On that Sunday afternoon in Indiana, Tom and his family were enjoying the beautiful spring day. Everything was so peaceful. Dad had just turned on the light to read the latest Time magazine in the gathering darkness when the whole family was startled by a loud noise resembling a locomotive headed directly for the house. Tom looked out the window, dropped the magazine, and yelled at the family, “Run to the car!” A dash was made to the driveway. Before they could even slam the doors of the Ford, it was speeding down the country road. They hadn’t gone far when one of the children looked back and screamed, “Daddy, Daddy it’s gonna hit us!” Just at that moment they came to a road crossing. A screeching right turn was made onto the narrow lane.
Outrunning the Storm.
Moments later as they were desperately trying to outrun the tornado, to their horror a perfectly shaped roof came flying through the air. It landed right in their path. Fortunately it landed in such a position that the car drove right over the top of the unexpected ramp, sending the auto flying into the air. It came crashing down, jarring the whole family and immediately stopping. A brief examination revealed that although everyone was shaken, they were still alive and unharmed. The tornado had passed, and God had protected the family.
When the danger was over, they headed back to their country home. Along the way they wondered at the havoc seen everywhere. Friends’ homes were severely damaged or destroyed. Thousands of boards were scattered through the fields, many sticking out like toothpicks. Upon arriving at their home, the only thing remaining to remind them that they had once lived there was the swing in the tree and the bathtub in the basement of what had been their home.
A Second Tornado.
Now a tornado struck again, this time hitting their emotions. The turmoil of processing, accepting reality, regrouping, and starting again was painful. Later the family joined their relatives and counted their blessings. As they bowed their heads that evening, there was a prayer of thanksgiving. With tears of gratitude, Tom prayed, “We praise You, Lord. Though our possessions are gone, we have life and each other. We didn’t lose our family; we lost only a house. Help us to begin again.” The prayer was answered in a remarkable way. With the assistance of family, friends, and government aid, they rebuilt their home. It was even better than the original one.
The old song says “Into each life some rain must fall.” Our life is a progression of ups and downs. Strong, happy families are not exempted from problems and crises. There are no trouble-free households.
However, Nick Stinnett, reporting on the National Study of Family Strengths, states that strong families respond well to crises. They see something positive in every circumstance, no matter how bad, and they zero in on that aspect. Next they jointly face the crisis head-on. When a crisis comes, strong families pull together, get help, use spiritual resources, keep their communication lines open, and go with the flow.
Opportunity for Growth.
What is a crisis? It can be a time of change, danger, opportunity, or an upsetting event in which one cannot readily handle what is happening. There may be a feeling of panic, defeat, frustration, and helplessness. The heart may be bursting with pain. There is a desire for relief.
Although not a positive time, a crisis may become a turning point in life for good–a door of opportunity. It can be a time for self-renewal. The Chinese word for crisis, weiji, is composed of two characters: one is for despair and the other for opportunity. Hidden within the obvious despair of a crisis is the embryo of opportunity for growth.
A positive attitude when facing a crisis is crucial. Nancy Alford tells how at age 39 she was feeling great. Life was going her way. Then her world began to collapse. After successful surgery for a precancerous condition, a disease called chronic fatigue syndrome struck. Nancy struggled with this extended crisis. She had a thousand dreams for her life–five kids, a Ph.D., and the joy of traveling to different parts of the world. But her goals had to change now. She had to curtail many activities because of constant fatigue. She didn’t have strength to plan and work a day at a time, but she learned that she could live “10 minutes at a time.” She put the 10-minute principle into action. She would sing for 10 minutes, then rest; pray 10 minutes, then rest; write for 10 minutes, then rest. She experienced life just one small step at a time.
She also imagined herself in the center of an arena, battling self against self. On one side, in her imagination, she could see angels filling the grandstands; on the other side were hosts of demons. She says; “As I win over another 10 minutes, cheers go up from the holy angels. The spirit world roars just beyond my hearing. I smile, and in my mind I take a bow as demons sulk away and angels toss roses to my feet.”
If one has a healthy attitude about a crisis, there is a greater chance that the crisis will be handled quickly and properly. To do this there may need to be some positive self-talk.
Our health is affected by the way we react to crisis. Betty came to visit one evening. She stated that a year earlier she had had cancer surgery. “My surgeon told me that the type of cancer I had was stress-produced. Our family went through a crisis that caused the stress.” She continued, “All went well until a week ago. While showering, I felt an abnormal mass in my abdomen. The doctor believes that I have cancer again. I’m going in for surgery next week.”
Then Betty confided that she hadn’t come to tell about the approaching surgery. She was seeking help for the stresses in her life that were possibly causing her physical problems. She said, “What I really want more than healing from the cancer is healing of my emotions.” Her recent surgeries for cancer have been successful, but more important, she no longer carries the burdens of the past. Emotional healing has taken place.
Current research indicates that many of our emotional stresses do produce physical problems. Discouragement, disappointment, and anger bring chemical changes in the body that can be linked to disease, including certain types of cancer. About 75 percent of all physical problems are stress-related.
The strong family can even laugh when tragedy strikes. You recall how laughter led Norman Cousins to medical recovery. It also opened a new career for him in which he advanced the emerging specialty of psychoneuroimmunology. Laughter promotes health. Sleeping improves, the pulse rate increases, the circulation of blood is energized, and the oxygen intake increases.
Turning to God and Friends.
“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God” (Ps. 40:1-3, NIV). (*) Praying, claiming promises, reading what God would have us read about the crisis, and refusing discouragement can make all the difference in the world.
Networking in a time of crisis is also essential. Jim and Laurie were expecting their first child. Friends were rejoicing with them. There was a baby shower. The new chest of drawers was full of tiny things. The anticipated moment had finally come. The jubilation, however, quickly turned into disbelief and despair. The baby was born with multiple deformities and was in the hospital for a long time. When the daughter arrived home, she needed constant care, bringing the couple to the brink of total exhaustion. Laurie’s and Jim’s faith, their love for their baby, and the support of their friends carried them through this crisis. After five months of tender love and care, their little one died. Not only Jim and Laurie grieved for their daughter, but all those who had a part in caring for her. The church was packed at the time of the funeral. Someone has said, “A problem shared is divided. A happiness shared is multiplied.”
All families have crises, but they can be stepping stones rather than stumbling blocks. As we solve one problem we will find ourselves better prepared to solve another. As we look to God and friends, we can find strength to face the tornadoes of life.