Denise sat quietly in front of me, reflecting upon her situation. She has been separated from her husband for a year, having experienced years of emotional abuse.
“I couldn’t take it any longer,” she said. “I believe in marriage and had hoped he would change. But he didn’t, or wouldn’t. I had to leave to preserve my sanity.”
“So, how are you doing now?” I asked.
“Terrible,” she said. “I feel lost. I’m not married and I’m not divorced. I can’t seem to go on with my life. I need help. I can’t divorce him and I can’t stay married. I don’t know what to do.”
“You’re experiencing a crisis,” I said. “Crises throw us off. We feel disoriented when our old world comes crashing down and a new world is thrust upon us. We don’t know what to do.”
“That’s for sure,” she said. “It seems silly that I wouldn’t know what to do, but I feel confused about the path forward.”
“I encourage you not to feel silly,” I said. “A crisis, by definition, is something we’re not prepared to handle. If we could handle something with ease, it wouldn’t throw us off. You’re facing the possible end of your long-term marriage. You’re still wondering what to do going forward. That’s enough to challenge anyone.”
“I guess you’re right,” she said reluctantly. “Still, as a 50-year-old woman, you’d think I would know what to do.”
“No, I wouldn’t,” I said. “Your world has been flipped upside down. It’s time to slow everything down, take stock of your life and make careful decisions about how to move forward.”
“I’ve been taking stock of my life,” she said firmly. “I still don’t know what to do.”
“Let’s talk it through, from the beginning of the crisis to the present,” I said. “That may help you gain some perspective on what to do.”
We took the next several weeks to slowly go through every aspect of her marriage. We explored the beginning of their marriage, when the problems began and how she had responded to each part of their struggle.
Slowly, week after week, patterns began to emerge. She began to see things more clearly. She began to see how she had enabled her husband’s bad temper. She had hoped it would subside and while she never liked it, had been frightened about setting firm boundaries on it.
Denise was able to make the mental shift from seeing her experience as a horrific crisis to an opportunity to re-evaluate her life. She shifted from feeling like a victim, unable to change her life, to embracing this time as a chance to change her life.
Here are some additional steps she took to help her embrace her crisis and make the most out of it.
First, expect crises. Scripture tells us very clearly that in this life we will have crises. However, we are told that problems and crises can make us stronger.
“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” (I Peter 5:10)
Second, cultivate a healthy attitude about crises. Knowing we will have problems, we can not only anticipate them, but can prepare ourselves emotionally and spiritually for them. We can determine that we will grow stronger through these crises, becoming more reliant on God to make us even healthier spiritually.
Third, seek the opportunity in crises. Yes, every crisis is an opportunity. During crises we are more likely to reach out to friends, family and God for help. We are more likely to reflect on our lives to see what we might learn. We are more likely to actually learn from our situation and change what might need to be changed.
Fourth, be thankful in everything concerning crises. Scripture also tells us to be thankful for our problems. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances.” (I Thessalonians 5:16)
The Lord knows we can and should give thanks for all that happens in our lives and for His protection and love for us.
Finally, find the hand of God in crises. We can rest assured that God is with us in all our trials. If we look for the hand of God in our situation, we will surely see it. While we may not see His hand at the moment, in time we will be able to look back and see more clearly His plan for our lives.
Can you see the opportunity in your crisis? Can you see the gift hidden in your struggle? If you would like further help, we are here for you. Please send responses to me at email@example.com and also read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on our website and learn about our Personal and Marriage Intensives.
Publication date: January 17, 2017
Photo credit: ©Pexels/Johannes Plenio