I f you’re anything like me, you haven’t always adopted the best coping mechanisms when you hit a pot-hole in the journey of life. I’m running through some of the ways we can respond negatively to trials and giving some solutions next week on how we can all self-correct with a better way forward.
1. Choosing to live in denial.
Sometimes, it can seem easier to pretend like nothing happened when trials loom. But in doing so, we can stunt ourselves from growing by numbing ourselves to the reality of what’s going on around us.
In the short-term, denial can allow us to become detached from suffering, saving us from the swells of overwhelming pain. But in the long-term, denial can “flatten the complexity of existence that gives richness to life” as Kapic writes in his book, Embodied Hope: A Theological Meditation on Pain and Suffering.
When emotions are drowned into a forced apathy, we can be left to experience the pain of an incident that happened years before because it was never properly grieved.
2. Over-romanticizing our problems.
In times of intense pain, we can adopt an attitude that says everything is okay because “pain is a blessing from God” or we’ll “get to sense His presence more strongly.”
Yet, a sense of God’s presence may not always be strong. This doesn’t make God less present, just that He reveals Himself differently to us our various seasons. We see throughout the Bible the anguish from God’s people when God seems absent. The Biblical writers may have known that God wasn’t actually absent, but they still expressed what they felt with phrases like “Don’t abandon the work of your hands” and “I cry out to you for help, but you do not answer me” (Job 30:20).
3. Obsessively trying to fix our problem.
If it’s a health issue of ours, we research it for four hours straight, hoping Google will give us answers our doctor isn’t privy to. While researching isn’t an issue and tackling our problems head-on can certainly be helpful, it can become an idol if we pour over our problem more than seeking God and if we’re not careful, we can be lost in the search so much, that our problem can become our identity and the solution, our savior that will redefine our existence.
4. Over analyzing our problem.
We can also become so lost in the analysis of the problem, dissecting the “why’s” that we become lost in indecision and uncertainty. Over-analysis can paralyze us from taking the appropriate initiative to find solutions (if this is a problem that is even intended to have solutions) and focusing so much on the anatomy of our problem can leave us feeling like everything needs to have a clearcut reason.
Many of us want a Joseph story where we find out years after our trial the exact reason why God allowed it to happen, just like Joseph did. I think it’s totally fine and healthy to ask God to give us a “why” in our pain, but obsessively analyzing our trial to investigate why our problem occurred in the first place and why we’re still enduring with it can leave us in a state of depression when the answers aren’t easily found.
5. Disproportionately maximizing our problem and minimizing the good in our life.
It can be easy to see only the grim darkness when we face an ongoing trial. Even though it’s good not to be in denial, it’s wrong to think that nothing good happens in this world or that nothing good will happen in our own life. Such thinking can lead us to feel as if there is a large burden we’re carrying in our life that is too much for ourselves or even God to handle which could ultimately lead to a deep depression.
Next week, I’ll talk about a better way forward in dealing with your default coping style. I do want to mention that there are other ways to cope with trials that weren’t mentioned here, some even more harmful ways to cope such as escapism through substance abuse, but this is a place where I’m talking with you briefly instead of writing a book. (Aren’t you glad for that!) In the meantime, take a moment to take the quiz to see what your coping style is like through trials.