Coping is often simply defined as the way a person deals with the situations and hardships in life. A person might focus on the problem solving, positive thinking, rational thinking leading to action, or self blame. Coping can be positive or negative. An example would be self medication with alcohol to cover the pain of a passing loved one verses seeking the advice and comfort of a friend who survived a similar experience. Most of the studies done on coping techniques show that of all the coping mechanisms used, about half of them are related to religion or faith. People look outside themselves for the answers to life’s big problems.
Personally in my spiritual life, I have used prayer as my main coping mechanism. If only some kind person one would give me a quarter for every time I have looked up towards heaven and begged God to intervene on my behalf. Sometimes I pray to God about serious problems, sometimes it’s a parking spot prayer, you know the kind I mean, woke up too late and class starts in fifteen minutes, and “dear God let me find a spot”. We have all been there. Sometimes I have prayed when I have got nothing else to give, that somehow through Gods supernatural power I could make it through whatever hardship I was facing that day, whether psychological, emotionally, physically, or spiritually. For some crazy reason God answers those prayers, every time, I don’t have qualified scientific data but on my honor when I pray those desperate prayers God always somehow gives me the strength to get through; sometimes the answer to my prayer is so specific to the request I wonder if I should not have prayed for a cave of gold. What if my prayer started before I got to such a desperate place? Would I experience more of Gods power? More of less I am not sure but I am always astounded when Christ seems to meet me at my weakness, like I am surprised when shows up, even though He promises to never leave us or forsake us. He meets me at the moment when I realize my problem is that I have not been relaying on Him for strength, but instead I rely on my wit, or supposed wisdom.
What I want to propose is that religious coping through prayer has been both positive and negative in my life and I image that this is the same for the rest of the faith community. Positive for me in that, at the most dire moments of my life, My God has never left me alone, no matter how alone I feel I know that I have not been abandoned. Negatively I use prayer to cultivate an immature connection with God were the biggest thing I ask for is a parking spot that will allow me to get to class just earlier enough to not be noticeable late. This is not the kind of connection with Christ I want to be known for and I imagine it is not what most other people of faith would want for themselves either. My vision is too small, and my God is bigger then I can see. So how does this affect my reader? Transparency breeds honesty, so perhaps with me you will be willing to evaluate your coping techniques, be truthful about how you relate to God. Maybe seek to change that by perhaps communicating with God as you would a best friend who you know will not judge you. I am so amazed at how patient God is in waiting for me to seek His presence just for the sake of connecting with Him. Seek God with me; let us seek to desire His presence, and not just what we gain from Him. Once Jesus asked His disciples if they wanted to leave Him after he had just finished a hard teaching, Peter’s answer is recorded in John 6:68-69 “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. 69 “We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God." (NASB) May this always be our confession, that we have nothing but the words of life in Christ, and we have found that it is more then enough.