Helping One Another After A Major Stressor
“And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” 1 Corinthians 12:26-27
There are times in our life when disaster strikes. Tornadoes, floods, hurricanes are all examples of events that can enter into our lives and create stress and crisis. At transitional times like these, it is important that we lean on each other and use the resources around us to encourage each other as we lean upon God through these difficult times. “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.” Romans 12:15
“Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded”[fainthearted], support the weak, be patient toward all men.” 1 Thessalonians 5:14 Satan wants us to be harmed through trials, while God wants us to grow closer to Him and to bring Him glory through them. We must encourage each other to look to Jesus for grace, strength, and guidance as we are going through trials.
To God Be The Glory: “Ye are the light of the world. A City that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16
Christ’s Mission: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set a liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” Luke 4:18-19
Four Phases In Dealing With A Crisis
1. Heroic Phase
This phase begins immediately upon the onset of the disaster and may even begin in anticipation of the impact of the event itself. It consists of efforts to protect lives and property. Depending on the scope of the crisis/disaster, this may involve local, state, national, or international efforts.
2. Honeymoon Phase
There is a “sigh of relief” as the realization of survival is appreciated. Thankfulness for help and assistance received. This phase is characterized by optimism and thanksgiving. Congratulatory behavior is common.
- “We are going to make it though this!”
- “We will rebuild our community!”
3. Disillusionment Phase
This phase may begin as early as a few weeks post-disaster. The size of the recovery effort “sinks in” and getting to the new normal seems far off.
This phase often has an “accordion-like-feel” to it. That is, there are periods of overwhelming work and decisions with periods of waiting, delay, and frustration. There can be a great deal of “second-guessing,” anger, frustration, and even efforts to place blame. “If only….”, “They should have….”, “They shouldn’t have….”.
“Why?” questions are common as part of the desire to try to make sense of what has occurred. Religious questions often occur. Over time our goal is to help people move from “Why?” to “What?”. As shock from previous phases wears off, the mourning process follows. This phase may last weeks, months, or even years. Some individuals get stuck in this phase and stay here, long term. Our desire is to help people transition from this phase to the final phase.
4. Reconstruction Phase
In this final phase, restoration of typical routine functioning is achieved. The “new normal” arrives; memories of the disaster are not erased, but life does continue on. The growth of individuals and communities is continued.
Transitions & Loss
Types of Losses
Transitions always involve losses, some are welcomed losses while others catch us by surprise.
Three Phases of Grief after Loss or Perceived Loss
- Shock, confusion, denial, anger at others, anger at self, anger at God, lowered self-esteem
- Crying, pain, weakness, nausea, loss of appetite, sleep disturbance, etc.
- Agony, grief, anguish, depression
- Bargaining and “urge to recover” that which was lost, slowed thinking and actions, continuing physical symptoms.
- Apathy, indifference, loss of interest, desire to withdraw and “give up”
- Decreased socialization, no new friendships, bland expression, absent spontaneity.
Negative Effects Of Major Stress On Individuals
Things that Affect How People Cope
- History of previous losses and traumas
- Emotional coping skills
- Information (accurate? unknowns?)
- Social support
- Spiritual foundation
- Ability to adapt to change
- Experience with dealing with difficult circumstances.
- Difficulty sleeping or wanting to oversleep
- Loss of appetite or over-eating
- Feeling “keyed up” or “on edge” OR feeling sluggish and slowed down
- Transient physical symptoms (e.g., headaches, muscle aches, gastrointestinal issues, lowered immune system functioning)
- Feeling like you are riding an emotional roller-coaster
- Emotional intensity or numbness
- Feelings of helplessness and/or hopelessness
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Anxiety and/or depression
- Rumination: Replaying things over and over in your mind focusing on the negatives and difficulty seeing blessings
- Poor concentration
- Worry and your mind is filled with “What ifs?”
- Clinging to faith (positive):“God, I need You now more than ever.”
- Connecting with others (positive):“Bear ye one another’s burdens.”
- Spiritual questions (neutral):“Why, God?”
- Disillusionment (negative):“I give up… I quit.”
Short, Medium, & Long Term
How quickly do people “get over it?” The most intense effects of stress and crisis tend to peak during and shortly after the event occurs. Individuals respond to stress, trauma, and loss very differently from each other. Some rebound very quickly while others may deal with issues on a ongoing basis.
When is more help needed?
- Sleep difficulty (insomnia or hypersomnia) becomes a pattern.
- Intrusive thoughts/memories that “trigger” a strong emotional response.
- Using unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with anxiety, stress, etc.
- Difficulty coping with the day-to-day tasks and challenges; feeling like you can’t cope or go on.
- Anxiety and/or panic attacks.
Negative Effects Of Major Stress On Relationships
- Irritability or “Short-fuse” with others
- Isolating from others
Symptoms of Martial & Family Stress
- Little time to spend together
- Sense of frustration — too much to do
- Desire for the simpler life
- Never time to relax
- Infrequent opportunities for conversation
- Explosive arguments
- Conversations centered on time and tasks rather than people and feelings
- Meals eaten in haste
- Constant rushing from place to place, task to task
- Escaping into work or other activities
- Insufficient one-on-one contact
- Sense of guilt
- Dwelling on “what could have been” or thinking about “if only”
“Cut Each Other Some Slack”
Under significant stress people can become irritable, rigid, and even irrational. Try to avoid taking things too personally. Take comments that people say and let them “roll off” as much as possible. A suggested prayer to help you: “Father forgive them, for they know not what they just said.”
Dealing With Conflict
Work through conflicts and grievances as quickly as possible. “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.” Colossians 3:12-14
Providing Support To One Another “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2
Time “On” & Time “Off”
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:” Ecclesiastes 3:1. It is important to allow yourself (and others) time to deal with serious issues AND to also have time to not have to deal with them. Some people will tend to either do one or the other. Understand that people’s roles, responsibilities, personal circumstances, and how they are coping all affect how much they want to focus on dealing with issues (or not). Sometimes what people need the most is time to focus on things other than the disaster. Realize that people differ widely in how much they want to talk about their issues. Some people are very private while others are quite open. You need to adjust yourself to their style. Also, realize that sometimes people want to talk about their issues and other times they want to be able to focus on other things not related to their issues. The best plan is to talk to the person privately and see if they want to talk. If not, that’s fine. At least they know you care.
God’s Work Is Accomplished In All Sizes
What God Expects of Us During Recovery
Focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t. Trust God to take care of what you can’t do. No matter the size, anything done in Jesus’ name is of value. Mark 9:4, “For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward.” Focus on being the part of the Body of Believers that God designed you to be. Pray for (and thank God for) the other parts of the Body.
The Circle of Concern
The Circle of Influence
10% of the Circle of Concern. It represents the portion of your concerns that you can actually do something about right now.
Circle of Concern vs. Circle of Influence
Many people spend 90% of their time in the 90% they cannot control. This leads to stress, anxiety, feeling out of control, difficulty letting go. The goal is to spend 90% of your time in the 10%.
Spiritual Foundations To Cling To In Times Of Trial
Spiritual Questions & Crisis
- “Where is God?”
- “Is God trying to teach me a lesson?”
- “Is this a punishment?”
- “Can I trust God?”
- Why did this happen to me?
- Why did I escape what happened to them?
Avoid Clichés or Simplistic Answers
“As he that taketh away a garment in cold weather, and as vinegar upon nitre, so is he that singeth songs to an heavy heart.” Proverbs 25:20
- No simple answers.
- Don’t over interpret.
- You aren’t God’s attorney. Be careful not to assert that you know the mind of God (except through what He has revealed in the Scripture).
Remember God is Good. Period.
“The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.” Nahum 1:7. God is good… all the time… even when circumstances are not! He also understands that we don’t understand. “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.” Habakkuk 3:17-19
Times of Crisis Point Us to Reflect
Reflection does not mean, however, that each person will, or should, come to the same conclusion. “There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” Luke 13: 1-5
Remember The Effects Of The Fall
When sin entered the world, the entire creation was affected. “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” Romans 8:22-23
God gives us grace as we need it, in the amount that we need. We don’t get to store up grace… it’s like manna! “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
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