Because illness, disability, or other adversity “resides” with an individual, it is easy to assign “ownership” to that family member. Too often, we do not think of these as family ailments or adversities.
What is a Crucible?
Crucibles are furnace-like vessels that can endure intense heat and chemical reactions. That results in the refinement and transfiguration of raw materials. Crucibles facilitate a catalytic process that purges away impurities and creates a qualitatively different final product. In industry, crucibles are used to create high-grade steel and alloys of unusual strength that differ in quality from the original ingredients.
The Oxford English Dictionary provides two definitions of a crucible: (i) a container in which metals or other substances may be melted or subjected to very high temperatures, and (ii) a severe trial or in which different elements interact to produce something new. Every family undergoes some family crucible experiences at one time or another. During these times, it is often easy for family members to become discouraged and overwhelmed, and difficult for family members to recognize ways that it might strengthen and bless their family. As family members, we have the power to work through, learn from, and successfully adapt to family crucible experiences.
Types of Family Crucibles:
Here are several examples of family crucibles:
- Inability to find a mate and marry; broken engagement; bad start to marriage; entering a blended family.
- Spouse of another religion, husband or wife becomes inactive; spouse undermines testimony of children, extreme marital conflict, marital abuse, addiction, infidelity, depression, husband or wife deserts the family, suicide, separation, divorce, or death.
- Disability, Infertility, pregnancy problem, miscarriage or stillborn child, premature delivery, multiple births, S.I.D.S., a baby with colic, a baby with disabilities, etc.
- Hyperactive child, abuse, adolescent in family prematurely pregnant, the child loses testimony, child attempts or succeeds at suicide, teenagers or wayward child, runaway children, adult children returning home, adult children who never marry or never leave home.
- Financial problems: the husband refuses to work, an unexpected financial windfall, the job requires relocation to a new city, very long work hours or travel, and a poor relationship with the boss.
- Relative moves in, severe problems with in-laws, elder care.
- Natural disasters, legal problems, extremely demanding religious or community involvement, war, terrorism, civil unrest
Facing Family Crucible Experiences:
Here are some family crucible experiences to learn one or more lessons.
- Mary’s daughter was born with Down syndrome;
- Justin has grappled with significant depression off and on since he was a teenager.
- Shortly after his birth, Ilene’s son was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis and died before his 25th birthday.
People don’t plan to have a child with a disability or deal with the challenges of a mental or chronic illness or the untimely death of a family member. These experiences can be considered family “crucibles” because they have the potential to trigger changes in how we view ourselves and our relationships with others. Even when only one family member experiences some adversity, the effects “ripple across” the entire family. Because illness, disability, or other adversity “resides” with an individual, it is easy to assign “ownership” to that family member. Too often, we do not think of these as family ailments or adversities. When a mother “has” cancer, all family members experience the disease and the personal losses associated with it.
Some years ago, a wife walked out on her marriage, leaving the husband with their four children, all under ten years of age. When this catastrophe struck, he had just completed his Ph.D. and embarked upon a promising teaching career at a prestigious university. Desperate now for help raising his children, he found it necessary to relinquish his position and return to the city of his parents to enlist their assistance.
His pain was evident to his friend, who observed that he was deeply crushed by the desertion of his wife and the uncertain future awaiting him. Eight years later, this man was appointed the head of his department in a respected institution of higher learning. With the sparkle back in his eyes, it is apparent that he is experiencing God’s promise that “HOPE does not disappoint us.“
So, what do you do when the bottom falls out of your life?
- Allow that within you to die while you are still alive? Or
- Choose to place your HOPE in the character and promises of God.
The choice is yours; please do not let HOPE down!
Regardless of the family crucible, you are facing, some general strategies can help you deal with them.
- Be prepared. Be financially prepared; have an emergency supply of
- Food; have adequate insurance, etc.
- Connect with others. Every family has problems and challenges.
- Sometimes family members suffer in isolation. But successful families try to work together toward solutions. They pray for each other, discuss, support, and encourage each other.
- Talk together openly and frequently. Communicate one-on-one.
- Ask for ideas for better dealing with the situation and coping as a family. Fast and pray together for specific blessings. Express and share feelings. Exhibit empathy for family members. Be sensitive to the capacity of each family member to deal with strong feelings.
- Focus on the essential parts of family life. Amid family
- Trials, we may become so disoriented that we stop doing the everyday things that have fortified our families in the past. We must make an effort to continue our everyday life.
- Search for meaning in your experiences. Many find meaning by putting their trust in God and praying often. Some trials are so hard that the goal is to endure. Some difficulties are not resolved in this life, and the learning is to “endure it well.”
- Know that some experiences are for purposeful life changes.
Religious writer C. S. Lewis asks us to imagine ourselves as living houses. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. God is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently, He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is God doing? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you would be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace.
Crucible experiences may be the setting for this kind of transformation to take place:
- Seek soul-soothing environments. We are more likely to feel peace in trying times when we put ourselves and our families into calm and serene environments, especially those where we can appreciate the beauties of nature.
- Be flexible and creative in adapting to new roles and routines.
- Be careful to avoid making the crucible event the center of the family.
- Use resources that are available to you. Resources and Information from both within and outside the family can assist family members in coping and adaptation.
- Foster family strengths that will strengthen families before they encounter family crucible experiences and act as protective factors for families during the crucible experience.
Reframe your situation. How the family “frames” or interprets and responds to the experience often influences how they cope and adapt. Illness, disability, suffering, and death can refine family members’ experiences. The family’s interpretation and perception of their experience are essential in how these experiences affect their lives. With the proper perspective, families have the potential to grow and learn from the crisis. We don’t want to “get through” or “survive” these experiences but recognize that there is value in trials and benefits from them. With the proper perspective, families have the potential to grow and learn from the crisis. This growth could come from developing skills or closer relationships; individual family members might learn to become more sympathetic, humane, and benevolent through crucible family experiences. Growth in family members may come because of the pain, not despite it. By successfully passing through the heat and pressure of family crucibles, family members may become more humble, more sincere, more united in prayer, more dependent upon God, and more faithful. They may also become more charitable, more service-oriented, and more compassionate to the needs and suffering of others.
In some cases, support groups may be helpful. Community organizations often play a role, as do family members and friends. It’s important to realize that God notices us and watches over us. But it is usually through another person that God meets our needs. So often, our acts of service consist of simple encouragement or giving mundane help with mundane tasks, but what glorious consequences can flow from mundane acts and small but deliberate deeds? We must learn to use spiritual resources such as faith, prayer, and other devotions.
I know you have experiences to share with others. Please communicate these experiences to me (email@example.com), and we shall publish them for others to learn lessons. I pray that family members should be well-knitted to embrace any crucible experience and come out victorious. AMEN.