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Finding Peace in Trying Times

By JoAnn Hibbert Hamilton

“When we start our families, it is usually with much excitement and anticipation. We have plans, such glorious plans. And then as time goes on, we find that life is more like an elevator. It goes up and down.” (E. Jeffrey Hill, “Family Crucibles,” Marriage & Families, Summer 2004, p. 8-15).

As a teacher at Brigham Young University, Hill states that he has a concern that some students set themselves up for disillusionment, despair and even depression because they aren't aware that the elevator goes down in family life as well as up, so to speak. He has his students memorize three sayings that he feels will help them as they seek family peace in trying times.

  1. “Life is hard, but you can do hard things.” You don't know what the hard things are going to be, but it will be worth it.
  2. “Make the best of it. Family life never, ever turns out the way you planned. What I tell my students is that when things don't go as planned, don't get frustrated, just make the best of it. Don't dwell on what's gone wrong, don't focus on what you can't do. Focus on what's gone right and what you can do.”
  3. “Things take time.” Families have to learn to have patience.

I liked this man's ideas. He points out something that I believe very much. He says we can use trials, hardships, challenges and problems to strengthen our families. These things can give an extra depth of meaning to families. He adds, “Family research shows that family crises tend to bring out the best and the worst in families. They can rip families apart or cause families to reorganize themselves in more positive ways.”

Trouble can help people be more humble, more dependent on God, more charitable, more compassionate and focused on what is really important. Hill lists 51 possible “family crucibles” and he divides them into seven areas. I will list just a few:

Family crucibles related to family formation:

  • inability to find a mate and marry
  • broken engagement
  • bad start to marriage
  • entering a blended family

Family Crucibles Related to Marriage:

  • disability
  • spouse is of another religion
  • husband or wife loses religious faith
  • spouse undermines faith or moral development of children
  • extreme marital conflict
  • marital abuse
  • addiction
  • infidelity
  • depression
  • husband or wife deserts the family
  • suicide
  • separation
  • death

And then he adds “Family Crucibles Related to Procreation,” “Birth and Infancy,” “Family Crucibles Related to the Nurturer Role and Parenting,” “Family Crucibles Relating to the Provider Role,” “Family Crucibles Related to Extended Family” and “Family Crucibles Centered in the External Environment,” like natural disasters, legal problems, extremely demanding civic or church responsibilities and war, terrorism and civil unrest.

After reading the list, I came out thankful for the problems I didn't have! Hill tells his students to plan their next 50 years and then re-chart their life script so that they see how having three of these crucibles affects their lives. He points out that some people have 10 or more, and so if they want to claim the blessing of peace in trying times they will have to make the best of less than optimal circumstances.

Among the positive ideas presented by Hill are: being prepared; involving family members; seeking outside resources and support; developing a long-term, growth-oriented perspective; taking positive action; doing what you can to find comfort in everyday family life; seeking out soul-soothing environments; taking care of yourself and your family; trusting in a higher power; and enduring to the end.

Hill made a profound concluduing remark about the difficulties that are part of family life: “Pain in inevitable, but misery is optional.”

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