The trials of life are not just all consuming, but leave lasting marks on our souls. How we deal and process these trials sets the tone for how our bodies and minds automatically deal with it. This process of dealing is called coping skills. We develop these coping skills usually as a child. As hard times and difficult experiences come, we take on ways to help ourselves deal. Usually, these coping skills are not always healthy. A lot of the times it depends on the role models we have in our life and how they deal with trials. We adapt our role models coping skills and run with it. There is no blame to be found in doing this, it’s our natural human response. Some people resort to drowning out their sorrows in drugs or alcohol and not dealing with tough emotions. Some people go on shopping sprees and lots of vacations to induce feel good endorphins. Some take on loads of work to avoid relationships or any change that they cannot control. A lot of people get angry and lash out. They are bitter, resentful, and linger in a state of despair. No matter what, the one thing we all have in common is that we all have trials and we all have different or even multiple ways of dealing with them.
My personnel struggle with trials all began with the coping skills I took on in face of adversity as a child. I would lash out and rearrange my room at first, because anger is something I seen and thought was how to deal. When this was not satisfying and did not resolve anything for me, I then turned to fantasy. I would go into my mind and dream of the perfect world and the perfect people and a safe place for me to escape and feel wanted and loved. I could not do this during the daytime or in crowds so then I took on smoking. If I got a little stressed, I reached for my pack of cigs and escaped to the nearest smoking section. Later, I took on avoidance and withdrawal. I would do everything to avoid conflict. I took on the responsibility of everyone’s feelings and did everything I could to control how they reacted. I became more withdrawn, afraid to voice any opinion or struggle. The fear of what others thought of me and facing more conflict controlled me. Thirty-five years later it all caught up with me and I was drowning in a sea full of fear and avoidance. I had nowhere else to go, but through. I had to face all the hurt, all the pain, all the trauma of life’s trials. Then I met a man named James and my life changed.
I met James by accident one day. I was having a really tough day. I was constantly wrestling a thought in my mind and could not for the life of me figure out the answer. The thought was, “How do people keep going, when they are in so much physical and emotional pain? What is the secret?” I knew of many people who suffered great physical tragedies and no matter the state they were in, they found a way to cope and found new meaning to life. They found joy again and I just knew if I could figure out their secret, I too could obtain that joy myself. I could learn to live a new and improved life with healthy coping skills. So, in the midst of my research, James appeared and he helped me find one of many coping strategies that would change my life. James was a carpenter’s son. He is a common man and lived a common life. James did not believe in Jesus until the later years of his life. This was crazy to me because he grew up within such a God-fearing home. A home so surrounded with the plan of God and salvation for all. Once James surrendered to the possibilities of Jesus and his purpose, James’s life took on new meaning and He shared this one phrase that changed my life as well as his. “COUNT IT ALL JOY”
What?! Are you telling me that this is the secret to dealing with hardship? To count the hardships in my life as a joyful experience? At first, I was in denial. Trust me, there is nothing joyful about suffering abuse, neglect, and physical and mental ailments. Then James explained it to me in a way that I could not argue with and it opened my eyes to a new way of seeing things. He said to me, “Keri, count it all joy when you find yourself in the midst of a trial. This trial is a testing of where your faith stands and can produce more patience to help you push through your trials and not avoid them. So, grow your patience by pushing through this hard time. If you need guidance then just ask God and he will give you wisdom freely as long as you hold to your faith and do not waiver. Trust that He has a reason for this and it will help you in the long run!
James opened my eyes that hard times and obstacles are meant to be a stumbling block from Satan, but God has made a way for us to grow in the midst of it. We can grow our faith, patience, perseverance, and most of all our trust that when we come to the end of this trial, and an end will come, that we will see the hand of God in it. We will be stronger in mind, body, and spirit. I believe I can trust James. James is not only Jesus’ half-brother, but was a witness to Jesus’ resurrection and a martyr of the faith. If he held to the faith and found joy in the midst of struggles…, could it not work for us too?
My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers’ temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. James 1:2-6
If James does not impress you then maybe you can take Paul’s word for it…
Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. Romans 5:1-5