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Coping Skills

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I don’t know about you, but when I hear news reports about how bad things are, it really “bums me out”.  You hear it all the time. The world is getting worse and worse.  It is easy to become overwhelmed by the constant bombardment of media telling us how bad things are.  Sometimes death, sickness, and lost relationships rear their ugly heads; our world begins to feel like it is crumbling in around us.  But the Bible tells us to rejoice.  How do you do that?  What can we do?  How can we cope?

The Book of Philippians gives us some great coping skills.  I came up with an acrostic to help me remember.  Hopefully it will help you, too.

 

C  - Confidence in God’s providence

Philippians 1:6 says that He began His plan for you to be His.  Notice that He began it, not you.  As Christians we have heard the statement, “God loves you, and has a wonderful plan for your life.”  We have heard it so much that it has almost become a cliché, but it shouldn’t.  God has plans for us, plans to give us a hope and a future.  Trust Him because He will be faithful to complete it.  His plan for you is to be fully His now and for eternity.  Trust Him, He can do it.

Philippians 1:14 tells us not to grumble.  A good way to avoid grumbling is to look for ways that God is being (or can be) glorified through my circumstances.  By the way, being involved in a church gives us the privilege to encourage each other and to “spur one another on.”  In Philippians 1:27-30, Paul reminds us that by standing together with other Christians, we encourage each other and build our confidence in God.  We can find encouragement in others who have experienced the same struggles we have.

Philippians 3: 3-9 - Remember that our confidence needs to be in Christ and not in ourselves.  If we are not careful, we may let our confidence go to our heads.  We must not become self-sufficient, forgetting that our sufficiency is in Christ.  With that in mind, we can rest assured that God WILL supply ALL our needs. (Philippians 4:19) 

 

Optimism

Thankfulness and joy are concepts that appear over and over in the Book of Philippians.  It is difficult to stay in the depths of depression when you are living a life of grateful praise in Christ.

Years ago, after I had been in ministry for a while, I began to realize that I had faced some battles in every church in which I served.  It really began to bring me down.  After some long soul searching, I decided to write down all of the good things that I had learned in each place.  As the old hymn says, “it will surprise you what the Lord has done!”  I discovered that, during some of the toughest times, God was shaping me for what was to come.  Although I have to revisit that list ever so often, this exercise has revolutionized my outlook. (Just a side note: If you are serving God, you will face spiritual warfare—battles—wherever you are, but just remember that the battle is the Lord’s.)

Philippians 1:3-11 reminds us to pray for people we know.

Philippians 1:18—Attitude, attitude, attitude…Let’s not worry about what others are doing. We must focus on the spreading of Christ’s good news, not our own agendas.

Philippians 1:25-26 says to focus on others’ needs…are you seeing a pattern here?

In Philippians 2:14-16 we are challenged not to complain or argue.  Complaining will only cause more problems for the complainer, because a grumbling spirit will only cause the effects of the battle to be worse.  We’ll miss God’s blessings if we stay focused on the problem.  And it will not help others…it will only color their attitudes.

Have you ever had a bag of potatoes and you began to smell a horrible odor? You look all over, you just can’t pinpoint it.  Finally after very close examination, there is a very small and very rotten potato in the middle of the bag.  If you do not remove the bad potato immediately, you will soon have a bag full of rotten mush and an odor that will linger.

Finally, Philippians 4:10-14 reminds us not to look for greener grass. God can give us the strength to thrive in the midst of the battle.  If we look closely, we may find that the greener grass on the other side of the fence is just thriving weeds!

 

P - Prayer

Pray for others. If we are praying for people, it will help our attitudes toward them; moreover, they need our prayers.  Sometimes we pray that God will change the other person, but most of the time prayer changes the one who is praying more. (Philippians 1:4-6, 9-11) 

If we really trust God to answer our prayers, we will experience peace.  (The Living Bible says, “Don’t worry about anything, pray about everything!” Philippians 4:4-7)  

 

E  - Externalize 

Let’s stop thinking only of ourselves.  Have I said that before?  OK, now I’ve started meddling! Paul was in prison, but he was concerned about encouraging the readers of his letter.  Which brings me to another “E” statement: Encourage others.  You may find yourself forgetting about your own problems.

Find time to comfort those who are hurting.

Fellowship with others: Find Christian friends and look for things you may have in common. 

Fellowship with the Spirit: Allow God to speak to you.  Pray, reach, search…constantly.

The Holy Spirit within us will produce tenderness and compassion. Why? If Christ lives in us, we will take on His traits. Matthew 9:36 says that Jesus saw the people were “like sheep with no shepherd” and had compassion on them.  Mark 1: 40-42 shows us that Jesus touched and healed leprosy; He saw their need, touched them and healed them.  And in Philippians 2: 5-8, Paul reminds us that Christ had a servant attitude and humbled (or emptied) Himself, and that He was not self-righteous.  Jesus exemplified obedience to the Father.

Well, there you have it.  Hopefully you were able to COPE with the length of what I have written.  My prayer is that all of us (including myself) will remember this acrostic when we are tempted to give up.

 

To COPE, we need to be…

Confident in God’s providence.
Optimistic, because He is in control.
Prayerful, praying for others as well as ourselves.
Externalized, thinking of others. (It will take your mind away from your own problems.)

 

Just having a list will not magically give us coping skills. We must spend time practicing them.

 

Philippians 3: 12-14 says,

"Not that I have already reached the goal or am already perfect, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus.  Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly (upward) call in Christ Jesus."

If this passage of scripture rings true for you, you are well on the road to becoming well-equipped to COPE with whatever comes your way. 

Happy coping!

Doug Burton
Minister of Music and Senior Adults
Posted by Doug Burton with

Anger Expressed God's Way

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                Anger has been a recognized and culturally accepted issue among many men.  Our culture is now defining “angry women” as a positive contemporary movement.  In my office, anger is one of the most destructive forces I have witnessed in marriage counseling.  We all have a certain image of anger that relates to outbursts, force and even injury.  But what if I were to tell you that even the most gentle people also tend to harbor and respond to anger in common patterns that ruin relationships?  What do we do with this anger issue we see tearing apart our friendships, homes, churches and even our nation?  I want to take a brief, general look at a complex issue, hopefully to prompt every believer to take steps to consider this critical subject of anger more closely in the days ahead.

 

                First, we need to understand our general personality or temperament makeup and how it affects anger.  Let’s start with a broad (and overly simplified) observation that people fall into two general categories: strong-willed/problem-solvers/leaders and compliant/people-lovers/responders.  (There are actually 4 recognized personalities types.)  Let’s focus more broadly into two general categories of people that we will call the goal-seekers and the people-lovers.  Goal-seekers are “doers,” problem-solvers, leaders, administrators, planners, conflict-solvers and accomplishers; think doctors and nurses, bosses, church overseers, business owners, coaches, administrators, workaholics and “fixers.”  People-lovers are gentle, relational, inspirational, merciful, supportive, servant-oriented and peacekeepers; think assistants, healthcare workers, workers with children and senior adults,  church deacons and those “everyone loves.”  Some well-known goal-seekers were/are Coach Bill Belichick, General George Patton, Martin Luther, Bill Gates and Donald Trump.  To bring it closer to home, in our church leadership and staff we would agree that Louis Simpson, John Gill, Larry Shields and I are goal-seekers.  Some well-known people seekers were/are Mother Teresa, President George W. Bush, Billy Graham, Oprah Winfrey and Joel Osteen. (Okay, I didn’t say I endorsed everyone on these lists. Haha).  In our church leadership and staff the people-seekers are Doug Burton, Mike Cowart, Justin Green and Paula Compton.  Understand that goal-seekers still love people and people-seekers still accomplish goals.  But we tend to be leaders or responders based on our personalities: strong-willed or compliant.

                Identifying our basic personality or temperament is the first step in understanding how we tend to express and react to anger.  The strong-willed goal-seekers often express and confront when angered.  They are naturally inclined to “blow up” through yelling, pushing, or aggression, or being opinionated, blunt, forceful, tactless, demanding and repetitive.  The compliant people-lovers often deal with anger by stuffing it down, leading to being taken advantage of, physical ailments, avoidance, resentments, withdrawal and eventually the super-sized blowup.  Other compliant people-lovers deal with anger by transporting it.  They do so by stuffing it down and transporting it either to another time or to other people by not keeping their commitments, being sarcastic and critical, making excuses, avoiding issues, playing the victim and acting out their anger on those more vulnerable or helpless.  These negative responses commonly see strong-willed goal-seekers “confront.”  The compliant people-lovers either “stuff” or “transport” their anger.

                EVERY HUMAN CAN NATURALLY RESPOND TO ANGER IN ALL THESE NEGATIVE WAYS.  But our personality/temperament makes us especially prone to respond in the ways I have described above.  Did you know that anger is generally a secondary emotion?  Anger is usually a response to primary emotions of hurt coming from 1) relational or emotional neglect, desires or damage, 2) unmet personal desires, goals or expectations and/or 3) personal insecurities, sense of failure, or a lack of self-worth.   I think it is healthy for adults to pray and identify those incidents in childhood or adolescence that were never resolved and have been used by Satan to “kill, steal and destroy” us.  Unresolved hurts and a lack of biblical instruction and wisdom often results in anger, especially toward those relationships closest to us.  This can easily become a pattern our sinful flesh turns to.  The Apostle Paul stated in II Corinthians 10:3-4 that we are to , “. . . demolish arguments and every proud thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ.”  That means that when we are angry we are to look at the emotions/thoughts that are raising a “red flag” about something in our heart.  Then we are to take those thoughts captive to obedience to Christ.

                So should we ever be angry?  Absolutely.  Ephesians 4:26-27 says, “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger and do not give the devil an opportunity.”  That instructs us not to sleep until we let God identify our personal unmet needs or longings, and then to take those captive to faith and obedience to Christ.  It means a husband or wife, angry at their spouse, controls their anger and then determines what they are feeling so angry about.  Do I have an unmet longing for respect from a parent/parents?  Do I have the unbiblical belief that my spouse is to serve me rather than walk beside me?  Do I have feelings of inadequacy at work or among friends that leads me to demand I am to be revered at all times at home?

                Anger is an opportunity to evaluate how I am responding to friends, coworkers or family who hurt my feelings or make me feel inferior.  Am I withdrawing, growing resentful toward others and more angry at myself?  Do I struggle with ulcers, headaches, depression, panic attics and such?  Do I procrastinate and delay performing tasks asked of me to get back at others?  Am I critical and slanderous toward people who I feel hurt me? Do I withdraw and clam up in order to hold a sense of power over someone?  Or do I take my anger out on my children?

                Natural anger is destructive, carnal and used by Satan to kill, steal and destroy relationships.  Spiritual and mature responses to anger start with stepping back and admitting the anger.  Then we are to identify the primary emotion and consider its cause.   And finally, we are to biblically respond by faith in Christ and obedience to His commands and instructions.  And by the way, when anyone is hurting the helpless, the innocent, or the child, Christians should feel a righteous anger and act on behalf of the victims.  If Christians see other believers mocking or disobeying God and not keeping His commands, those who are spiritual but experiencing anger should deal with their anger first, and then gently confront the other believer with their sin, show loving acceptance of them, and seek to restore them when they repent.  Jesus was angry toward the greedy leaders of the Temple and reacted strongly, turning over their money tables and throwing them out of the Temple.  Jesus exposed the godless religious leaders, publicly comparing them to whitewashed tombs, clean-looking on the outside while holding death on the inside. 

                Christians, we should all seek to understand how anger can lead us to righteousness and growth in Christ.  “Be angry and yet do not sin . . . !”  (A great book on this topic is “Overcoming Emotions that Destroy” by Chip Ingram and Dr. Becca Johnson.)

Craig Lile
Pastor

        

Posted by Craig Lile with

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