Which came first, the chicken or the egg? This simple question has proven that brevity is no antidote for controversy. Christian apologists have long engaged in heated debates with scientists on the theory of evolution versus creation. Evolutionists suggest the egg came first. Creationists argue that God made every bird on the fifth day and gave them the ability to produce after their kind therefore the chicken must have come first. I am not interested in arguing about chickens and eggs (I hope you aren’t either) but whichever way, it is a vicious cycle.
This post is about a vicious cycle that Christians are often stuck in; a roundabout with no exit. There is activity but no progress; a very literal case of going through the motions. Imagine driving into a roundabout to discover that there is no exit and the entrance by which you gained access has been sealed off. You are trapped in a walled roundabout with your destination on the other end and you need to get out.
2 And he had two wives: the name of one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.7 So it was, year by year, when she went up to the house of the Lord, that she provoked her; therefore she wept and did not eat. 8 Then Elkanah her husband said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?”18 And she said, “Let your maidservant find favor in your sight.” So the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad. – 1 Samuel 1:2, 7,8,18 (NKJV)
Hannah, the wife of a man named Elkanah was caught in this vicious cycle. She desperately wanted a child from God and couldn’t get one therefore she was depressed. Because she was depressed, she would not eat her portions of the sacrifice at Shiloh. Being a peace offering, the offerer and his household are required to eat portions of the sacrificial animal and to do it joyfully. No leftovers were allowed according to Leviticus 7:15. The total consumption of the meal and the joyful attitude with which it was eaten were an integral part of the sacrifice. Hannah refused to eat and she had a sorrowful countenance at the Lord’s Table which made her unacceptable to God and consequently unable to connect with her prayers. Her failure to connect with God meant that there can be no child. This was the indiscernible pattern responsible for her predicament. She didn’t have a child because she didn’t have a child.
It is extremely tough to exit once you are trapped in this vicious cycle. I have found by experience that when we go through tough times, we all have one of two responses; we either become very fervent in prayer or we slack off completely. In the case of the latter, we fall into this vicious cycle.
“What’s going on with you?” Harvey asks.
Mike says, “I have had this challenge for a few months now and it’s really bothering me.”
“Are you praying about it?” Harvey probes further.
“Not really,” Mike responds, quite uninterested.
“Why not?” Harvey asks, slightly irritated.
“I am quite discouraged and can’t find the strength to pray. I am honestly tired of praying and seeing no results.”
Get the picture? That’s a perfect vicious cycle. You need to pray to break out of the situation yet the situation has crippled your ability to pray. You end up staying there perpetually.
Sometimes we go through financial challenges and conclude in the heat of it that we are too poor to give forgetting that the kingdom way out of poverty is by giving. ‘I’ll give when I have,’ we often say. However, the reason you don’t have might be because you aren’t giving enough.
For emphasis, we see this pattern in marriages as well. When speaking to couples, you quickly learn that both parties almost always have legitimate reasons for their conduct. Wife can’t submit to her husband because he doesn’t show her he loves her. Husband can’t love his wife because she doesn’t respect him. You follow the pattern? How then must it be resolved seeing that we have this perfect albeit damaging vicious cycle? There are several other instances of this in our lives which you will unravel by conscious examination.
Exiting this roundabout requires drastic action. Simply put, it would require you to break down the wall that keeps you going in circles. For Hannah, her exit point came after she had an encounter with Eli the Priest. Her ‘breakthrough’ came when she became joyous and went to eat her portion as was required by God. God could hear her at this point and He did give her six children (four boys including Samuel and two girls).
God would never ask us to do what He isn’t willing to do and this is exactly what God did with us. We sin because we are sinners, He gets mad at our sins but we can’t help ourselves. Eventually He decides to end the vicious cycle with drastic action – the gift of Jesus. How does one give the most precious gift to an evil people? While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. If He waited for us to become worthy of the gift He would never give the gift. However, by the giving of the gift, we have become worthy. At some point, a conscious decision must be made to rail against the vicious cycle and find an exit so we can be on our way. Destiny calls precious people.
Some things that put us in a roundabout without exit aka vicious cycle are worry, unbelief, bitterness, strife, ignorance, forgiveness among others. Discontentment leads to grumbling against God and we fail to see that the more we grumble the longer the issue persists. You need to get out. Consciously break free by a commitment to doing what is required by God irrespective of the circumstances. Therefore I shall pray whether I feel like it or not. I will rejoice even when there is no reason to. I will give to the poor despite my own apparent lack. I shall honor my husband/love my wife even when I feel like they are not upholding their end of the deal.
There are three ways to break through. First, God could show mercy and not require the standard from you. No one will question Him. However, this is beyond your control and the wait could be long or unending. Second, you can break yourself free through knowledge. Knowledge is light and exposes the hidden pattern. You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free. This is the best way to exit a vicious cycle. DIY style. Third, a person in spiritual authority breaks you out by engaging the grace upon their lives on your behalf as in the case of Hannah.
Go forth and break through. Shalom.