A few months ago my husband’s son was excited to show us an HBO documentary mini-series about Chernobyl. For those who don’t know, Chernobyl was a place in Russia (then the USSR under Communist rule) where a nuclear power plant near the city of Pripyat exploded in 1986.
I wasn’t sure what to think but sat and watched. It was unbelievably sad. The suffering that this incident caused the Russian people was so incredibly heartbreaking. This nuclear plant was used as a source of electricity to the area but after the explosion, thousands of people died (not fully reported in the news) from the radiation poisoning. What was even worse for me was knowing that my father’s side of the family still lived close by in Belorus and were infected as well. You can read about it here, but I would not recommend watching the mini-series, as it was too graphic.
One silver lining that came out of this disaster was an interesting insight by Mikhail Gorbachev (Soviet Union’s last General Secretary): “Chernobyl’s explosion was a turning point that opened the possibility of much greater freedom of expression to the point that the system as we knew it could no longer continue.” This was the beginning of the downfall of Communism and the Berlin Wall. It took such a terrible disaster to wake up this regime of government (it was eventually disbanded three years later in 1989), but what a price to pay for this awakening.
Our present situation has acted in many ways as the same kind of explosion. We all have been thrown into such a crisis, and the silver lining has been incredibly eye-opening in many areas of our life.
We might ask ourselves these questions: Are we spiritually ready for difficult times? Are we as prepared as possible in our physical health for a crisis? Are we emotionally and mentally ready for catastrophe? I love what Elder M. Russell Ballard has said on this topic:
“We should not need a hurricane or other crisis to remind us of what matters most. The gospel and the Lord’s plan of happiness and salvation should remind us. What matters most is what lasts longest, and our families are for eternity” (Russell M. Ballard, “What Matters Most is What Lasts the Longest,” October 2005).
What price are we paying to learn some hard lessons? Personally, the time we have spent at home on our own has been a time of reflection. We are studying our scriptures to really learn the lessons. We appreciate the Sacrament on Sunday and the strong spirit in our home. Projects that we put away to do another day actually got done. We talk more as we put puzzle after puzzle together. We work on family history (and have done so much that we have enough to do for a year, attending every month when the temple opens). We appreciate peace and our health. We learn to share what we have (like toilet paper) when others are in need. So many lessons learned during this difficult time of illness and now civil unrest.
We pray for many things to go back to the way they were before, but are concerned that the world will never return to that. Any family gathering, celebration, or group activity may never be the same, but we can have faith in God. We have a living prophet who encourages us to keep positive. We focus on what we can do instead of what we can’t do, and try to help others do the same. We savor our time with our family and friends. We learn of the good in others. There are many silver linings in a crisis. We just have to open our eyes and ears and listen to what God tells us in our hearts.
Valerie Steimle has been writing as a family advocate for over 25 years. As a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she promotes Christian living in her writings and is the mother of nine children and grandmother to twelve. Mrs. Steimle authored six books and is a contributing writer to several online websites. To her, time is the most precious commodity we have and knows we should spend it wisely. To read more of Valerie's work, visit her at her website, The Blessings of Family Life.