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.