HOW TO COPE - 28th Sunday, Year A
It’s not so much what people have to go through in life that breaks them, but rather their coping powers. What breaks one person is easy and even a source of joy for another. Like buildings, bridges and machines, we are all designed to handle certain loads. Going beyond the designed levels can lead to strain, stress and possible collapse.
We also vary in the kinds of stresses we can handle and tolerate. Someone may be able to handle a great deal of stress in one area, but not in another. An air traffic controller may be able to handle the stress of many airplanes coming and going at his direction, but have little tolerance for dealing with a sick person. A mother may have great stress levels for raising children, but little coping powers for financial strain. It’s helpful to know our limitations, weaknesses and strengths, and those of others, for coping with life.
Besides natural aptitudes for coping, and even with them, we need to go to the sources of power which help us cope with life. Without them our natural abilities for coping are not going to fully work for us. We need the power of love, God’s power and people’s love, to cope with life. No one can read St. Paul’s letters and fail to see the considerable stress of his life. “I am experienced in being brought low, yet I know what it is to have an abundance.”
Paul needed considerable coping powers. He tells us where he got the power he needed. “I have learned how to cope with every circumstance, how to eat well or go hungry, to be well provided for or do without. In Him who is the source of my strength, I have strength for everything.” It’s not the cause of stress that makes the difference. Rather, it is the source of strength to deal with it that makes the difference. It’s the faith, love, hope difference!
The sources of strength, prayer, the Holy Spirit, gifts and powers of the Spirit supporting and affirming people, are available in the ordinary and extra-ordinary stresses of life. Our tapping into the sources is important. By having the sources of strength, what looks like an overwhelming stress may become only a light burden or stress easily coped with and handled.
A church sign read: “Handle life with prayer.” We can just as easily say: “Cope with life with prayer.” Prayer brings the power of God to bear on people, circumstances, and life stresses. Stressing prayer prevents stress! With God’s help and the help of people, we can cope with life’s challenges, hardships, daily burdens, works and whatever occurs in the circumstances of life. A prayer says: “Lord, I am quite certain that nothing will happen today that You and I can’t handle together”. Handle is another word for cope!
Isaiah reminds us “the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich foods…He will destroy death forever.” Living outside of the Lord’s will, reign and Church would produce considerable stress, and leave one without needed sources of power to cope with life.
We need a certain level of stress to be healthy. Stress at the right levels can produce energy and strength. Among those stresses are those that come with accepting the Lord’s invitation to the “wedding banquet” for His Son. Some refuse the invitation being overly concerned about the costs, the sacrifices of leaving something behind, or the stresses of wanting to succeed in other life adventures, which cannot compare with the “magnificent riches in Christ Jesus”. True, there is stress in living the Gospel and seeking the reign of God. The Lord provides the needed strength and grace for us to cope with living life according to His will.
Some create unnecessary stresses for themselves, such as those that come from sin or from being irresponsible. Some create stress by avoiding the right kinds of stresses that are necessary for human growth and life.
Better to have the stresses from entering into life than those that come from avoiding life! Better the stresses of mission and work than the stress of no mission and no work.
Drawing from the right sources gives us the needed strength and power we need to cope with life’s demands. “I shall dwell in the house of the Lord.”