How to Respond in Times of Crisis
I sat in my favorite corner of our couch, knees pulled up to my chest. A few close friends were scattered around the room, eyes soft, questions gentle. We had been at an event together earlier that evening where words were spoken that caused a part of my heart to fracture. When I left the event as soon as possible, these women called and offered to come, to sit and listen or let silence linger. We did some of both.
Mostly, I rambled, at least that’s how I remember it. I remember tears and closing my eyes as I spoke sentences that embarrassed me, words that made me feel faithless and weak. But most of all, I remember the tenderness of the women gathered in that room, their compassionate strength that bore the weight of my sadness and anger.
When I was in crisis, the physical presence, help, and listening ear of others was critical. Never have I been so aware of the beauty of the body of Christ as I have been when I was dependent upon others to care for me, to support my family, and to pray and believe for me when I was losing my grip on the ability to do so for myself.
When crisis comes, many of us determine to buckle down, to believe that grit and fortitude will be enough to weather the storm. But what this often can mean is that we want to be strong, though Scripture tells us that God’s grace is made perfect in our weakness. We do not want to inconvenience others, though Scripture tells us to bear one another’s burdens. We want to think of crises as linear—as having a beginning, middle, and end, life returning to a happy “normal” after the fact--though Scripture tells us that we will have trouble in this world until Christ’s return.
As Kaitlin W. says, crises “will come and that’s not an oversight, but an essential part of the redemption story.” It feels counter-intuitive and counter-cultural to ask for help, to assume a posture of vulnerability and need. But when we look to Scripture and the life of Christ, we realize that asking for help is in fact the most sensical thing we could do.
Nadine S. writes, “Before Jesus raised Lazarus, he comforted Martha by righting her theology. He comforted Mary by loving her emotions. Jesus genuinely wept over the power of sin and death. Before he would raise kids from dead, He usually talked to their parents. Beyond just fixing their situation, He got close to their faces, and He looked into their eyes with love.” Jesus loved with His presence, and with His practicality.
I have found that in times of my own crises, taking just one simple step toward living in love—which includes being loved by others—reduces my fear of the crisis. Love begets love, and choices made in love beget choices made in love. If you are in a crisis right now, or you love someone who is, consider these practical action steps gathered from others who have been right where you are.
If you are in a crisis:
Tell someone about physical and material needs that would help—it’s okay, even good, to say, “a meal calendar would help us so much,” or, “we need help raising money.”
Others should join you in your crisis, but it is not necessarily their responsibility to know that you need them. If they do, that’s amazing. But often we don’t have partners in our suffering because we have not told anyone that we need them. Tell someone in your church family. It’s normal to feel unheard, but it’s worth it to try anyway. God does hear you, and by His grace, friends will too. Identify a friend or mentor whom you trust and give her the right reason with you, to point out if a thought is rational/reasonable. —Nadine S.
Invite *someone* in. Even just one person will help limit how low you can plummet, because someone is there to catch you. — Hal K.
Hold on to moments when you have felt the nearness of God, and cling to that as a reminder that He's still near in the unraveling moments as well. Share one of those moments with a friend who can remind you of it. —Kendall V.
If you are walking alongside someone in a crisis:
Encourage your friend with hope in Christ and community, not positivity about circumstances. Remind her that God draws near to the brokenhearted, that He loves her, that everything about Him is true even when she can’t see it or feel it. And, as you remind her of God’s goodness with your words, consider pairing it with one of these actions.
Text your friend regularly with plans to help, offers to sit in sadness or silence, kind words, and even humor when the moment is right. Do not expect a response, but do not stop reaching out, either.
Host a community meal to raise money, suggests Carolina C. Not only do events like these raise money, they foster emotional and relational connection that’s desperately needed in times of crisis.
Contact your church about a benevolence fund, or ask friends to go in on gas cards or airfare. Many crises come with unplanned transportation costs. Adina K. said, “my church paid for my travel home to the funeral when my brother died (plane ticket and rental car).” This not only eased a financial burden, but an emotional one as well.
Provide meals. Lucy C. suggests asking “what time can I bring dinner?,” rather than, “can I bring dinner?” because people in crisis have limited mental energy. Offer to bring a meal, and ask if a meal calendar exists or if you could create one. If you are delivering a meal, remind yourself that the person or family is in crisis, and they they may not be in a place to talk or even offer thanks. Your silence, along with your gift of food, may be the kindest way to serve.
Try as we might to avoid them, crises will come for us in this life. We are not alone because of the presence of God, and we are not alone because of the brothers and sisters He has given us. May we draw near to the One Who is our shelter in the storm by drawing near to those He loves.
Image Credit: Thinkstock/Marjan_Apostolovic
Abby Perry has written for The Gospel Coalition, Christ and Pop Culture, Upwrite Magazine, and The Influence Network. She is the communications coordinator for a nonprofit organization and co-facilitates two community efforts—one promoting bridge-building racial reconciliation conversations and one supporting area foster and adoptive families. Abby graduated from Texas A&M University and currently attends Dallas Theological Seminary. She and her family live in College Station, Texas. Find her on Twitter.