The world encourages us to develop coping skills. God wants us to do more than cope. He offers us strategies to express our faith, strengthen our joy, and promote righteousness in the world. For every situation, we have the Way. How can Christians deal with difficulties?
1. Trust the word of God in every way. Satan wants us to feel that Scripture has nothing for us, but everything we need for our walk, worship, and work is in the Bible. “I trust in your word” Psalm 119.42 NET. No situation calls for laying aside the word of God. It has both answers and power for the difficult moment we’re living.
2. Own up to your feelings. Denial intensifies them. Cain failed to deal with his anger and killed his brother, Genesis 4. Express your emotions in prayer, admitting them to God. He can handle them. Write it down, if necessary. Use many of the Psalms as models or their words to express your thoughts. Recognize, too, that emotions do not represent reality, but only our inner state based on our momentary, limited evaluation. “How do I feel?” is a great question, but ultimately we must move on to ask, “What must I do?” In the garden, Jesus admitted that he felt anguish: “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death” Matthew 26.38 NLT. Then he went willingly to die on the cross.
3. Realize you’re only a part of the situation. Sure, if we have wronged someone, we should go to them, ask forgiveness, and correct what can be amended. But in the end, it’s not about you. Many dynamics are involved. The world doesn’t revolve around any single person, nor does any given crisis involve only one person. What is most at stake is not your interests but the glory of God and the kingdom of Christ. Find out what will promote them, and pursue what will “lead … to God’s glory” John 11.4.
4. Deal with what is, not the past nor the future. We do have histories, and we ought to be concerned with consequences, but trying to solve it all at once probably won’t happen. There are times to let go of the past. As well, don’t borrow tomorrow’s troubles, Matthew 6.33-34.
5. Recognize that such things in life happen on a regular basis. Good and bad changes are a part of our earthly existence. What we first tag as negative, may turn out to be a positive. Look for the good, instead of anticipating or prophesying evil. Deal with life as it is, not life as you want it to be. Living in a fantasy world only brings grief, because the real world will frequently break in to spoil our fiction.
6. Avoid the blame game. When we are wrong, we should repent. We should be willing to forgive others when they commit wrongs. But dwelling on who did what doesn’t tend toward solutions and resolution of situations. There are people and places we may need to avoid, but we can’t control others’ behavior or decisions, nor should we. If we can’t fix a situation, we need not attempt to extract ourselves by blaming others for their part. God will judge.
7. Face the situation. Don’t pretend it didn’t happen or hide in a hole hoping it will go away. The quicker, usually, you assess and address the situation, the less damage will be done. Nehemiah cried when he heard about the ruins of Jerusalem, but through prayer and the permission of the king, he went there, took stock of the situation, pulled the city’s inhabitants together, and went to work to build the walls in record time. Inaction perpetuates a crisis, action often mitigates it.
8. Look, and leave room, for God to work his will. God works for the good of those who love him, Romans 8.28. Relax! God is in control of the world, of the church, of our workplace and homes. We ought to cooperate with him, submit to him, deliver all of our lives to him. Fifty years from now, this situation will look far different than it does now. We may not even remember it!
9. Find motive to give thanks. God can and will bring good out of any situation, regardless of how hopeless we consider it. Every situation can serve as a learning experience. God disciplines us in suffering, and his desires for our growth and maturation are wonderful reasons for gratitude, Hebrews 12.7-13.
10. Get support from other Christians. This is a time to seek them out, not to avoid them. To the garden of anguish Jesus took three friends, “Stay awake with me” Matthew 26.38. Keep up your spiritual commitments with the church. We follow the Lord Jesus Christ in good times and bad. Our faithfulness in crisis may well be the example that keeps someone else strong in the Lord. The love-one-another commandment means that we allow others to show their love to us.
This list is not exhaustive, but seeks to point us in the right direction when difficulties appear. At the center of each point is the God who loves us all and works for the eternal salvation of all mankind. Let’s put this God in the center of our lives as well.