Have you ever had a time in your life when you look at what’s going on and think, “This stinks!”?? How do you handle times like that?
Sometimes, we’re drawn up short by the harsh reality stuff in our life stinks. It might be because of illness (either yours or someone close to you). It might be because of financial difficulties. It might be because you get an unexpected shock, like hearing of the death of someone you loved. Or it might be because of a combination of stuff. No matter the causes, the stinky realities in our lives exist. Sometimes, we can prevent these stinky realities. However, often we cannot. They just happen to us, with nothing we can do or say to prevent it. In Matthew 5:45, Jesus is quoted as saying,
He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
Both unfair and fair, stinky and wonderful, things happen to all of us. Sometimes they are a result of our actions, because as I’ve said before, actions have consequences. But often it’s just sun and rain, as Jesus said. I thought at one point of calling this post, “Life Isn’t Fair,” until I remembered something I always told our kids. Life isn’t fair.
Gifts like intelligence, beauty, humor, birth place and wit are doled out completely unfairly. Curses like illness, sudden death, poverty, birth place and handicapping conditions are equally unfairly measured. (Yes, I just said “birth place” twice, for a reason. Think about it.) People who “deserve” good things to happen to them have bad things happen, instead of the good we believe they deserve.. And the opposite is just as true, too. Any way we look at it, life just isn’t fair.
It’s a common misconception in people going through painful circumstances that no one understands what they are going through. But as we’ve just learned, everyone goes through them. So, what do we do when our life seems to stink? How do we cope? Some people cope by escapism. They seek relief in mindless games or television, activities or other distractions. Speaking as someone who has tried escapism, I can tell you it doesn’t work. All it does is put off the issues until we come out of our escapism reveries. Then, we still have to face them.
Some people cope by medicating their emotions with alcohol, drugs or food. They drink, use drugs or eat to feed the inner hunger or numb the inner pain caused by the outer circumstances. Speaking as someone who has tried medicating my issues (my drug of choice being food), I can tell you it doesn’t work, either. Like escapism, all it does is put things off. Unfortunately, if we abuse these medicating tendencies too much, it also adds addictions, weight and/or long term problems we have to deal with for years after the original painful issues have disappeared.
Some people cope by withdrawing. They close in on themselves emotionally, and sometimes physically, and shut the world out. They may or may not do what is necessary to continue the mechanics of daily living, but when they do, it’s mechanical. There’s no joy in their journey. But when we withdraw, the challenges from which we are withdrawing don’t go away. Often, the very act of withdrawal can make them worse.
Sometimes, we cope by reaching out. We seek a listening ear to pour our troubles. In moderation, this is a healthy coping mechanism. Receiving the gift of compassionate listening from another person is a great way of realizing we’re not alone, that others have traveled similar roads, and we will survive this, too. The challenge we face is not to overwhelm our listeners and being viewed as being too needy. Compassion has its limits, too, and we have to remind ourselves of that sometimes.
Besides reaching out, my personal favorite method of coping with hard times is with prayer in my Christian faith. When I pray, I reach out to God, who, in the words of the Old Testament, is named
The name of God is Elohim – My Creator
The name of God is El Roi – God Who Sees
The name of God is Adonai – My Lord, My Master
The name of God is El Shaddai – God Almighty
The name of God is Jehovah Nissi -The LORD Our Banner
The name of God is Jehovah Mekeddeshem – LORD Who Sanctifies
The name of God is Jehovah Jireh – The LORD Will Provide
The name of God is Jehovah Ezer -The LORD our Helper
The name of God is Jehovah Roi – The Lord is My Shepherd
The name of God is Jehovah Rapha – LORD Who Heals
The name of God is Jehovah Sabaoth – LORD of hosts (of armies)
The name of God is Jehovah Shalom – The LORD our Peace
The name of God is Jehovah Mekeddeshem – LORD Who Sanctifies
The name of God is Jehovah Shammah – The LORD is There
In times of trouble, when life just stinks, I especially love the ones I made bold! Why?
- God Sees me. I am not forgotten, lost in a sea of humanity. I am noticed.
- God is my Helper. I am not without Someone to help me. I have a strong Defender.
- God is my Banner. He goes before me to fight off what troubles me, and to carry the banner of His victory over sin, death and Satan with Him
- God is my Healer. When it hurts, he heals my body, my heart, relationships, finances and everything that’s broken in my life.
- God is my Peace. When all is craziness around me, He is my Sanctuary, my place of rest.
- God is There. He is ever-present. I don’t have to worry about where my friends are. I am not alone.
My faith helps me to keep going, to hold on, even when times are hard and life just stinks. It helps me to fight off my tendencies to escape or medicate my pain with overeating (or eating stuff I know I shouldn’t). It helps me to more than cope, to more than survive. It helps me emerge stronger and better than ever. By now you might be saying, “Sure, she can talk that way. She doesn’t know what I am going through!” You’re right; I don’t. But at the same time, you don’t know where I am walking now, either. That’s neither here nor there, except to say I’m in a painful place as I write this, going through tough stuff. But as the Native American proverb said,
Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins.
I’m not walking in your moccasins, as it were, and you’re not walking in mine. But I am still walking, and I do have a question for you: Are you still walking? Are you still moving on, or are you escaping, medicating or withdrawing?
Come, let’s walk together.