Church, Practices, Reflections

Rick Warren on Facing the Crisis

Five biblical principles when facing a devastating crisis by Rick Warren

We were all stunned to hear the news about the massive earthquake and tsunami in southern Asia. The images we see in the newspaper and on TV are heartbreaking. It's hard to fathom the horror and grief that literally millions of people are enduring minute-by-minute.

There are many Purpose Driven church leaders in India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Indonesia, Maldives and Malaysia, and we're helping congregations like yours to connect directly with churches in this devastated region. Several of the articles in this edition of the Ministry ToolBox explain what is being done and how you can help.

This disaster gives us all an opportunity to minister God's love in the lives of people in Asia who need to hear about abundant, eternal life in Christ Jesus. While each day's headlines are filled with news about this tragedy, we also have an opportunity to teach our congregations about facing crisis.

Whether you're planning to help in South Asia, or whether it's the next time a wildfire, flood, earthquake, tornado, or hurricane devastates your own community, sooner or later, your congregation will be called to minister in a time of unparalleled grief. When that happens, here are five biblical principles you can teach your members about helping spiritually in the midst of massive crisis:

First, teach them to release their grief
People feel all
sorts of emotions when they face crisis, such as fear, anger, worry,
depression, resentment, helplessness, and grief. The most important
thing to teach people is that they must acknowledge these emotions
before God. It does no good to stuff emotions or deny they exist. God
created us to feel emotions, and he doesn’t expect us to act happy when
we’re grieving.

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4, NKJV). That means it’s OK to be honest about our grief. “O my people, trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge.” (Psalm 62:8, NLT) God wants to comfort us in tragedy. He is close to the broken-hearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Second, teach them to receive help from others
It’s a huge
mistake to isolate yourself when you’re going through a crisis. We all
need the support, encouragement, and presence of other people,
particularly in the aftermath of tragedy. The Bible tells us that when
we carry one another’s burdens, we obey the Law of Christ. (Galatians
6:2)

Third, teach them that they can choose not to be bitter
We
all have the power to decide how tragedy affects us. If we choose
bitterness, then we’ll only end up hurting ourselves — and we’ll also
shut the door on our own happiness because we can’t be happy and bitter
at the same time.

One of the things I’ve learned through my three decades in ministry
is that there’s absolutely no correlation in life between your
experiences and your happiness. I’ve seen people go through shocking
experiences who are able to maintain a happy, positive attitude, simply
because they choose to do so. You are as happy as you choose to be.

One skill that will help people make the choice to be happy is
learning to focus on what’s left — not what’s lost. God wants us to
still be thankful for what we have. As I counsel people in crisis, I
encourage them to make a list of all the good things in their lives. I
find it is impossible to be grateful and depressed at the same time.

Fourth, teach them to see what in their lives is of real value
A
crisis helps us clarify our values by showing us what really matters
and what really doesn’t matter. Jesus said, “Life is not
measured by how much one owns. …" (Luke 12:15, NCV)

What he’s saying is this: Don’t confuse your net worth with your
self-worth. Don’t confuse your possessions with your purpose in life. A
man’s life does not consist of what he possesses.

A tragedy teaches you that the greatest things in the world aren’t
things; what matters are relationships. The Apostle Paul said, “All
those things that I thought were valuable just aren’t." What matters
most is the health and safety of your family.

Finally, teach them that this is the time to rely on Christ
The Apostle Paul said, “I
have learned the secret of being happy at any time in everything that
happens; I can do all things through Christ, because he gives me
strength.” (Philippians 4:11,13; NCV)

If you want to be happy no matter what happens, do the following:

  • Lean on Christ for stability. “Such a person will not be
    overthrown by evil circumstances. God’s constant care of him will make
    a deep impression on all who see it. He does not fear bad news, nor
    live in dread of what may happen. For he is settled in his mind that
    God will take care of him.” (Psalm 112:6-7, LB)
  • Listen to Christ for direction. “’I know what I am
    planning for you,’ says the Lord. ‘I have good plans for you, not plans
    to hurt you. I will give you hope and a good future.’" (Jeremiah 29:11,
    NCV)
  • Look to Christ for salvation. “God is our protection and
    our strength. He always helps in times of trouble. So we will not be
    afraid even if the earth shakes, or the mountains fall into the sea.”
    (Psalm 46:2, NCV)

A crisis creates a moment in your life when you can shift your
dependence to something that can never be taken from you. Through it,
God can teach us that we may lose our homes, our careers, our
marriages, or our health, but we will never, ever lose our relationship
with God. He promised to never leave us or forsake us — and that’s an
eternal security we can build our lives on.

“We were really crushed and overwhelmed, and feared we would
never live through it … we saw how powerless we were to help
ourselves; but that was good, for then we put everything into the hands
of God, who alone could save us … And he did help us and save us …
and we expect him to do it again and again.” (2 Corinthians 1:9-10, TLB)

From Rick Warren’s Ministry Toolbox # 188, January 19, 2005, ©Copyright 2005 Pastors.com, Inc.