As I write this, our headlines are filled with references to the current state of our economy. We are all trying to cope with massive job losses, downsizing, rising prices, and the fear and uncertainty about our futures. Pressures are mounting within our own families as well, since so many of us have been directly impacted by budget constraints, loss of crucial retirement funds and the necessity for restructuring our way of life.

People are commuting farther in order to find work, traveling more, adapting to reduced incomes and staying in jobs that are less than ideal because their options are so limited. All of this stress is affecting our marriages and our family relationships. We are having to scale back our spending and say "no" to things we are accustomed to saying "yes" to—vacations, home improvements, new clothes, cars, entertainment, etc.

So what can we do to protect our most precious investments—our marriages and our families? Well, first we must develop a "Disaster Recovery Plan."  

Almost 25 years ago, I was a young wife, full of hopes and dreams for our long and happy life together. We had vowed to stay committed "for better or for worse" and I had confidence that we would live by those words. We had just bought our first home and had started a small business that we believed would eventually provide us with a comfortable future.

Then the unthinkable happened--I had an ectopic pregnancy coupled with an ovarian cyst, which necessitated major surgery. I missed 12 weeks of work recovering. I was the primary breadwinner at the time since my husband was finishing school. The economy in our state was experiencing a recession and I subsequently lost my job. This ultimately led to the loss of our business and our home.

Within 18 months we were separated, and we divorced a couple of years later. In the short span of about 4 years, we lost a child, a business, our home and finally our marriage. We were involuntary participants in the death of our innocence and our dreams. The pressure, the feelings of failure, the blame, the guilt, and our youth and inexperience all played a role in the destruction of our marriage. When the "worst" happened to us; we weren't prepared to handle it.

I learned some very powerful lessons in the most painful of ways. When a catastrophe strikes a family, the marriage is put under tremendous strain. Without a "disaster recovery plan," many marriages do not survive such adversity.

So what is your "Marriage Disaster Recovery Plan"? Do you even have one? Or are you, like my first husband and I, at the mercy of trying to navigate the pitfalls of life without a map?

I went on to marry my wonderful husband and since we werer both married before, we have firsthand experience with what doesn't work. And we have spent the last 18 years of our marriage trying to figure out what does! Our "disaster recovery plan" has been put to use many times throughout our life together. And we continue to refine and enhance it as we have faced job losses, sickness, injury, family disconnect, death, and the trauma of suicide in our family.  

Our own disaster plan starts with prayer. We used to just pray the "God please help us" kind of prayer. But we have learned that God wants us to completely TRUST him, even when we are facing the "worst" of circumstances. So now, when trouble comes, we make an honest effort to surrender to God's plan and keep reminding ourselves that some good will ultimately arise from our pain and misery. We have learned to pray the "God, please help us to trust and follow your will" prayer.

We don't deny our hurt, but we try not to be consumed by it either. And make no mistake; it is HARD work. When you are faced with a crisis, there are days when it takes everything inside of you to keep from falling apart. The fear creeps in, and your mind races through all the awful things that have or could happen.