Dear CTR Brothers & Sisters,
Facing crises and circumstances that we cannot change is usually overwhelming. Everyone has a particular way of dealing with these crises. Some try and ignore the feelings of anxiety and despair. Others try and blunt the effect of the crisis with a myriad of defenses.
When I was a pastor in Alabama a long time ago, I recall providing Pastoral Care in one of the most difficult crises that a person could possibly face.
Jerry was a man who served on the governing board of the Parish. He and his wife were both professional people. He was a consultant for large business corporation, and she was an emergency room nurse in the hospital in the town where they lived. One evening as I was sitting in my family room at home, I had a call from Jerry his voice was pinched, and I could sense the incredible tension in his usually calm demeanor. He blurted out, “I have just hit a little boy with my car, and he is dead.
He related the story: he was driving home in the early evening from a distant business call. He was on a rural road when suddenly a little boy ran from behind some obstruction and Jerry couldn’t stop. He had already talked with the police and had tried to talk to the parents, but he said, “I was too upset and overwhelmed to make sense. I can’t go on. I can’t live with this I don’t know what to do.”
He agreed to meet me at the church. His wife would drive him there, since he refused to get behind the wheel, “ever again.” As I walked across the parking lot to my office in the church building, I said, “Lord help me, I don’t know what to say.”
Facing crises is an issue that requires an intentional response on our part. One of the worst things that we can do is to try and deny the feeling of being overwhelmed or just lock the feelings inside. That doesn’t help because it creates an internal tension that begins to affect everything that we do.
The first principle of crisis management is to find a way to externalize our perceptions by talking to someone. As we get it out in conversation or if that is not possible, we “journal it out”, this gives the crisis a focus. The second principle is to begin to separate the changeable from the unchangeable. This narrows down our responses a bit more. People often say to me, “I can’t even pray.” Sometimes the only prayer that a person can groan is, “help”. Finally, we need God’s grace to sustain us through the resolution of the crisis.
So, what did Jerry do? He and I talked often and prayed regularly. He soon found the courage to talk to the parents of the child he had hit. He said that the conversation allowed them to get out their hurt and anger on him and that bearing that hurt and anger was a kind of relief for him. This was something that he could do that was of benefit to these who had been so hurt.
Eventually, Jerry was able to get behind the wheel of his car again. It took months for him to come to the place where he could sleep well again.
Healing can take place following a crisis. Often, we are stronger having worked though the crisis situation. However, sometimes the crisis is so severe for the person that it becomes traumatic. But there is help for working through trauma with a professional counselor. God never abandons us even when we feel that what has happened seems irreparable. His love is unconditional and redemptive.
For those who need specialized help, referrals are possible. The church can provide a list of resources available through our Pastoral Care ministry. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you need a referral for specialized support.