How you can prepare for emotional disasters

how to prepare for emotional disasterLast week my cousin spent the day chasing plywood and supplies all over town in preparation for Hurricane Matthew. Store shelves were sparse, gas stations drained, and Home Depot was like Black Friday with the amount of frantic pushing and shoving.

My cousin spent nearly 24 hours securing windows and battening down the hatches. He was just praying his home wouldn’t blow away.

When faced with a natural disaster like the one we saw last week, one thing is for sure. People spring into action. Survival mode kicks in. Some evacuate. Others brace for a fight. But one thing we all have in common?

We prepare.

Whether it be a hurricane, tornado, fire or shooting, our country knows how to band together.

We know what to do because we have prepared ourselves in advance for emergencies. Schools have procedures. Cities have action plans. Families have fire escape routes. When we know a disaster is coming down the pipeline, we sound the alarm and get our gear in order.

And it got me thinking.

If we spend so much time prepping in advance for a natural emergency, why do we not do this in other areas of life?

Because for many of us, the likelihood of experiencing a catastrophic event is much less than encountering emotional disasters like betrayal, divorce, disease, or the death of a loved one. If we spend the time and resources creating action plans for potential heart attacks, intruders or natural disasters, wouldn’t it make sense to also prepare our hearts and minds for the personal experiences we know for sure are coming?

Preparing for disasters of the heart

At one time or another, most of us will find ourselves in a situation where we’ll be tempted to be jealous, compare, gossip, be impatient, resentful, and hold a grudge. Things will happen to make us shaken and afraid. At some point, we will be betrayed, hurt, deceived, lied about and judged.

When those things happen, how will we respond? Will we emotionally wing it and risk the stability of our heart and character? Will we resort to damage control? Are we content to ride the emotional roller coaster every time we experience something hard or heart breaking?

Or is it possible to be prepared? I would argue that we can prepare our minds in advance, giving us the ability to hunker down and survive the storm without the collateral damage.

The Bible is full of instruction and action plans for every crisis, difficulty, and hardship we experience. We have the resources ahead of time to both prevent long-term emotional damage and keep our character intact.

If, then…

Having an idea of how we will respond to situations in advance will keep us anchored in whatever storm we face.

How can we do this?

One way is to make a list of scenarios or situations you have faced in the past or are likely to encounter in the future. Maybe it’s the loss of a parent. Maybe you’ve been diagnosed with an illness. Perhaps life hasn’t gone the way you expected. Finances are tight. Anxiety and fear threaten to overwhelm. Friends move away. Marriage has become lonely and bitter. Whatever the case, most of us will experience these things at one time or another.

Make your list. Then apply the If, Then Principle”:

If this happens (scenario), then I will (action)…

Thinking through what you will do and how you will respond to each situation in advance will help you establish an action plan. Many times when faced with these experiences, we are too distressed or blindsided to make wise decisions. Your thoughts reel, emotions backslide and you find yourself in fight or flight survival mode. Preparing yourself in advance gives you the ability to counsel your mind and heart in the moment and behave accordingly.

You can’t predict the future, but you can plan for the obvious.

Here are just a few examples from my own life…

  • If I am angry, then I will count to 10 and choose to listen…(James 1:19-20)
  • If my loved one dies, then I will choose to focus on God’s goodness and sovereignty…(Romans 8:28)
  • If I disagree with the election, then I will pray for our leaders…(Rom 13:1-7)
  • If I am anxious, then I will tell God my needs and focus on His provision…(Phil 4:6-7)
  • If I am afraid, then I will think on what is true and trust God (Phil 4:8)
  • If I am unsure what is true, then I will consult Scripture and ask God for wisdom (James 1:5-8)
  • If someone is disrespectful, then I will respond with kindness…(Eph 4:32)
  • If someone is harsh or unkind, then I will speak words that are uplifting and positive…(Eph 4:29)
  • If someone betrays me, then I will not take revenge but instead forgive them…(Rom 12:17-19)

Thinking through these things and creating an action plan for my mind and heart has helped me stay self-controlled when situations felt out of control.

If we prepare for earthly disasters, how much more ought we prepare for the times when our heart or faith are in crisis?

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We may not be able to foresee or control what happens to us but we can control how we respond. And how we respond to the most difficult of situations will determine who we will become. We can endure through the fiercest of storms because we remain anchored in God and His Word. Right now we have the opportunity to prepare our minds and hearts in advance so that when disaster strikes we can stand strong and persevere, keeping our character and the truth intact.

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