A Word of Advice for the Struggling Christian

As most of you know, I wear quite a few different hats. I juggle those hats multiple times a day— from “student” to “mentor” to “coworker” to “wife” (you can throw “daughter” and “friend” and other things, I’m sure, in there too). But one hat that I’ve been wearing for quite a few years now, and one that I rarely talk about yet plays a huge role in my life is the hat I wear of “behavior therapist.” Many of you aren’t aware, but yes, I’ve worked as a behavior therapist for about eight years now. What does that mean? Well, for one, I am an expert at studying human behavior. Lol. Sort of. And yes, I do analyze people in ways that would make them really uncomfortable if they knew (heh, sorry). But really, I was trained to think this way. I was trained to be watchful of what makes people tick, what makes them happy, how they react—and I’ve been trained on how to deal with all of it, too. To put it shortly, I’ve been trained to manipulate behavior.

I’ve worked specifically with people on the Autism spectrum—ranging from two years of age all the way to fifteen years of age. While every case is different, I can rest assured on one truth: behavior is predictable. To be more specific: reactions are predictable. And I’m sure you can agree. If you don’t really try, you’ll react to something (whether good or bad) in a way that is quite predictable to you, won’t you? (like cats…cats will always make me react, well, you know). Emotional health has to do with knowing this and choosing to respond in a way that’s healthy when the opportunity arises (okay, I know, my reaction to cats isn’t always healthy).

A girl in my life recently came up to me and shared a struggle of hers that she’s been dealing with: “Kat, I’ve been struggling with being single lately. I wanted to talk to you about it, and ask, if, well, you ever struggled with it before you were married?”

I chuckled. Because, well, the answer is, “OF COURSE. Everyone has!”

A few minutes prior to that we were having a conversation about how we can be more selfless. Another girl in the convo admitted, “It’s hard for me to think about others throughout the day because I’m so self-obsessed. I’m always thinking about me—my schedule, what I have to do, my own things. Don’t you?”

I chuckled, because, well, the answer is, “OF COURSE. Don’t we all?”

And something that I confessed in both of these scenarios is that, truthfully, these are things that are going to be a battle until the day we get to go home (yes, our spiritual home).

I don’t think I’ll ever wake up one day and be completely cured of the selfish problem. After all, that’s THE human struggle, isn’t it?

I asked my first sweet nugget dealing with being single to remind me of how old she was, “21,” she said.

“Welp, at your age, I still had about six more years of dealing with the ‘singleness’ issue. So guess what, it ain’t going away any time soon. Now don’t get me wrong…it won’t be a struggle every single day…but it will certainly come and go.”

She looked at me confused, and quite disheartened.

I continued, “some struggles don’t go away…but, guess what? Life is in seasons, and each season, if we’re serious about growing and maturing, we get a little better at dealing with it.”

Here’s what I mean: some struggles are just…struggles. Things we have to deal with. Things we wrestle with. Those struggles may not ever go away, but if we’re doing this “maturing” thing right, we’ll get better at dealing with those specific struggles. We can learn to recognize our emotions immediately, and pull out those necessary weapons for combat before ‘the struggle’ takes full control.

For example: what’s the first thing some people do when they’re feeling the initial signs of a cold? Well, some take vitamins, or drink special teas, or do specific things that they know will help the outcome. They’re ready. They’re prepared to fight the inevitable cold.

Or for me: recently my diet has changed quite drastically. I went from being a cheese-obsessed fanatic, to consuming dairy only about 3% of my diet (I like to admit that I’m 97% vegan: 1% lattes, 1% pizza, and 1% King Cake). I’ve trained my stomach to work best with barely any dairy…or fried food, for that matter. So what happens when I really want some mozzarella sticks and creamy pasta? Well, I make sure I’m ready beforehand. I’ve drank my ACV with lemon, lots of water, and I’ve prepared to not feel so great after dinner. I’m ready. I know what’s coming.

Or even as simple as preparing to go on a trip: you check the weather, figure out what to pack. You won’t take a trip up north in the winter and pack shorts. I mean, preparation is pretty natural, isn’t it?

I deal with this every day when it comes to my job. As I mentioned before, behavior is predictable. I’ve worked so closely with my client, I’ve memorized his behavior. I know exactly what’s going to make him tick, and I know exactly how he will react. I know how to manipulate situations so that I can get specific desired outcomes from him. I also know what he likes…which is huge when wanting to manipulate someone’s behavior (remember that one, hehe).

Point is: I’m prepared. I’m ready to deal with my client’s reactions. I know what’s coming and I know how to handle it. That’s carried out into my marriage. Taylor will catch me every once in a while and ask, “are you trying to ‘behavior therapy’ me right now?”

He’s usually right.

While this may sound intense, the truth is, we all do it, all the time, every day, without even realizing it.

Those of you who have dealt with little ones and tantrums…you totally know what I’m talking about here, don’t you?

Well, the fact of the matter is…if prepping…knowing…being ready… is a natural part of our physical life and health…why don’t we apply that to our emotional or mental health?

How do we so easily end up completely out of control of our emotions?

The answer isn’t entirely black and white…but here’s a good place to start: be a student of yourself. I always give my girls this advice: know yourself.

Know what makes you tick—what makes things trigger. But don’t stop there—be prepared. Know what your reaction will be, and know what to do before it happens. Have the precautions ready.

Friend…do you struggle with feeling overwhelmed? Having a bad attitude? Being single? Being selfish? What triggers you to react in unhealthy ways?

What helps you fight it? I know the answer…or at least what the answer should be… Jesus. But what are the steps you need to take in fighting? What are your specific tools? Is it journaling to God? Is it praying in your room with your favorite worship song? Or praying while taking a walk? Is it reading those specific verses, that specific book, that you know God uses to speak to you? Is it reminding yourself of truth that you so easily forget?

Beloved, some things will be forever-struggles. But I beg you to be prepared when that struggle flares up. Don’t let it catch you by surprise, don’t let it overwhelm you. Know it’s coming. Draw your sword before you get struck. The best part? God will fight for you…you have only to be ready.

 

 

What are your specific tools? How can we help each other fight?

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