“There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.”
-Henry A. Kissinger
How often can we relate to Mr. Kissinger? How many times do we get on our knees and ask God for the chance to have one good day, or a break from our struggles?
Maybe knowing what a real crisis is, and where they have the most power, would help us in our celestial soliciting?
By definition, stress (or stressors) are things that temporarily reform a structure.
On the other hand, a crisis is something that permanently alters a structure
The differences between them are really in two words: temporary and permanent.
How many times have you called your misread order at McDonald’s a crisis? How many times have you termed your bad hair day a crisis? The store doesn’t have the honey-ham you need for Thanksgiving- crisis. Your car keys are not in the place you left them- crisis. And I don’t even want to mention the crisis that is not being able to fit into your favorite pair of skinny jeans anymore.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are all guilty of weighting things too heavily. Hyperbole’s are everywhere. Now to be fair, while most of those situations don’t cause problems in the long run, we feel them strongly in the moment they occur. They are temporary in nature because we find our keys, our order gets fixed, and after a couple weeks of no soda or doughnuts, our skinnies fit again. If we’re being truly honest with ourselves, we could say that all of those trivial things are merely stressors. Temporary in nature and usually fixable over time.
However, there is one area that knowing the difference between stress and crisis is vital; in the home.
1. Knowing the difference means we know the “cure.”
Imagine a family unit as a group of people standing in a circle, linked by hands. This circular structure can be likened to families in both stressful situations as well as crises.
When one member of that unit feels stressed, they begin to pull back, or away. Whatever direction life is taking them, the rest of the family feels that and will, inevitably, change their own course because of it.
Often our gut reaction is either to recede as well, to give them the space that their actions are calling out for, or to hold on tighter to compensate for their distance.
Why would we want to follow them into their storm? Or, for those who hold on tighter, it’s because we want to feel secure in our family circle. Since one link is becoming weaker, we have to be stronger. In the chaos we all start to pull against each other. Some family members group up, others fly solo. At the end, we have a group of people in direct opposition of one another.
How can we avoid this awful tug-of-war?
My firm answer is this: as much as is possible in your own family unit, do not pull back. Hold on to them tight, love them with your whole heart, and pray to know how to help them. Do no compensate for their distance, but rather, do all you can to make sure your part is covered.
Remember that stress comes and goes. We will all have our moments. On those days where we must go to battle with the adversary, it is important to know we have troops behind us rallying for our cause.
When a more serious issue occurs, like a crisis, it’s crucial that we come to terms with something; after a crisis, your family will never be the same again.
You cannot go back. Please, face this with as much prayer and trust in God as you can muster.
Take courage and know that so often, crises bring families together. Children who are acting out often do it to bring awareness to a fundamental issue (i.e. they’re worried about their parents’ marriage, they’re trying to bring attention to a personal problem they can’t put words to, or they’re feeling pressure from outside sources and taking it out on family).
When your circular unit runs into a crisis, remember what is said in D&C 122.
“5 If thou art called to pass through tribulation; if thou art in perils among false brethren; if thou art in perils among robbers; if thou art in perils by land or by sea;
6 If thou art accused with all manner of false accusations; if thine enemies fall upon thee; if they tear thee from the society of thy father and mother and brethren and sisters; and if with a drawn sword thine enemies tear thee from the bosom of thy wife, and of thine offspring, and thine elder son, although but six years of age, shall cling to thy garments, and shall say, My father, my father, why can’t you stay with us? O, my father, what are the men going to do with you? and if then he shall be thrust from thee by the sword, and thou be dragged to prison, and thine enemies prowl around thee like wolves for the blood of the lamb;
7 And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.
8 The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?”
No man, woman, or child on this earth is greater than the Son of God, Jesus Christ. When your family unit runs into an obstacle, throw every ounce of faith at Him. Trust in Him, who has gone below all things, to lift you above all things. Hold onto each other. Don’t break your circle. Keep going.
Trust that God has always given families stumbling blocks. Yours is not getting picked on extra or laughed at more. Look at Nephi’s family, and Joseph Smith’s. Look at all the trials they endured. I honestly believe God gives units these tests so that we won’t take each other for granted. It is our job to do the hard work today so that tomorrow, we can enjoy the blessings of eternity with the ones we love.
Remember, He did not leave you comfortless. Your family is no exception to that rule.
2. We don’t always have to act negatively to crisis.
Brothers and sisters, my grandma died two days ago (June 21st, 2015). She was 82-years-old and had the voice of an angel. She loved Chick-fil-A nuggets and had no greater joy in life than being with her family. She had been separated from her eternal companion for nearly 17 years and even though she loved us all, she missed him every day.
My family will not be the same until heaven. It is a true crisis because we cannot go back to the way we were before. We have to accept it and move on as best we can.
But that woman blessed and changed lives. People came to her bedside and hugged her goodbye, with tears in their eyes and prayers of gratitude in their hearts. It is not a crisis because we are mad or upset; it is simply a crisis because our circular unit has to learn how to live without her for now.
(Feb 14th, 2015)
Your circular unit does not have to look at true struggles with fear. They can be a difficult, yet joyful time. And oh, how glorious are the memories that we get to keep.
3. But Emily, what if my family crises were brought on through internal issues?
And it’s okay.
It’s okay because even though abuse, abandonment, financial struggles, physical ailments, and infertility are real, so is the greater and opposite side. There must be opposition in all things, even your things.
Abuse is real. Whether it is physical, mental, sexual, or emotional, it is real.
It is also damaging to the spirit. And we all know that anything that drives the spirit from our lives is a bad thing.
What we also need to know is that forgiveness is real. It is for the person that hurt you when you were too little to understand, and for the person that is still hurting you today. It is for your short-comings and their transgressions. Christ was not selective about who He atoned for.
So when familial boundaries are broken, when lines are crossed and souls are bruised, it is crucial to remember how very real the atonement is.
“There is a glorious miracle awaiting every soul who is prepared to change. Repentance and forgiveness make a brilliant day of the darkest night. When souls are reborn, when lives are changed—then comes the great miracle to beautify and warm and lift. When spiritual death has threatened and now instead there is resuscitation, when life pushes out death—when this happens it is the miracle of miracles. And such great miracles will never cease so long as there is one person who applies the redeeming power of the Savior and his own good works to bring about his rebirth” (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, Ch. 4: The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 34-35).
This glorious and everlasting truth covers everything from abuse and neglect to physical ailments and inability to bear children. You cannot put yourself in a special category when it comes to Christ. He is not waiting for you to fill out the correct paperwork or color in the right bubble-sheet answers. He is waiting for you to let Him in and wanting you to do the work required of us.
Whatever your familial barriers may be, let them strengthen you. Forgive those around you and forgive yourself.
4. Be mindful.
To be mindful is to pay attention to things as they are; in the moment, on purpose.
Be mindful that your spouse may deal with stress by “floating to shore,” while your child will deal with it by “climbing the stairs.”
No two people deal with anything the same, let alone difficult life situations.
Be mindful of how far you’ve come. You are a miracle. Don’t short yourself.
“Seeds of faith are always within us; sometimes it takes a crisis to nourish and encourage their growth.”
-Susan L. Taylor
So get to nourishing! And remember, you can do this. He did not send you here to fail.