is true for us spiritually when we face a trial in our life. When a hardship or season of suffering comes upon us out of nowhere—when we are filled with anxiety, worry, fear, despair, and uncertainty—we respond to that trial with what our heart has practiced, what it knows best. Like rain water follows the crevices and paths already worn in the ground, our hearts will follow what we've studied and learned and meditated upon most.
For believers, if we have not previously trained our hearts in God's word, if we have not studied and learned from Scripture about God's character, the how's and why's of trials in our lives, and the hope we have in Christ, our automatic response will not be to turn to those truths. We won't instinctively cling to the gospel. We won't turn to our Rock, Savior, and Deliverer; instead, we may panic. We might lay blame. We might turn to false comforts and counterfeit gods. We might lash out at others.
In our most desperate moments of life, when we find ourselves unexpectedly faced with a crisis, our theology comes to the surface. What we really believe about God reveals itself out of the depths of our hearts. And in that moment, we discover if what we believe is firm enough to stand on or is a shifting sand that gives way to the next crashing wave.
If you don't know whether your theology would stand in a moment of crisis, take the time today to read and study what God's word teaches about who God is, his character, his works, his redemptive purposes in our lives. Learn about the ways he works in the world, his sovereignty over all he has made, and his faithfulness to do all he has promised. Study his promises and his fulfillment of those promises in Christ. Read Paul's letters and learn about the process of sanctification, the Holy Spirit's work in our hearts, and the role of discipline and instruction in our sanctification. Study Jesus' life and see how he responded to suffering, hardship, and sorrow. And most of all, look to the cross and see how Immanuel, God made flesh, became the Suffering Servant, and defeated sin and death in our place.
Like the forms my kids practiced over and over, we need to learn and study God's word until it becomes part of us. Until our heart moves in rhythm with it. Until we know it so well, in the case of an emergency, it's the truth that leads us to a place of safety—our Savior.