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The problem with coping mechanisms
Pastor Ben Sadler
by Pastor Ben Sadler
August 10, 2020

Each day seems to bring a new announcement or policy concerning the pandemic that challenges our normal way of life. At the church where I serve, we are constantly making changes. First, we had to move worship online. Then, we partially reopened for in-person services. And now we are requiring masks in our facility.

What are some of the changes that you have had to make? If you are a business owner, you have probably changed your business plan. If you are an employee, you have probably had to learn to work from home. If you are an educator, you are trying to plan for virtual learning or some hybrid approach. If you are a parent, you are probably trying to figure out what this school year is going to look like.

So how are you coping with all these changes? I don’t think I’m coping very well. When the news of another change breaks, I seem to run to Facebook as a coping mechanism, furiously checking the comments to find people who support my perspective.

Where do you run when the latest crisis hits? Do you double down and work harder, trying to control an uncontrollable situation? Do you distract yourself from the pain by overeating, drinking, or numbing yourself through Netflix or even pornography?

As Christians, we are supposed to be content in every situation, right (Philippians 4:10-13)? We are supposed to be filled with the fruit of the Spirit, experiencing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22,23). So if that is true, why am I, and so many others, struggling to cope with all the changes?

As I reflected on my own response to the crisis, I came to this conclusion: My coping mechanisms are keeping me from finding strength and contentment in Christ. Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 5:5). Instead of running to Christ to be strengthened by him, I run to my coping mechanism of choice. But the problem is we can’t be strengthened by our coping mechanisms and Christ at the same time.

The apostle Paul says it this way: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18,19). Paul is saying, “You must first stop being filled by your coping mechanism so that you can be filled up with Christ and his Holy Spirit.”

So here is what I’m trying to do. I’m calling out my coping mechanisms to people who care about me, like my wife and close friends. Then I’m restructuring my day to avoid my phone and other distractions. Then I’m intentionally finding ways to be “filled with the Spirit,” through Scripture, silence, prayer, and worship music.

Could I encourage you to do something similar?

  1. Call out your coping mechanism.
  2. Restructure your day and your environment to connect with Christ.
  3. Intentionally find ways to be filled with the Spirit through the Word and worship.

Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. We are loved, forgiven children of God no matter what. But we can separate ourselves from the strength of Christ when we run to something smaller than Jesus for comfort. With God’s help, let’s stop settling for coping mechanisms and let’s be filled with Christ and his love.