June 30, 2004
Encouragement for Today
How to Survive a Crisis
Mary Nash, Speaker Team Member
No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it. I Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)
Anyone who has had any kind of crisis knows a peaceful life can be jolted by something as common as a car accident or a fierce storm. At first a strong sense of disbelief dominates. "This can't be happening!" we tell ourselves. But when the immediate crisis is over and the awful events can no longer be denied, the mind begins to replay them endlessly
I experienced such a crisis when I came home from church and decided to take my dog for a walk. Rounding the corner, I tripped on a rise in the sidewalk and went flying. On the way down, I knew I was really going to hurt myself. I even remember thinking that I might not be getting up. I knocked myself out, and required medical care but miraculously I had no permanent injuries except maybe my pride. I wound up with a lot of stitches in my mouth, a hairline fracture of the jaw and a face in living Technicolor for a few weeks.
After my fall, I ran and reran the evening's events in my mind's eye. It was like a continuous video, my meeting, my leaving the house with my dog, my fall and my wondering how I was going to get help. I found myself questioning everything I had done. With the flashbacks came the "If onlys"; if only I hadn't gone for a walk, if only I had gone a different way, if only I had picked my feet up and not stumbled...whatever. I blamed myself and felt helpless and stupid. I thought "I can't even walk right."
While this was a minor crisis, very painful to my pride and my face, it brought to mind the major trials of my life. Every life experiences a storm from time to time. How we handle them determines the impact they have. I'd like to share a few simple guidelines for surviving a crisis in your life.
Take a hand in your recovery. While disturbing feelings are running their course, it helps to remember that, like broken bones, your spirit needs time to mend. As soon as possible, try to resume the normal duties of life - no matter how irrelevant they seem. Balance a checkbook. Run the vacuum cleaner. It's tempting to let others protect you, but carrying on with the ordinary routines of cooking meals and paying bills is stabilizing. Even if you find yourself helpless, you can hasten your healing by refusing not to feel powerless. There is nothing like hard work to sustain us through a crisis. It demands hours of concentration, hours in which we can't ask where things went wrong or brood about the consequences of a mistake. Work is aspirin, tranquilizer and antacid rolled into one. By forcing your attention away from the crisis, work weakens the grip of memory and regret. You will heal almost without knowing it until the day you realize how far you've come.
Decide to love life. After a devastating event, make the conscious decision every day to love life again. Ask yourself, "Would I rather cling to grief, anger, despair or even bitterness instead of choosing joy?" We, of course, say that we do not want to cling to the pain of the past. In reality, it may very well be a comfortable place to hide because it is familiar, an emotional habit. Choosing to love life again is a conscious choice to change our response to the past - and live today!
Try to define the crisis as an opportunity. The loss of a job can sometimes allow you the luxury of changing your life's direction. The loss of a relationship might push you into other directions that will give you a fulfillment you never dreamed possible. You might ask yourself what you've always wanted to do. To turn your life around usually requires turning your thinking around. It's the old story of looking at the doughnut instead of the hole, or reframing a loss as an opportunity.
Give time a chance. Sometimes time alone is the only salve for a heavy burden. Time eventually works for anyone who doesn't give in to "awfulizing", the tendency to escalate a situation to its worst possible conclusion. For example, "I'll never find anyone else or nothing will ever work right again." It's easy to imagine awful consequences, but it's more sensible to list the positive side of what has happened.
Journal your experience. Many people who've been through a crisis try to desensitize themselves with food, drugs or alcohol. But much more effective and far less destructive is the act of writing down feelings and thoughts remembered during and after the crisis. The words don't have to be logical or grammatical. What's needed is an outpouring of your feelings. Facing negative feelings is a step toward freedom from those feelings.
Talk about it. Talk is also effective. It is important not to swallow grief, pain or fear, but to bring it up and out. Our usual reaction is to bottle feelings up and keep the crisis to ourselves. Sooner or later, those feelings have to come out. They can come out in a controlled manner or explode like a volcano when least expected. Secrets are hard to keep. We soon find ourselves lying to others just to keep our crisis hidden. Talk helps us get our feelings out so they don't poison our everyday life. Talk also helps us better understand feelings and find out we're not alone in our pain. Although all of us are different, we are all the same in many ways. Ties are broken. Accidents happen. Tragedies come. None of us is immune. We need not take responsibility for the traumatic things that happen to us, but we can take charge of our response to each tragedy.
Pray about it. The most effective response to any crisis is to pray. When I get on my knees, I tune everything out and it's just Jesus and me. He is the only one who can give me a sense of peace after I've made a terrible mistake.
He calls me to spend more time on my knees and in His word. He reminds me of His love that sent His son to die for me. You have survived and life remains to be gotten on with and enjoyed. And our heavenly Father is always there with us to see us through and help us recover.
My prayer for today:
Dear Father God, we come asking you to make us the beautiful women that you planned for us to be. We stand together, putting our selfishness away and asking you to use us to help further your kingdom. Help us to rely on your strength and love when the crisis comes. Help us to be the gift to others that you meant us to be. Let us eat hungrily of your word and rest in your love. Help us learn how to claim and receive all the promises you have made to us. We offer ourselves to you now, asking that your will be done.
Write out the first three steps you will take when the next crisis comes.
Examine how you have handled a crisis in the past.
What were the consequences?
How did the crisis change your life?
Read Proverbs 3:5-6. How can this passage help you in a crisis?
I Corinthians 10:13 No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it. (NIV)
Psalm 57:1 O God, have pity, for I am trusting you! I will hide beneath the shadow of your wings until this storm is past. (NIV)
Psalm 63: 7-8 Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. (NIV)
Coming Out of the Dark by Mary Southerland
P31 Woman magazine
Becoming a Woman Who Listens to God by Sharon Jaynes
Originally published Wednesday, 30 June 2004.