From Joy To Crisis: The Principle of Undulating Circumstances

It is difficult to imagine how amazing it must have been for Mary & Joseph to experience the visit of the magi — and to receive from them the opulent gifts that they brought.  What an emotional “high” they must have enjoyed. It did not last long, however.  For the next verse (Matthew 2:13) tells us: “Now when (the magi) had gone” an angel of the Lord warned Joseph that Herod was going to search for Jesus to kill him, so Joseph got up “while it was still night” and they all left for Egypt. What a turnaround! From the “high” of the visit of the magi and their rich gifts, to the sudden “crisis” of the threat of Herod, and the stress of the unplanned trip to Egypt, which uprooted their whole lives.

But isn’t it often that way — not only for the Holy Family, but also in our lives as well?  When there is a moment of joy, or blessing, or prosperity, it is often followed by an impending threat or crisis. We shouldn’t be surprised. It is often so. C.S. Lewis wrote in his Screwtape Letters of the “law of undulation” — that our lives don’t remain on an even keel. Rather there is an “undulation” to our lives, of “highs” and “lows”. We never stay as “high” as we are at our best moments — and of course the good news is that things usually never stay as bad as they are at the worst, either.

All of this is not to detract from the joys of the sweet times in our lives. We should relish and enjoy them. But we should also not be surprised when times of blessing are followed by less savory times of difficulty or trial. Jesus experienced that later Himself as well, going from the “high” of “this is My Beloved Son” at His baptism at the end of Matthew 3, to being tempted by Satan in the wilderness at the beginning of Matthew 4.  It would seem that God seeks to “consolidate our gains” in a sense, by testing us after times of growth and blessing.  We see this in our individual lives, as well as in our churches, businesses, and other corporate ventures.  So don’t be surprised if and when it happens to  you that way.  Many have experienced this “principle of undulating circumstances” — even the family of the Lord Jesus Himself!

About Shawn Thomas

My blog,, features the text of my sermons, book reviews, family life experiences -- as well as a brief overview of the Lifeway "Explore the Bible" lesson for Southern Baptist Sunday School teachers.
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