A tragic accident, a stock market crash, or a spouse unexpectedly filing for divorce. Everyone at some point in life will experience a crisis. There is no way to avoid it when it happens and this is what makes it a crisis. So what is the best way to respond?
First of all, it is important to define the term “crisis”. Most experts on crisis theory will tell you a crisis state has three essential conditions: 1. An unexpected event, 2. A perception of the event that causes subjective distress, 3. The failure of a person’s usual coping methods.  This means that a crisis is a subjective experience that will affect people differently. Therefore, it is important to resist the temptation to determine what qualifies as a crisis. What may be one person’s normal experience may be another person’s crisis. It’s not about the event but how one responds to the event.
When we look to scripture, we see many godly men and women having to journey through a crisis state with the Lord. King David was one such man and reflects on his experience in Psalm 23:1-4:
1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. 3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
The “valley of the shadow of death” is often what it feels like to go through a crisis. It can be a very dark, empty, and scary place. When someone is in crisis, they will talk about being scared, hopeless, or even wanting to die because life is too dark in the present. But it is also important to note that David sees this valley of death as a “shadow”. In other words, the idea that there isn’t life beyond a crisis isn’t true. It may feel that way at the time, but it isn’t true. In fact, David learned not to fear because God had been with him throughout the crisis moments in his life. So how should Christians respond?
1. Stay Centered on God’s Truth
A crisis will cause disequilibrium and confusion. This means our usual coping skills will be thrown off track. So it will be important to find a place of center. For Christians, this will be God’s word. It will be God’s word that provides stabilizing truth that brings both comfort and guidance. So if you are helping someone in crisis, give them a simple scripture that provides hope for their situation. Yes, your words can be comforting, but God’s word will be stabilizing. God has given us His word to shine light in darkness and provide direction when it’s hard to see (Psalm 119:105).
2. Take Practical Steps Forward
A crisis state will often cause someone to stall and resist moving forward. If you notice in Psalm 23:4, David was walking through the valley of the shadow of death. He wasn’t sitting or retreating, he was moving forward with the Lord. Life moves forward and it will be important for someone in a crisis state to begin moving forward after finding some stability in God’s word. Moving forward is not making life decisions, but simply getting dressed in the morning, getting out of the house, eating normal meals, etc. Now, this may seem hard at first, but it is important to force yourself to do it. Much like getting up and walking after surgery, healthy crisis recovery requires that you take practical steps to move forward in life. The goal is to move through the valley of the shadow of death, not to remain in it.
3. Be Prayerful Along The Way
One of the most difficult challenges in a crisis state is find emotional rest or comfort. Because the normal coping skills no longer work, anxiety and mind grind can be overwhelming. This requires supernatural intervention by God (2 Corinthians 1:3-4a). The Apostle Paul highlights this truth in Philippians 4:6-7:
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
When we pray, we place ourselves under God’s guarding and protection. We also make ourselves available to experience His supernatural peace even when things don’t make sense (i.e. a crisis state). So be diligent and persistent in making prayer the continued practice throughout a crisis recovery process. Enlist the prayer support of others as well.
Although a crisis state may redefine “normal” life as we know it, it can also be a time when we see God show up in some profound and powerful ways.
One final note, crisis recovery can be a very complex process depending on the severity of a situation. Please understand that this article is not meant to be a comprehensive discussion on the topic nor in any way negate the potential need for medical attention or professional intervention.
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