By, Isam Itson III
People have been drinking alcohol as a way of coping with stress and loss for a long time. When we get really angry or really sad, we often want a drink. We just want to relax, escape, and forget. It’s a way of comforting ourselves and pushing through the inescapable trials and tribulations that life throws at all of us. Proverbs 31:6,7 says, “Give strong drink to the one who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress; 7let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more.”
But we can take it too far. Proverbs 20:1 says, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.” We all know this, but it is really easy to be “led astray” by that warm feeling we get from drinking alcohol. Life is hard. And when I have taken as much as I think I can take, all I want is to isolate and self medicate.
I can’t wait to clock out, go home, and zone out with some good music or an old movie, and a cold adult beverage. I don’t want to talk to God or anybody else. I just want to be left alone and do as I please without the opinions or considerations of anybody else. I just need some time for myself. “Leave me alone. I’ll be fine.”
Anyway, that’s how I sometimes feel at the end of a hard day. Let alone when I am reeling from a devastating loss or in the middle of a personal or professional crisis. According to the Apostle Paul, that response to the stress and pressures of life is unwise and foolish for followers of Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 5:15-20, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
For Christians, the wise and mature response to our troubles is being “filled with the Spirit.” According to Paul, being filled with the Spirit is facilitated by seeking each other out and expressing ourselves to each other and to God with songs that honor our fear and frustration as well as God’s presence with us through everything. When I read the Psalms, the book of worship songs for the Jewish people, I am struck with the fact that the books of the Bible were written by real people, with real desires, facing real challenges.
Sometimes they were happy and hopeful, Psalm 1:1 and 2,“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.”
Sometimes they were filled with awe, Psalm 8:1, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.”
Sometimes they were fearful and anxious, Psalm 3:1 and 2 “O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; 2 many are saying of my soul, ‘There is no salvation for him in God.’”
Sometimes they were in the depths off despair, Psalm 88:13 and 14, “But I, O Lord, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you. 14 O Lord, why do you cast my soul away? Why do you hide your face from me?”
And through it all, they talked with God. By themselves, and with each other, they talked with God about how they were really feeling about their lives. Good or bad, they worked it out with God. By themselves and with each other.
That’s what we are really thankful for. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are not alone. God is with us no matter what we are going through. Rather than isolating and self medicating, I need to express myself to God and join with my brothers and sisters in Christ so we can express ourselves to God, together. Not just going to worship services. By investing real time and energy building meaningful, personal relationships with each other. Expressing what is really going on inside of us to God and to each other.
That’s what helps me cope with life’s tragedies and disappointments. God has given me my brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. Most importantly, he has given me himself, through faith in Jesus Christ, by virtue of his Holy Spirit who lives inside of me.
Thank you God, that we do not have to go through this life alone because you are always with us. Thank you God, that no matter what happens, we can honor your love and faithfulness for ourselves and others. Even when it costs us everything, you provide everything we need to live a rich life that helps other people do the same.
As a follower of Jesus Christ, nothing makes me feel better after a rough day than expressing my heart to God, and meditating on God’s heart for me revealed in the scriptures. I am so thankful for God’s presence with us.
1. What do you turn to when you need to cope with the difficult times of life?
2. Do you have a community to turn to when things are tough? If not, what would it take to find one?
3. If you do have a community, are you intentionally being available to be a listening ear or a shoulder to lean on for them?