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Four Responses To Crisis

Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A.

Number 75

1) Return To A "Pre-Crisis" State:
After the crisis the individual, instead of moving toward growth, regresses back to where they were before, only to experience the same thing again and again until they face the pain in a constructive manner. An excellent example of this is the Ministry Health article #5, "Autobiography In Five Chapters."
2) Develop Negative ("Toxic") Behaviors:
Some respond to crisis by developing patterns of negative behavior to ease the tension. Such negative behaviors may include isolation, withdrawal, becoming overly controlling, people- pleasing, succumbing to addictions (e.g. alcohol, drugs, relationships, sexual, et al.), career suicide, etc.
Unfortunately, these and other behaviors not only fail to relieve the situation, but they place additional stresses on one's physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Indeed, these negative behavior patterns may be damaging to one's health and ministry. "Career Suicide" may be one example. Be sure to consider the Ministry Health article #76, "Recognizing Addictive and Obsessive Behaviors" to help you recognize when you're experiencing stress-provoked negative behaviors.
3) Survival and Growth
The hardest way, going through crisis, is also the most beneficial. When one is able to face the pain, shed denial, work through the difficulties, overcome the spiritual, emotional, and physical challenges involved in crises, one experiences unparalleled survival and growth.
Survivors not only come out healthier and more confident for having gone through the pain, but their church and those to whom they minister benefit from the deepened perspective of a pastor who has "been there--done that."
Examples of personal lessons of growth experienced in response to crisis include:
4) Move Out In Unparalleled Confidence In God's Promises
Those who fall into the first and second responses to crisis often fail to really discover the depth of strength that God gives to His people. Not being able to respond to God's word, "Fear not," such individuals distance themselves from God's presence and power. Unfortunately, one cannot really learn how to overcome fear without having gone through intense fear and, in spite of the fear, allowing God to work powerfully in their weakness.
Those who have experienced and successfully overcome the fear have developed and resourced the Five Necessary Coping Relationships. They have also given the proper attention to their physical, spiritual, and mental health by getting professional help for excessive anxiety, depression, etc. and, when necessary, used medications to help restore normal cerebral, hormonal, endocrine chemistries and body functions.
Perhaps most important of all, they have learned to let go in faith so that God's power could powerfully work in them. In doing so they learn St. Paul's "secret" of enduring difficulties. They also learned the secret of true joy and discovered just how "blessed" those who suffer really are. They are "blessed" because they have experienced God's working in a way no one else can experience for them.
What's Your Crisis Response?
Certainly I'm not an avid advocate of suffering. Yet, when crises occur, Christian leaders need to evaluate their responses. If unhealthy or destructive, or if they find themselves powerless and weak in their situation, bailing out may not be the answer.
Flight, denial, and walking away may be signals that one's faith has significant character weaknesses. In fact, these unhelpful and often destructive responses may be Satan's way to prevent you from experiencing the ultimate fulfillment of God's promise, "I will not leave you nor forsake you."
Given God's continued "spotless" record is that He faithfully bears us on eagle's wings. he most God-pleasing response is simply to trust Him...especially in trial. Perhaps the greatest comfort in trial are the words of God spoken through Jeremiah in chapter 29 of his prophecy:

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)  

The ultimate test for any Christian, especially Christian pastors, is the test of trusting God's promises. Are God's promise true? Are you willing to let God prove it in your life, even though it be through pain, adversity and other difficulties? Consider your past and present responses to crisis and then resolve today to trust His plan, His hope, and His future for you as His chosen servant.
Thomas F. Fischer
Romans 5:1 ff.

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This page was revised on: Tuesday, October 05, 2004 11:02:32 PM