Accomplishing the Job or Making Matters Worse? Depends on How You Cope

Lyn Thompson, Pastoral Care, CTCA/SRMC

Use every piece of God’s armor to resist the enemy in the time of evil, so that after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the sturdy belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News, so you’ll be fully prepared. In every battle, you’ll need faith as your shield to stop the fiery arrows aimed at you by Satan. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all Christians everywhere. - Eph. 6:13-18

But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Here there is no conflict with the law. Gal. 5:22-23

My husband tells me repeatedly that there are right tools and wrong tools for every job. Taking the shovel out of my hands and giving me a different one, he painstakingly explains that the type of shovel, hammer, screwdriver, sander, saw, even nail, you use is specific to the job you’re doing and that using the right one not only makes the job easier but keeps you from being injured and helps you do the work effectively and efficiently.

When it comes to the major challenges of life, the principle is the same. Few of us escape tragedies, problems and hard times in one form or another, but, when they come, what tools do we use to cope? What do we use to meet the challenges they bring?

For physical/health challenges, if you have enough insurance and the right doctors, technology has all kinds of amazing gadgetry to help someone cope, adapt and use their bodies to the max – from the very latest prostheses to breath-controlled wheelchairs, computers that talk for those who are unable, surgery that reconnects, reforms, replaces, etc., body parts and functions. The possibilities these days are almost endless, and they set people free.

If you don’t have technology available, you can still learn to use what you have to the very best of your ability, and there are some incredible examples of people worldwide doing just that. They use the body parts they have to make up for those they don’t, and not only become free, in a sense, of the handicap life has tried to saddle them with, but, our lives and culture have been enriched by all they’ve taught and shown us through the art and music they produce and the business and athletic feats they accomplish.

But what about the mental, emotional and spiritual areas of life? Often, even if we cope with courage, tenacity and adaptability in physical arenas, we cope with attacks that hit us psychologically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually in ways that cripple us, enslave us and actually end up depleting us physically as well.

Perhaps you’ve suffered the loss of a loved one or dream or been rejected, abandoned, betrayed. Perhaps you’ve never measured up to someone’s expectations, you’ve failed or been verbally, physically or sexually abused. Perhaps you’ve been in an oppressive, terrorizing situation or one in which you were completely controlled. Perhaps you feel shame, guilt or feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness in your circumstances.

If you’ve coped through complete self-reliance and/or rebellion, providing for yourself what life is denying you and which you’re sure you must have to be happy and fulfilled … if you’ve coped with burying your feelings or giving in to sustained anger or bitterness, unforgiveness, lies or deception, manipulation, revenge or checking out on life and hope … if you’ve sought escape through drugs, alcohol, fantasies, sex or pleasure … if you’ve turned to despair, suicidal thoughts, self-protecting behaviors and thinking, then you’re using the wrong tools for the job, and they’ll end up damaging you as much or more than the things you were trying to avoid or defeat. Not only do these behaviors and thinking produce chemical changes in your body that are physically detrimental, but they enslave and entrap, just like the things you’re seeking to battle … and, even more, they bring injury and harm to those around you as well.

On the other hand, when you use the tools God has given us for battle, they not only provide you with effective protection, but there’s no weapon that can defeat them … they’re stronger than anything that tries to destroy us.

So, if you’re facing life’s challenges right now – whether cancer, caregiving for someone with cancer, financial difficulties, relational breakdown or something else – let this be the time you throw away the wrong coping mechanisms, the wrong tools, and use those that will really get the job done and leave you better off for having gone through it.

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