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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

When Tragedy Strikes

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Sooner or later, tragedy comes to us all.  The Apostle Paul instructed a young Timothy that all who desire to live godly will suffer persecution.  At the end of His Sermon on the Mount Jesus told of two groups of people (those who build their houses on solid ground and those who build on the sand) and warned that the storms of life will pound all our houses.  It is crucial in this life to build our foundation on Him.  We also face our ultimate enemy, Satan, whose desire is to kill, steal and destroy us.  He roams about like a lion seeking whom he can devour.

Christians should be aware of these dynamics.  But the mocker of God becomes embittered against Him and the child of God can become more perplexed when tragedy strikes a person or family that loves, worships and serves God with all their heart.  Is it possible for a godly person’s wealth, loved ones and even their own health to be destroyed within the will of a loving Heavenly Father?  Yes, it was exactly that scenario with Job.  He was a man of complete integrity, who feared God and turned away from evil (1:1).  His ten children were killed by wicked invaders (chpt. 1).  Then he completely lost how own personal health (chpt. 2).  To top off the devastation he was enduring, three of his closest friends and his wife mocked and questioned him.

Job was like many Christians after a great tragedy or loss.  “He fell to the ground and worshiped, saying: Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will leave this life.  The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord (1:20-21).”  While his friends insisted through misguided theology and arguments that all pain is the result of sin that angers God, Job defended God’s goodness and that his life had been lived to please God.  Job showed great humility, wisdom and faithfulness to God. . . but...

Over time grief, despair, anger and questions about our loss torment our souls.  Ongoing pain began to build a demanding spirit in Job.   “I am disgusted with my life.  I will give vent to my complaint and speak in the bitterness of my soul.  I will say to God, ‘Do not declare me guilty! Let me know why you prosecute me.  Is it good for you to oppress, to reject the work of your hands and favor the plans of the wicked (Job 10:1-3)?’”

Full-blown anger can lead us to both worship and test God.  Look at Job’s surrender to and his defiance toward God.  “Even if He kills me, I will hope in Him.  I will still defend my ways before Him.  Yes, this will result in my deliverance, for no godless person can appear before Him.  Pay close attention to my works: let my declaration ring in Your ears.  Now then, I have prepared my case, I know that I am right (Job 13:15-18).”

Finally, ongoing pain makes us feel as though we deserve to be heard.  It produces an arrogance in the created toward our Creator.  “If only I knew how to find Him, so that I could go to His throne.  I would plead my case before Him and fill my mouth with arguments.  I would learn how He would answer me; and understand what He would say to me.  Then an upright man could reason with Him, and I would escape from my Judge forever (Job 23:3-7).”

Wow!  Job goes from total faith and surrender to God to wanting to actually believing he can defend his ways, saying that if he could find God he would present his case, anticipate God’s response, argue with Him and be found just.  Can you hear those heated words flowing out of Job as he shook his fist while wet tears ran down his face, his whole body shaking in indignation?

Job indeed was indeed granted his demand: a hearing before the throne of God.  In fact two hearings.  God begins the first one with these words.  “Who is this who obscures My counsel with ignorant words?  Get ready to answer me like a man; when I question you, you will inform Me.  Where were you . . .?  Have you ever . . . ?  Have you traveled . . .?  Where is the . . . ?  Who put wisdom  . . .? 

After God’s series of questions from His throne Job replied, “I know that You can do anything and no plan of Yours can be thwarted.  You asked, ‘Who is this who conceals my counsel with ignorance?’  Sure I spoke about things I did not understand, things too wondrous for me to know. . . Therefore, I reject my words and am sorry for them; I am dust and ashes.’ (Job 42:2-6).”

What Job didn’t and couldn’t see was that God was using Job’s pain and sorrow to show Lucifer (one of, if not the most brilliant, most beautiful and powerful archangels God ever created) that a lowly and yet godly man often chooses to humble himself and ultimately worship God though he loses everything.  Lucifer had known the most blessed heavenly role, position and gifts God had ever given and had rebelled against God, refusing to humble himself and worship God.  In the end God used Job’s earthly loss and sorrow to teach all of heaven and earth God’s great power and glory.

As Job stated, life is short and full of troubles.  But God and His desire to offer us relationship and redemption through the Lord Jesus Christ surpasses all that we will experience in this cursed and fallen world.  Earth will eventually be consumed by fire and recreated.  Christians will one day judge angels, rule the new earth and be co-heirs with Christ.  Our pain, sorrows and losses in this life all serve a higher purpose that we will one day understand.  We are permitted by a loving Heavenly Father to ask our questions.  However, in the end, we must remember that the sufferings of this present day are not worthy to be compared to the glory that is to come in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Life is hard.  Our losses are great.  Our experiences with pain, sorrow, loss and helplessness accumulate through the years.  But our salvation in Christ Jesus has secured our future.  God’s perfect wisdom, sovereignty and mercy can and do sustain us as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death.  And one day will come the final act of salvation.  “So also Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him (Hebrews 9:28).”  Theologians call this the Christian’s “glorification,” an act of salvation which is in the future.  It is the ultimate salvation from sin, its effects and its curse.

So when tragedy strikes, worship God, focusing continually on thanksgiving for His perfect love that offers us salvation from sin’s ultimate penalty.  Through the process of grief with its intense regrets, hurt, denial and anger allow God to continue His work of salvation.  Great pain often nourishes sanctification and the opportunity to overcome the power of sin that embitters and believes man has the right and position to find, approach and question God about what we deserve and receive from Him.  Finally, embrace the peace of knowing His plan is to ultimately save us from the very presence and consequences of sin and its devastating blows upon our lives.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us as we walk through the joys and pains that a perfect Father has ordained for us in this life!

Craig Lile
Pastor            
Posted by Craig Lile with

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