When you are stressed, overwhelmed, burdened, sad, depressed, or lonely, how do you usually cope?
There are many ways we choose to cope, depending on the depth of the situation or the people involved. It could be a recent breakup, loss of someone dearly loved, negative report from the doctor, PMS, stress from school/work, or a rude coworker or family member who can be rather judgmental.
We might blast loud music on our iPod, engage in self-mutilation, view porn or reality shows that always make us feel empty afterwards because we realize what a waste of time it was, drugs (occasional pot smoking or trying cocaine just once!) or sleeping around. We might eat a lot of bad food, go to the gym or on a three mile run, or spend hours on the internet.
The coping mechanisms we return to time and again when under pressure almost carve a pathway in our minds that encourage us to return to them once again the next time something burdensome occurs (this might include returning to self-mutilation without even thinking twice about it whenever we are under stress or got in a fight with someone or feel ugly and unwanted or running to the internet and all its seemingly harmless options for taking our minds off of boredom or whatever negative situation/circumstance that occurs).
As followers of Christ, whether we want to believe this or not, how we choose to cope with the uncertainties and disappointments of life reveal our character and what we are placing our hope in, what brings us comfort in times of difficulty, and what we cherish most when life isn't going our way. If we profess to know Jesus by our speech and then don't turn to Him right away when unexpected or hurtful situations happen, we are saying that His word and presence (and our ability to stop and give the situation, relationship, or circumstance to Him in prayer right away) isn't enough or won't suffice in our time of distress and need for healing, restoration, or peace.
Instead of turning to God's word and devouring it for hours, we would rather watch a television series on Netflix for eight hours straight, call friends who too often offer worldly counsel, or numb our pain through "stalking" people from our past on Facebook (not that we really care, but it's so much easier to waste time on meaningless pursuits than to face what we are going through and ask God for His direction, wisdom, sufficient grace, help, and guidance).
It's interesting how God, truly having our best interest at heart, allows us to go through trying times, situations that aren't perfect and circumstances that if it weren't for Him, would utterly break us. The Lord sees the idols we so easily cling to, the sins that continue to trip us up, and how easy it is for us to run to what will bring immediate relief in times of trial instead of our first response being to turn to Him so we are enabled to see everything we experience in life through His eyes and His perfect wisdom. We might be hesitant to admit this, but hopefully realize deep down that going through rough times where we are overwhelmed and can't deal with things on our own actually shows us our need for God and breaks us of feeling like we can live this life without including Him in everything.
It is God's goodness and gracious character that wants what is best for us, and being the perfect Father, He allows us to experience less than ideal circumstances in order to break us, build our trust in Him, teach us to rely upon Him, and give us hearts more fully surrendered to Him and His best for our lives. I would rather experience hardship in life where God builds the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5: 22-23) in my life and gives me a heartfelt trust in Him where He becomes my highest priority than live a worry-free life where God isn't my main focus and I'm basically the captain of my own fate. Don't wait until you realize through continued trial and error that seeking to be a "sovereign self" and live life how you want while disregarding the Lord's authority over your life is not the best option. I believe offering God a heart that is fully His, to do with as He wills, for His glory and our growth is really the best choice. Better to live life with God having His rightful place on the throne of your heart as your Master in all things than to keep back aspects of your life from Him who knows all things and wants what is best for you in every situation.
The next time something goes wrong or upsets you, turn to God and ask Him to teach you what He intends for you to learn through what He allows and to give you a willing heart toward living life His way and glorifying Him in all aspects of your life - including how you cope with the unexpected.
C. S. Lewis wisely said,
"To what will you look for help if you will not look to that which is stronger than yourself?"