It seems like the weather in the midwest and on the east coast so far this year gets crazier by the day; heavy snow storms, hail, flooded rivers, a multiplicity of tornados, significant power outages, etc. The weather has had a financial, emotional and physical price tag attached.

Families have lost their homes and major parts of some cities have been devastated and destroyed. How long will it be before things can be returned to some sense of normality again? What is the:

“Expected Time of Restoration.”

How long will it be before the electricity will be back on? How long will it be before we receive some funding from the insurance company or the federal government? How long will it be before some people can return to their homes?

People are trying to estimate the length of waiting time. There were a number of factors to take into account to answer the question.

As I reflected on ETR, my mind switched gears to the spiritual/relational realm. How long will it take for complete restoration to take place after a person sins, hits bottom, encounters a serious setback in their life, has significant marriage issues, or screws up big-time in their leadership?

Related to leadership, when I’m on a team dealing with a leader who has grievously sinned, we all ask the same question: how long, if ever, before this person will step back into leadership…be completely restored? You can err on either end of bringing them back too soon or keeping them out too long! We unquestionably need the wisdom promised in James 1:5.

Don’t you just hate it when you ask what you think is a simple question of someone whom you assume has a simple answer and you hear, “Well, it all depends.”

Well, the answer to the ETR is one of those “Well, it-all-depends” responses.

1.  When a marriage is in trouble…

2.  When a leader sins big-time…

3.  When a person slips into an unhealthy habit or destructive life-style…

4.  When a teenager enters rehab…

5.  When a spouse confesses adultery…

What is the expected time of restoration?

It all depends:

1.  Has true repentance been expressed, as opposed to just a sorry-I got-caught attitude?

2.  Is the person able to experience the forgiveness God freely offers. It’s clear in 1 John 1:9 that if we confess, God forgives; but some find that harder to accept than others. It’s one thing to know you are forgiven by God and quite another to forgive yourself.

3.  How were sin and difficulties viewed and dealt with in the family of origin the individual grew up in? Specifically, how was, and is, their relationship with their earthly father; or did they grow up without a father or father figure? Was it pretty much a shame-based family culture?

4.  How many times in the past has the person dealt with the same or similar difficult situations, and were they able to learn from the past?

5.  Does the person have a healthy community around them or are they trying to go it alone?

6.  How strong is their intimacy with the Lord? Do they only run to Him when the pain is high and unbearable, or are they used to keeping the relationship vibrant, warm and up-to-date through scripture, prayer, worship, confession and repentance?

7.  What is their working understanding of what God is like? Is he a heavenly Father or a heavenly police officer? Most problems we experience are due to a wrong concept of God. We tend to focus on one concept of God rather than the totality of who scripture declares him to be.

We would all like to see people restored sooner rather than later. 

When we see a gifted and anointed leader “fall,” we would like to see that leader restored as soon as possible.

When we see couples we know struggle with serious issues in their marriage, we trust and pray for them to get it figured out quickly before it gets worse and moves toward a potential divorce.

When our teen goes off the deep end, our hearts cry out for a quick turnaround.

But the ETR really does depend on a number of factors.

Now, there are some things we have no control over–such as our family of origin, our genetic make up, the hard wiring our children are born with, or the choices our teens or young adults may make.

But there are other things where we do have control. How I will respond to my sin–hide it or confess it? How will I chose to relate, with His grace, to life’s curve balls? Will I extend forgiveness to those in my world (family) or hold grudges?

Are you in one of those down/difficult times, or do you have someone close to you who is? How long will it take?  What is the ETR?  Well, it all depends!