Learning to Respond to or Cope with Challenges in Life

This question may be on the mind of countless individuals around the world during this time. The advent of the coronavirus-19 (COVID-19) experienced worldwide has led to numerous stresses to the emotions and finances of individuals, families, and businesses.

THE WORD SERMON

GJC

2021-09-13 8 min read

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Learning to Respond to or Cope with Challenges in Life
By: Todd Knowles | Montgomery | AL |

Contribution by: D.L. Marshall

How do we respond to or cope with life and its challenges?

This question may be on the mind of countless individuals around the world during this time. The advent of the coronavirus-19 (COVID-19) experienced worldwide has led to numerous stresses to the emotions and finances of individuals, families, and businesses.

Even before COVID-19, global networks of people formed to emphasize racial justice in their attempts to make societies aware of prejudices and privileges they believe are taken for granted. While not wanting to minimize the loss of life, income, homes, and businesses, these events have also revealed how fragmented and strained relationships can become.

How can Christian families, Christian couples, and singles learn to cope with extreme conditions, events, and other people?

Opportunities to Glorify the Lord Through Our Limitations

A few years ago, my lovely wife and I had the great pleasure of meeting Dr. Gary Smalley who had written numerous marriage and relationship books and ministered to countless families throughout the years.

He openly shared the relationship-related topics that he wrote about were a result of what he learned from his personal failures and how he developed ways and ideas to improve. Due to real-life events, his books resonated with people who experienced very similar things.

Even before Gary Smalley’s passing in 2016, his son and daughter-in-law, Dr. Greg and Erin Smalley, began walking in very similar yet distinct footsteps. My lovely wife and I had the privilege of meeting them at three marriage conferences and they are just as approachable and down-to-Earth as Greg’s father was.

The Apostle Paul also used a similar method as Gary Smalley when he wrote to the Corinthian church that he had learned to boast about his weaknesses, as this is where Christ’s grace and power truly abound (2 Corinthians 12:7-12).

When Jesus was asked by His disciples if a man having been born blind was the result of his sin or the sins of his parents, Jesus responded that neither of these was the case; rather, it was to allow the works of God to be displayed in the man (John 9).

There truly are so many things in this world we have no control over. These include our personality, innate physical limitations, who our parents are, our race, and certainly most of the events in the world. How wonderful and freeing this revelation is! In the first chapter of 2 Corinthians, Paul wrote that he and his companions (during the actual events) reached a point at which they were despaired of life, being stretched beyond their own strength, so they would learn to trust in the Lord and not in themselves (2 Corinthians 1:8-11).

I am so thankful he included this in his letter. It is comforting to know that the apostle who wrote much of the New Testament despaired of life at some point. In other words, he didn't sugarcoat life.

This was the reason he was able to write earlier in the same chapter "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ,”

2 Corinthians 1:3-5, New American Standard Bible 1995 (NASB1995).

The man born blind, and the Apostle Paul were both afforded the opportunity to glorify God through their limitations. In the case of the Apostle Paul, glorifying God came through how he appropriated what he learned and in trusting Christ through the process. In the case of the blind man, it was a matter of Christ directly healing him and his newfound testimony to those who knew him previously, as well as to others he was yet to meet.

This is to tell us that in whatever situation anyone may be going through, it is a means to glorify God and to keep our trust rooted in Him, and that through it all His name be glorified.

Recognize Our Emotions

Over the years, I came to realize my need to monitor feelings of depression and the anxiety I experience and learn how to uncover the triggers or reasons such feelings might arise. This wasn’t something I learned to do in childhood; even if my parents would have recognized my behavior, the resources to assist a teenager 45 years ago were not nearly as available as they are today.

It wasn’t until I became an adult that I learned that the famed 19th-century pastor and preacher C.H. Spurgeon also experienced deep feelings of depression and anxiety. Interestingly, he would often experience them after some of his most influential sermons, taking him several days or longer before he was prepared to preach again.

How wonderful that as we choose to recognize our limitations, our precious Savior will comfort us through them. Psalm 94:19 declares “When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul,” (NASB1995). The New King James Version (NKJV) uses the word “comforts” in place of “consolations.” For example, “In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul.”

While in numerous passages of the Bible we are told not to fear because of the Lord’s provision, how encouraging it is that when we do feel anxious and fearful, we can bring those feelings, our thoughts, and situations to Him in prayer. The Apostle Peter, who was no stranger to strong emotions, knew the importance of “casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you,” 1 Peter 5:7, NASB1995. The NKJV states “casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”

It is vital to know that we receive mercy and find grace as we confidently come to His throne, described as a throne of grace. We can be confident because Christ has experienced everything that we have, yet He was able to not sin (Hebrews 4:14-16).

In his book “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: It's Impossible to Be Spiritually Mature, While Remaining Emotionally Immature,” Peter Scazzero lists “recognize, manage, and take responsibility” of a person’s thoughts and feelings as one of the habits of an emotionally mature person (Scazzero, 2017, pp. 169-170).

The process of learning to effectively work through emotions has become a personal long-term pursuit as an adult, leading me to seek the help of therapists and read numerous books by wonderful authors. Peter Scazzero went through a similar journey, examined his own failures and limitations, and has taken what he has learned and made it part of his church curriculum to aid fellow believers in understanding their emotions and to equip them in becoming both emotionally and spiritually healthy.

The recognition that Christ commanded the church to love one another even as He loved us (John 13:34 & 35) and to look out for the interests of others as well as our own (Philippians 2:3 & 4) require life-long learners to effectively work through emotions and develop healthy responses to life situations. The same is true for developing healthy social skills.

While it is one thing to read and learn Scripture, it is another to apply it, as James reminds us: “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was,” James 1:22-24, NASB1995. And due to God working in us to give us the desire and the ability to please Him, Paul tells us to work out our salvation with both fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12 & 13).

Intentionally giving our Lord and Savior first place in our lives allows us to love one another (1 John 4:7 & 8) and is the only way to truly experience His provision (Matthew 6:33).

By recognizing our emotions and feelings regarding the events occurring in our surroundings, taking our emotions and feelings to God in prayer, is one of the crucial ways of not only handling, but also dealing and coping with the challenges presented to us on a daily basis.

Loving one another, looking out for one another, being a doer of Gods’ word, learning to gradually work through your emotions and feelings, by keeping a positive outlook irrespective of the challenges we might be going through, believing and allowing the word of God to comfort us, are ways that can help anyone manage the challenges life presents to us all today.

Christ’s Inner Strength

It is so encouraging to know He helps us to be strong when we are weak. When we find that our inner resources feel depleted, He gives us strength. When those who were with David were angry enough to stone him due to the enemy destroying their village and taking their families, we are told “But David strengthened himself in his God,” 1 Samuel 30:6, NASB1995. Immediately afterward, he asked Abiathar the priest to bring the ephod which allowed him to seek the Lord's direction.

Furthermore, Daniel recorded that during a future period of severely difficult times, “the people who know their God will display strength and take action,” Daniel 11:32, NASB1995.

The most visible events in the world currently capturing people’s attention do not make the rest of life’s challenges stop. For example, parents might have a child who has developed a form of cancer and they take their child to a hospital that specializes in treating children. If they are Christian believers, they have access to the strength, mercy, and grace available in Christ. After they have experienced this and our Heavenly Father comforts them, they can share genuine comfort with another family who similarly walks through a crisis with one of their own children (2 Corinthians 3:3-5).

In this world with unceasing crises and starkly divisive issues that many of us may face, it is comforting to know that Christ’s strength, mercy, and grace are available to all who need it and we can then represent Him and minister to those who still need to know His comfort and saving grace.

When we find strength in the Lord, other life challenges become easier to navigate, for it is in finding strength in God that also comes direction.

References
Scazzero, P. (2017). Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: It's Impossible to Be Spiritually Mature, While Remaining Emotionally Immature (Updated Edition). Zondervan.
The Lockman Foundation. (1960/1995). New American Standard Bible.
Thomas Nelson. (1982). New King James Version.