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Crisis Happens
Although we wish it were different, crises occur within every home, whether that home is good, bad, happy, or shaky. It is the nature of things. Deaths of friends or loved ones happen; automobile accidents occur; teens rebel; jobs and money get tight; emotions run up and down; we meet new people; things happen. Life is famous for being neither fair nor a rose garden, and we should never expect it to be. I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." (John 16:33, RSV).The best thing, therefore, that we can do is be prepared for it when it occurs. Let me suggest a few things that families and marriages can do to prepare and handle the crises of life when they come.

Keeping Things in Perspective
One of the worst things that people do, when difficulties arise, is "blow things out of proportion". Yes, there are some moments in the lives of individuals and families that are defining crisis events, forks in the road that can lead to misery and ruin or happiness. But these moments are relatively rare, they don't happen 10 times a day, a week, or even a year. Many are upsetting, but most are not earthshattering. Taking a deep breath in family crises and thinking things through as rationally as is possible may be one of the best things that families can do. When the kids don't make straight A's, it may be very upsetting to parents who know the potential of the child or that lesser grades may upset plans for scholarships or desirable schools; but let's face it, people survive without straight A's and have for thousands of years. When we get laid off of work or find ourselves in financial difficulty, the sun will still rise in the east tomorrow; it's not time to set the house on fire or anything; families around the world survive happily on much less than Americans have come to expect. And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. (Matthew 6:28,29, RSV). It is important to keep things in perspective.

Know What You Can Do and What You Cannot Do
Crisis resolution is always much more successful, when you are aware of the things that you can productively do and things that you cannot do -- the attempt of which will even be counterproductive. Let me point out the most productive things to realize in a crisis about what you can and cannot do.

Situations and history cannot always be changed.
History, things that have happened, things that have been said can never be changed. And situtations can seldom be altered very much. Consequently, bringing up the past or complaining about the situation is of no use at all, and it usually only makes things worse by inciting to anger the people who you need to help solve the problem at hand. Pointing out to a spouse who just lost a job that they should've taken "the other job" is completely useless in solving anything. The relevant question is "What shall we do now?" Forgiveness rather than recriminations are better in crisis.

Realize that one's attitude, behavior, coping mechanism, etc. can change
You personally are in control of you; you are not a robot or a Pavlovian dog that must reacte in only one way in crisis. Attitudes can be changed, but you must want to change them. Behaviors can be altered, and how you cope with problems is a decision that you can make. Throw away the excuse that you can't help yourself.

Realize that others may change, but you cannot force it without lots of pain to go around for all; that decision lies with the other person.
This is not to say that you mustn't attempt to persuade others that their behavior is causing a crisis and that they should do something else. But on the other hand, don't automatically assume that they will want to change. They are free moral agents, not your personal robots, the ability to change lies within their hearts, not within your power to manipulate Do things to change the areas you can change and don't worry about things your cannot change -- Worrying about things that you cannot change will only cause you unnecessary stress. Take care of the things that you can take of, and leave alone the things that are not within your ability to influence.

Preparing for Crisis
Foundation of Love

One of the most important factors to family survival of any crisis is the foundation of love. It provides the glue to keep us together when things are threatening to blow apart. It drives us back together again, when emotions, situations, and problems have alienated us. But it must be the right kind of glue, the right kind of love to withstand some kinds of crises.

There are various kinds of love. In English we have only one word that functions to designate everything from our affinity for ice cream, to romance, to what we feel for our country, to what God expresses toward us in His Son Jesus. This is unfortunate, because we tend to think of love one way, as a warm feeling for someone or something. This fine in its own way, but it can be a real problem in crisis sometimes when emotions are anything but warm. Romantic feelings are "creatures" of the ether that come and go on the basis of their own will. Such love is not a solid foundation for marriages or families at all -- witness soap operas and many modern marriages.

Love as the Bible describes is more than this. It is a decision to do good for others in spite of situations and difficulties--it is unconditional. But it is more than a cold, rational, or intellectual response, because it leads to the warmer, more romantic feelings that we are more familiar with. But since it is a decision, something of the mind and not just of the heart, it is within reach for everyone. Such a love is a solid foundation for families in crisis.

When you set the foundation of Biblical love, you make sturdy preparations for the storms that will inevitably come.

Setting the foundation of authority for problem solving, God's. How many authorities do you suppose are available to tell you how to solve your family's problems. Well, besides everyone (including the kids) in your family, there are all the psychologist (popular and otherwise), friends, extended family, and anyone else you might want to ask. And each will be convinced that their advice is the best. Sadly the one true Authority is usually ignored, primarily because He quietly stands by to be asked rather than intrusively butting in. The one real Authority regarding marriage, family, and crisis is God. What God says will always be right and it will always turn out well, if everyone will submit.

Settling the authority of the home

Sometimes there is a crisis that isn't morally based (e.g. job loss, financial crisis), so that God's commands or principles would give a specific directive. Such problems arise from whose will will be done? Here God gives some direction, again. Someone must take the lead in the family and God has designated the husband of the family to do this. His is to the be last word on matters of discretion. However this doesn't imply that the husband/father has been given license to become a dictator/despot. Ephesians 5:22-33 describes the Christian husband as one who sacrificially loves his wife and family as Christ loved the church. Rather than being a selfish despot, the Christian husband becomes a loving leader considering everyone's needs. When the Christian husband is trusted to be such a leader, his family receives the kind of direction that leads to dealing properly with crises, when they arise.

Setting a tradition of forgiveness

Some homes set up a tradition over the years of vendettas, grudges, and bitter feelings. And while such things don't cause too many problems while things are good, crisis will be worsened with such habits of dealing with problems. Instead, habits of forgiveness and grace are important preparations for future crises. With these family habits, problem solving is made much easier, and the negative emotional poison that can make a bad situation worse isn't present.

Settling or resolving each conflict as it comes along (not revisiting it)

When difficulties come up, there are basically two things you can do with them; you can effectively deal with and solve them, or you can sweep them under the rug (a much more popular option, unfortunately). It is this second option that can be so disasterous in crisis, because what has been swept under the rug tends to come out under the stresses of crisis. Thus, resolving conflicts completely as they come along is a valuable investment in dealing with future family crises.

Common values, so you can be on the same page, when crisis arises

Having common values -- religious faith, priorities, purposes, moral values, etc. -- is also quite important in grappling with crisis. When the forks in the road in life (crises) arise, common values will minimize the debates and arguments that diverse values generate in times of crisis. This is why whole families with a single, genuine religious faith is such a blessing.

Communication in Crisis

Communication is, of course, the crux of resolving conflicts and crises in life as well as in families, how we communicate will make a tremendous difference in the outcomes.

Think Before You Speak --

One of the most serious mistakes of communication that you can make in a crisis is to speak before you think. As one person as humorously put it, "Brain must be engaged before putting mouth in gear." Saying exactly what you think is neither smart nor appropriate. This is not a encouragement to lie or to somehow be untrue to yourself, but to "speak the truth in love" (Eph. 4: 15). Diplomacy and tact are especially called for in crisis.

Don't Make Promises You Can't Keep --

Although we may sometimes be tempted to promise great things to make things better in a crisis, resist the temptation. Promising too much will only delay pain, add disappointment and make you a goat in the end. Crises can't be resolved by promising the moon.

Be on the same side --

Sometimes families attack each other rather than attacking the problem. Working together on the problem rather than trying to prosecute the guilty is a much better approach. Families need to genuinely be on the same side against the problem, not against each other.

Don't seek so much to be understood as to understand --

The greatest of temptations in any argument is be sure to be understood, and in our push to be understood, we often don't take the time to understand the other person. Problems and conflicts will only find solutions, when we really understand the other person's point of view. This includes listening carefully to the other person not only to the words and ideas but to the feelings as well.

Things to avoid in crisis:

Late night solution sessions
Big, life-changing decisions (emotions are running too high)
Unloading past hurts (things are emotional enough)

Seeking professsional help --

Sometimes families hesitate to seek outside help; airing "dirty laundry" may be humiliating to some, while others may see looking for help from professionals as being an admission of weakness. However, outside, objective, and discreet help can be helpful in crises and should not be seen as weakness. Dont wait too long to look for help.

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