Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Can I Cope?

 Religious coping is an area of study that is getting more and more attention all the time. A few things happen when the topic of religious coping is mentioned: people discuss the strictly positive approaches to religious coping that exist and or they focus on coping in a particular area. It seems as if research is telling us that the act of coping in religious populations has far less to do with what we are coping with but rather the ideology of the individual who is coping. According to an article by Pargament, Smith, and Koenig,"Methods of religious coping add unique variance to the prediction of health and well- being above and beyond the effects of measures of nonreligious coping." According to the authors there are several ways a person of faith may attempt to positively cope with the plethora of problems we as humans face such as religious focus, religious helping, religious forgiveness, spiritual connection, and religious purification. However, by its definition coping does not imply purely positive means of adapting to circumstances. Coping is the way in which a person "deals" with a given scenario. Keeping this in mind, several negative coping strategies are mentioned in the aforementioned article as well as in a separate book by Pargament such as: viewing the stressor as a punishment from God, Redefining the stressor as an act of the devil, and becoming upset with God or the individual’s congregation. The results of the Pargament, Smith, and Koening study revealed that the type of coping strategy utilized depended on whether their view of God and the world was secure or marked by tenuousness, fear, and disorganization. In this regard religious coping strategies share ties with studies of God attachment and object relations.

It is interesting to note just how much our attachments influence our lives. If the research holds true, if we view God as concerned with our lives and interested in our struggles we are more apt to want to cope by utilizing that relationship. If our relationship with God has been marred by negative experiences with primary caregivers and other significant people in our lives we are less likely to view God as an amiable resource when we encounter difficulties. The real task is to examine our relationship with the creator. For those of us who have been introduced to God through proper Biblical instruction and adequate relationships with others, dealing with the stresses of life may result in healthy resolution. For the rest of us who maybe struggle with ideas of God as wrathful or angry with us coping may actually lead to more frustration and confusion. If we are to cope in helpful ways we must have a proper Idea of who Christ is and our relationship to him.

It is important to understand our current standing with Christ. Maybe your life has been filled with relationships that have left you feeling inadequate, or somehow insignificant. Perhaps, when the stresses of life take you unaware you feel as though you cannot turn to God because he does not care or is angry with you because of perceived failures. To you the word of God says, "The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy...." Psalms 103: 8, 11.

Pargament, K.,Smith, B., Koenig, H., Perez, L. (1998). Patterns of positive and negative religious coping with major life stressors. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 37(4), 710-724

Pargament, K.I. 1997). The psychology of religion and coping: Theory, research, and practice. New York: Guilford Press.


  1. John,
    I appreciate how you addressed the idea that people may feel "the stresses of life take you unaware you feel as you cannot turn to God because he does not care or is angry with you because of perceived failures." Often Christians hide behind the idea that we must treat God like a fragile thing where we can't be honest with our emotions, however he knows our natural emotions whether we proclaim them aloud or not. Proverbs 28:13 says "He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy." Thank you for acknowledging the honesty we need to have with God. When we recongize these honest emotions with God he clarifies the percieved vs. the actual.

  2. John,
    Your blog post made me start analyzing and thinking through how I have approached God with respect to my personal life experiences with my family and friends---I can see ways I have viewed him through an experience lens as opposed through a scriptural lens.
    I am also in agreement with Carly---I will never forget the freedom I felt when I learned to be honest and truthful before God in prayer with my feelings, failings, and flub-ups---to be more like David and the psalmists and less like a polished political candidate in my petitions and prayers before God.
    Brandy Vancil


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