Coping under stress

Psalm 4

Even though we have a just and righteous God, bad things still happen to us, and believers often find themselves in difficult, even dangerous situations. How should we deal with them? “Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him…” (Acts 12:5) But what should we do when our prayers seem to go unanswered?

At such times, the temptation to seek help from false gods of various kinds is very strong (verse 2). But idolatry debases and corrupts us; it is senseless and pointless (Romans 1:23,24). Whereas we know for certain that our God will – eventually – answer our prayers, because He is as committed to us as we are to Him (verse 3).

Another common temptation in difficult situations is to get angry. Anger can be constructive, but all too often it is a knee-jerk response to provocation, leading to retaliation, or even mindless violence (James 1:19,20). So when faced with evil, we must not react in the wrong way, but examine our own consciences and – best of all – ‘sleep on it’ before taking any action. Especially we must be careful not to let anger fester in our hearts without being resolved. “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” (Ephesians 4:26) Instead, make the effort to respond in a way that is honouring to God.

The third common reaction is despair. Many people can maintain their faith in God only when things are going well. But David’s faith is made of sterner stuff (verses 7,8). Are we interested only in material blessings – in things that can be seen and touched – or do we recognise that God’s eternal favour is far more valuable?                                                                                   “Better the little that the righteous have                                                                                             than the wealth of many wicked.” (Psalm 37:16)

To know God and experience His presence is real happiness, independent of outward circumstances. “The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains.” (Acts 12:6) Even when awaiting execution in prison, with no immediate prospect of deliverance, the apostle Peter had an inner peace. Knowing that he was safe in God’s hands, he slept soundly…

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