Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Coping Behaviors

Last week at Bible study, we got on the topic of the show Hoarders.  A couple women felt that the people on these shows are lazy; however, another woman pointed out that there are much deeper issues behind hoarding behavior.  I strongly agreed with her.

I am fascinated by the psychology behind behaviors such as hoarding.  Each person has a story.  There has been a loss or trauma that led them to form an inappropriate attachment to belongings and even trash.  

Even those of us who live in clean(ish) houses have more in common with hoarders than we might like to think.  

I experienced some trauma and developed an inappropriate attachment to food.  Food is necessary to survive.  Food on its own is not bad, evil, or unhealthy (well...some is unhealthy!).  However, I have turned to food to fill needs that are not physical.  

My relationship with food is a complicated web of hurtful actions, words, and attitudes.  I have identified many of the factors that have led me to where I am, and I'm doing my best to combat each one with truth.  I even created a chart to list the reasons for my unhealthy relationship with food, the truth that corresponds to each reason, and a Bible verse to support each truth.

Here are some examples (click to enlarge):

This is pretty personal stuff.  I'm hoping that since I'm being this vulnerable with you, you will at least take a moment to be honest with yourself.

What behaviors have you developed as a way of coping with life?  What has grown out of proportion?  Is there something healthy with which you have developed an unhealthy relationship?

I remember learning in a college psychology class that people often develop coping mechanisms that serve them well in a situation (such as abuse).  But then later in their lives, when they are no longer in that situation, they discover that the coping mechanism is no longer serving them well and may actually be harming them.  

The questions is:  How is this behavior working for you?

You may have learned to clean your house to settle your anxiety or exercise rather than show emotion.  Or maybe you drink alcohol to unwind from a stressful workday.  Or you get lost in online virtual worlds because it's easier than working on difficult relationships in your real life.

The actual behavior doesn't matter.  What really matters is what you're not doing.

When we rely on these coping behaviors, we're not relying on God.  

This is not just some preachy statement.  Remember, I'm the girl who just shared some details of my most personal struggle.  I'm not hurling fancy Bible verses at you.  I'm trying to help you see your coping behaviors for what they are and see God for who He is.

God is for us.  God is with us.  He heals.  He restores.  He already has plans for us, and he says they're good ones (see Jeremiah 29:11).  He asks the weary to come to him and dump their heavy burdens on him (see Matthew 11:28-29).  

The Bible is full of people with messed up pasts.  Some had junk handed down to them from previous generations.  Some made some pretty bad choices.  But all who were willing to receive experienced God's healing and restoration.

Think you're too far gone?  Think again.  David had a pretty good beginning, but then he derailed when he committed adultery and murder.  He sought God's forgiveness and was not only restored but was called "a man after God's own heart."  And God chose to bring Jesus into David's line of descendants.  

On the night Jesus was arrested, he warned Peter that he would deny Jesus three times.  Despite Jesus' warning, Peter did indeed deny ever knowing his great teacher and leader.  After Jesus' resurrection, he sought Peter out for a private conversation.  He reassured Peter that his love for Jesus would never again fail and that he would live a long life devoted to telling others about Christ.

God shows us over and over that He is willing and able to restore us and make us whole, healthy, faithful people.  But somehow we don't believe that He will do for us what he has done for so many others.

Look at these verses:
  • "For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost." Luke 19:10 (NIV)
  • "When Jesus heard this, he told them, 'Healthy people don't need a doctor--sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.'"  Mark 2:17 (NLT)
  • "This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!"  2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)
  • "In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation."  1 Peter 5:10 (NLT)
  • "Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you."  Psalm 51:12 (NLT) This is David after he committed adultery and murder.
  • "What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?"  Romans 8:31 (NIV) 
Are we making any progress here?

I can still bake and enjoy the creative process of making food.  And I can enjoy eating my food.  But when I need comfort, I need to be in prayer.  When I feel uncertain and need to find something/someone consistent, I need to open my Bible to see that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  And when I need to know that I have value (and I'm not just the overweight girl), I need to rest on God's unfailing love for me.

How are your behaviors working for you?


1 comment:

  1. I needed all of that today. Thank you for reminding me of the big-ness of our God. And I LOVE your chart! That is AWESOME!