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When my son was arrested, I experienced false shame, thinking if I had been a better parent, he never would have made such a horrible choice. When my friends James and Heather dealt with the growing tensions of raising a severely autistic daughter, they often blew up at each other, allowing little irritations to become impassible obstacles. The day they walked into their family room and discovered that Joanna had smeared her feces on the wall, they started shouting, blaming each other for not figuring out how to maintain order and civility in their own home.

Why do some marriages disintegrate when life pulls them apart? How do other couples develop a stronger bond in the face of insurmountable pressures? We learned that we needed to honestly tell each other when we were having a bad day or when we felt unable to make even simple decisions because our minds were too focused on the bigger issues we were facing.

By talking about our feelings, we developed open communication and often realized that on a day when one of us felt weak and incapable of making decisions, the other would step up and take care of the details of managing life. During the initial stages of our challenge, an important part of our growth as a couple was to go on walks together, praying out loud as we walked side by side.

We fear for his safety. We know nothing can touch us without Your permission, but our hearts agonize — for the family of the deceased and for our son. Right now we ask, 'Why did You allow this to happen?

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They have three other children who desire their love and care, too. In the past they had managed everything themselves and lived in a constant state of exhaustion. James and Heather also started accepting the help of a relative who volunteered to provide child care one night a week. They spent the evenings dining out or seeing a movie without worrying about the kids. They came home refreshed and were more able to face the day-to-day stress. The Enemy reminds you that your family is annoyingly different and no one really cares about accommodating your unique situation. Life had changed, and if we focused on the distant future we were discouraged.

Then came a harder decision: How transparent should we be about our journey?

We could choose to withdraw from society and never talk about what happened, or we could be open — first with family members and friends, and eventually, with larger groups of people — and share the details of what transpired and the lessons God was teaching us. More people signed up for the class than they expected. Two members of the group came to their home, got to know Joanna and became part of a team of people who cared for her needs — and also other kids with special needs — during church-related functions.

Is there a decision that needs to be made?

Is there a practical job that needs to be done? Ask God for wisdom to know the differences between the urgent, the important and the optional steps you need to take. My thoughts swirled around fear of the future. I stressed over trying to make sure Jason was safe. Eventually an important change took place.

How to Draw Together During Tough Times | Focus on the Family

To visit Jason, Gene and I had to stand in line with other families who were also waiting to go through prison security. We met lonely wives and children who had been separated from their husbands and fathers. We met inmates who needed Bible studies and reading material. We noticed the visitation room had few coloring books, crayons and games that children could use to interact with their father during visits. Seeing these needs, Gene and I launched the nonprofit organization Speak Up for Hope and began collecting donations for supplies for families of inmates.

Others collected games for the prison-visitation rooms or contributed toward Bible study books. Our giving became creative and spontaneous. I asked him what was happening to his T-shirts. The following weekend we stood in line at the prison, waiting to get through security to visit Jason.

Facing a World in Crisis: What Life Teaches Us in Challenging Times

This day it was taking more than two hours to get to the front of the line, and dozens of us waited in the Florida heat to see our loved ones. Suddenly the woman at the front of the line burst into sobs. She had been denied entry. I instantly knew why. A recently added guideline was in place for the visitation area, and newcomers were unaware that female visitors had a stricter dress code.

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