How Do We Respond?
When life takes an unexpected turn . . .
by Brian Radcliffe (revised, originally published in 2010)
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To encourage us to consider the range of responses possible following a life-changing event.
Preparation and materials
- You will need a leader and two readers.
- Optional: you may wish to do some research and use a range of genuine, topical good/bad news stories for the readers to use at the start of the assembly.
Leader: 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 family member to survive.’
Reader 1: ‘From the supermarket shelves to international stardom, this X Factor winner has the world at her feet.’
Reader 2: ‘Surgeon’s error leaves man unable to walk.’
Leader: Within a matter of seconds, a life can be changed forever. Sometimes, it’s for the better, but sometimes, it’s for the worse. In circumstances like these, it’s impossible to make contingency plans. Whatever it is, it can’t be avoided. And it could happen to any of us.
Soon, there will be the Christian celebration of Easter. Easter Sunday, the day when Christians celebrate Jesus’ miraculous resurrection, falls on 12 April this year. Jesus was executed the Friday before and buried in a sealed tomb. Everyone thought that was that: three dramatic years with Jesus were over. However, they weren’t. 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.
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 that 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 that 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.
Leader: 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, so they 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’ – refusing to accept what’s happened despite all the evidence. Only a small number of us can 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. However, 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 our reaction is constructive and try to adapt to what has happened.
The story of Jesus’ resurrection 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 and there was no way out. There seemed to be nothing to live for; 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 and alone because of what has happened to us. Yet God’s initiative that first Easter created good news from the deepest, darkest tragedy. Christians believe that this is 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’.
Thank you that, for you, there are no cul-de-sacs.
Thank you that you can bring some good out of bad.
May we have the belief to act positively in a crisis
And the eyes to recognize your initiative.
‘Redemption song’ by Bob Marley, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QrY9eHkXTa4 (3.49 minutes long)