Garry Barber, Ph.D. – Director of Counseling Center

Life is filled with difficulties that we must face and find effective ways to process and act upon. We are always coping with some stressor, some pressure, some challenging person, some nagging question.

The word “cope” finds its origins in a Greek word that meant “to strike with a fist.” In Middle English, the term meant “to meet in battle and to come to blows with.” So, when we speak of coping with a problem, what we mean is that we are going to battle against an issue in our life. We effectively cope by refusing to simply absorb the stressor, ignore the difficulty, or live as a victim to the cause of our pain. Unfortunately, we do not always fight these battles (cope) in healthy ways. We are all susceptible to falling back on strategies we have learned in the past, many of which are not effective in helping us move through problems.

Unproductive ways of dealing with life’s struggles are known as Maladaptive Coping Strategies. Maladaptive coping strategies are ways of behaving (or thinking) that temporarily reduce the effects of stress while the stressor actually continues to maintain strength. In other words, these are the things we do to alleviate stress, which actually increases stress in the end.

Examples of maladaptive coping strategies are all around us. Many people have learned to react to stress by eating comfort foods (and LOTS OF THEM!). Other examples might be explosions of rage, abuse of alcohol or other drugs, overspending, and a host of other behaviors. One of the most prevalent of such strategies in our society today is the use of internet pornography to alleviate the pain of loneliness and isolation.

Effective coping is accomplished when we search out ways of responding to stress and pain that actually bring health and hope to our lives. Learning to replace comfort foods with healthier foods, taking a short walk instead of exploding in anger, contacting a friend instead of accessing pornography are all examples of healthier ways to fight the battle of coping with the stressors of our lives.

The primary coping strategy for a follower of Christ is worship. Worship of our Lord places our problems in proper perspective. Worship causes us to step back and see our lives in light of the reality of our Creator and Sustainer. Worship allows us to escape the grip of the fears and struggles of this life without the use of drugs or deceiving ourselves to do it. It is in times of pure worship that we most fully know the presence of a risen and living Savior. Worship of God is the opposite of a maladaptive coping strategy. Worship leads us to a place of surrender before God in which we give Him control of our hearts and minds by presenting ourselves to Him as living sacrifices. Worship is our only logical and reasonable strategy for dealing with stress and confusion (see Romans 12:1-2).

In the Old Testament, we read a beautiful account of a time when the people of God faced the stress of fear and uncertainty with worship. Read 2 Chronicles 20 and imagine yourself there standing before the Lord in faith. I encourage you today to take all your struggles to the Lord. Release the pain of those struggles to Him as you pray, sing, and meditate on scripture. This strategy, I assure you, will bring peace to your heart and mind as you face the battles of life.

Thank you to all those who partner with us to see that those in stress are offered words of life and hope in the midst of life’s battles.

Garry Barber is a Licensed Clinical Pastoral Counselor (NCCA) who holds Masters and Doctoral degrees in both biblical studies and family counseling. For nearly 3 decades he has sought to guide individuals and families to a healthier, more functional life. The Joy House Counseling Center exists for the purpose of providing a faith-based option for residents of the Highway 575/ 515 corridor who seek guidance with life’s problems. We have locations in Pickens, Gilmer, and Cherokee Counties with fees based on income and ability to pay. We offer counseling to all ages with professional services to a wide variety of individuals, families and their needs. Contact our Counseling Center via phone at 678-452-2037 for more information.