In the book A Walking Disaster: What Surviving Katrina and Cancer Taught Me About Faith and Resilience (2018), Jamie Aten, a Christian disaster psychologist, confronts the conundrums and ensuing confusion that come with crises.
Aten’s story begins in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina struck his community. After experiencing the destruction caused by the storm, he dedicated his lifework to investigating how people respond to and recover from disasters and crises. He later founded the Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College, Illinois. His expertise, however, was little comfort when a visit with his oncologist revealed that he had advanced stage IV cancer. “You’re in for your own personal disaster” was his doctor’s prognosis.
Aten’s book examines the pressure one goes through when faced with personal or global crises. Is it possible to maintain hope in the midst of tragedy and death? Can we return to normal after a crisis devastates our lives and the lives of those around us?
The answer is a resounding “Yes.” We can experience a productive life of confidence and contribution after a crisis. But it doesn’t happen by accident. It takes an intentional reordering of our attitudes and actions.
Can we return to normal after a crisis devastates our lives and the lives of those around us?
The Bible is full of principles about how to successfully survive, even thrive, during a crisis.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, embraced her destiny rather than trying to escape her duty (Luke 1:26-56). God sometimes asks us to do things that seem too much to handle, even impossible. So it was with Mary when the angel told her she was pregnant. Although shocked, she accepted the charge.
Lesson: Whatever God’s providence gives us, let’s accept it with intelligence and initiative because He will be with us.
The woman with hemorrhages chose radical action over passive resignation (Luke 8:43-48). Some crises require bold, sweeping actions that don’t have scripts and guidelines. Like the ill woman, believers have to act courageously and seek Jesus for answers and healing.
Lesson: Calculate the obvious needs, and with the Holy Spirit and passion trustingly pursue what you are led to.
Peter overcame failing crises with faith (John 18:15-18; 21:15-19). Like Peter, sometimes our crisis is magnified by how we handle the crisis confronting us. Our fumbles and failures sometimes make our crises messier than they were. But by God’s grace we can get it together and come back into relationship and alignment.
Lesson: Don’t give up even when you fail in a crisis. Get up and get it right.
John put eternity over present problems (Rev. 21). John witnessed the death and ascension of Christ, the martyrdom of fellow disciples, the ascendancy of evil secular and spiritual kingdoms, persecution, then banishment to Patmos. Through it all, he kept faith in God and in eternity’s promise.
Lesson: Discipline yourself to look beyond the present pain to providence and eternity.
Paul pursued purpose while facing his fears (Acts 20:22-24). Paul, a prisoner, was traveling to Rome to be tried as a criminal. He endured trials, persecution, shipwreck, and privations. Yet he stood strong by talking and living his faith.
Lesson: He spoke and modeled faith while pursuing his mission; helping others, even as he was in the midst of his own crisis.
Delbert W. Baker is vice chancellor of the Adventist University of Africa, near Nairobi, Kenya.