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A topsy-turvy world: Responding to life's crises

To encourage students to consider the range of responses possible following a life-changing event (SEAL theme: Self-awareness).

by Brian Radcliffe

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To encourage students to consider the range of responses possible following a life-changing event (SEAL theme: Self-awareness).

Preparation and materials

  • Choose two readers to help present the assembly.
  • You may wish to use real good/bad news stories.


  1. We live in a topsy-turvy world. Day by day, the news is full of headlines like these.

    Reader 1  Lottery winner pockets £20 million.

    Reader 2  Three die in motorway pile-up. Father the only member of family to survive.

    Reader 1  From the supermarket shelves to international stardom. X Factor winner has the world at her feet.

    Reader 2  Surgeon’s error leaves man unable to walk.

  2. Within a matter of seconds, a life can be changed for ever. Sometimes it’s for the better, sometimes for the worse. In circumstances like this, it’s impossible to make contingency plans. It can’t be avoided. And it can happen to any of us.

  3. The last day of March this year was Easter Sunday. It’s the day Christians celebrate the miraculous resurrection of Jesus Christ. He was executed on the previous Friday, buried in a sealed tomb and everyone thought that was that. Three dramatic years with Jesus were over. However, they weren’t. In order to show his power over death and evil, God raised his son, Jesus, back to life. It was the most topsy-turvy weekend in the history of the world.
  4. So what was it like for the group of men and women who had given up their jobs, families and ambitions to follow Jesus? How did they react to the topsy-turvy news? In truth, their reactions varied.

    Reader 1  Some of them were so overwhelmed by the news that Jesus was alive, they were left physically trembling. They said nothing to anyone out of fear of the consequences.

    Reader 2  Some, when told the news, refused to believe it. They said it was a load of nonsense.

    Reader 1  Even when Jesus appeared in front of them, some didn’t believe it was him. He needed to eat a piece of fish to prove he wasn’t a ghost.

    Reader 2  The most cynical, a disciple called Thomas, said he’d believe only when he could poke his finger in Jesus’ wounds.

    Reader 1  Even Peter, apparently the strongest character, Jesus’ chosen second in command, was left wondering what it all meant, weighing up the possibilities.

    Reader 2  Only a small number of women accepted the evidence at face value and saw the new hope that lay ahead.

  5. We have a good set of illustrations here of the classic responses to a crisis in life. Some people simply freeze. They don’t know how to react, and either miss an opportunity or nose-dive into depression. Others go round in circles, swinging from optimism to pessimism, belief to disbelief. Some, possibly because of past experiences, take a long time to be convinced. We call it ‘living in denial’ – a refusal to accept what’s happened despite all the evidence. Only a small number are able to grasp the situation, change direction and begin to respond to changed circumstances immediately.

Time for reflection

It’s difficult to plan our personal reaction to a crisis. To some extent it’s linked to our personality. Yet it’s useful to be able to recognize what’s going on in ourselves. It can give us a certain amount of control. We can choose whether or not our reaction is constructive and try to adapt to what has happened.

The story of the resurrection of Jesus also gives us another perspective. The initial crisis faced by his followers was totally bad news. Jesus’ death represented the end for them. They were in a cul de sac. There was no way out. There seemed nothing to live for, or at best they could crawl back to their previous humdrum lives.

That’s how it can sometimes feel for us. We feel utterly lost, empty, alone, because of what has happened to us. Yet God’s initiative that first Easter provided good news out of the deepest, darkest tragedy. Because that’s what God does. The resurrection is a sign that God can bring good, even unexpectedly, out of the worst situation. It may not be what we expect, but there is always hope. That’s why the stories about Jesus are called Gospels. The word literally means ‘good news’.

Dear Lord,
Thank you that for you there are no cul de sacs.
Thank you that you can bring some good even out of bad.
May I have the belief to act positively in a crisis
and the eyes to recognize your initiative.


‘Redemption Song’ by Bob Marley

Publication date: April 2013   (Vol.15 No.4)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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