What You Ask in a Crisis Really Matters

Girl looking reflective

What You Ask in a Crisis Really Matters


I’m fresh off of my vacation time. Albeit it was a vacation with a few twists.

As I arrived back from a West-coast work trip, our kids were working through some stomach viruses. But my 4-year-old Leo was hit really hard. After a couple of days he was unable to keep anything down.

I brought him to the hospital and it was determined that he needed to be on an IV until he could stomach fluids. This ended up keeping us in the hospital for 5 days.

It was a bit alarming as a parent. When they are that young they don’t really describe how they are doing in any detail. And the diagnosis are not as forthcoming as you’d like.

Long story short, our vacation was delayed for a few days, but soon we were driving down to south Florida!

Until our van broke down in Jacksonville...

It was 9am after driving through the night. It was 105 degree heat (about 41 degrees Celsius!) and we were on the side of the highway. The air conditioner had just stopped working and the kids were letting us hear it.

It felt a bit like things were stacked against us on this vacation. But my wife remarked to me,

“You really seem composed through all of this”

If I was composed it was because of one primary thing: the questions I’ve come to ask myself in crises.

In the past, what I would have asked myself in either of those situations might have been this: “Why is this happening to me??"

Have you ever asked that question? That one, or, “What have I done to deserve this?”

Maybe we’ve all been there. But I can say that I’ve stated to ask myself 2 different questions now when I am faced with surprise road blocks. These questions are:

1) What’s important now? (acronym: WIN)
2) What does this make possible? (which I attribute to Michael Hyatt)

These two questions have radically changed the way I approach crises because they let me interpret and respond to crises differently.

In the first example, when faced with the illness of my son, I could have said, “Why is this happening to me? And why now?"

But I asked the other questions instead. And what was important now was tending to my son while he was ill; helping him get to the bathroom with his IV; calling the nurse when needed; making sure he had food/books/was comfortable; spending time with him and praying for him.

What was made possible was some one-on-one time with one of my kids (not always easy when you have 5 of them); slowing down the pace of my life by being in the hospital with him; praying a bit more; taking strength from the many friends who were praying for him as well.

If I kept asking myself questions that made me feel sorry for myself I would have missed out on a lot of opportunities!

When we broke down in Jacksonville (and it turned out the transmission had to be rebuilt), what was important was getting my family off of the highway in the scorching heat; finding fluids and some food to eat; finding a place to stay; getting the van towed to a garage.

What was made possible was resting after a night on the road; seeing a city we’d never spent time in; seeing who God placed in our paths on this detour; and showing our kids how to deal with the unexpected.

I don’t think I was perfectly composed in this situation, but I can say that I did experience a greater sense of peace. I knew that God was with us in the detours. And I saw how God provided in those situations.

I knew that God was with us in the detours. And I saw how God provided in those situations.

With Leo in the hospital, I was just so grateful for modern medicine, that he didn’t have to die of a terrible flu. With our breakdown I was just so grateful that we were in a city, and could get a rental car and a towing with relative ease.

These questions also give us a sense of control in situations- they aren’t just “happening to us”; we are still proactive with our own response in the situation.

As Viktor Frankl makes so clear in Man’s Search for Meaning, nobody can take away your freedom to choose how you respond to a given situation.

In your life and work, when things go wrong, how do you respond? Do you ask, “Why is this happening to me?” or “What does this make possible? and "What’s important now?”

Because the questions we ask can make all the difference in the world.

A photo posted by Josh Canning (@catholicjosh) on

These two questions have radically changed the way I approach crises. — Josh Canning

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