Survival Skills

rock hill

Remember: Don’t lift more than God can handle

Warning:  Bad Things Happen to Good People

Week 2: Survival Steps


Let’s talk about stress.

The most difficult problems to accept are the ones we can’t change. We struggle, wrestle and beat ourselves up with stuff beyond our strength and out of our control.

We expect the impossible when we treat every hardship as a challenge to overcome.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Such as applying self-help one liners to every situation expecting a quick fix and being shocked when they don’t work. Only to keep giving the same advice to others that never works for us.

“You can do it”, “do it yourself” and “never give up” attitudes don’t work when we lack control over the situation or need help.

“No pain, no gain” applies to a good workout but is cruel to say to rape, murder or other abuse victims.

Not every problem is solved with a box of kittens, a tissue and a pep talk. In reality, every fight can’t be won. And most importantly, it may actually be impossible because not every issue is ours to solve.

We may not have the skills, the resources or even the control to stop bad things from happening or make things better.

  1. List and discuss bad things out of your control.



Cancer, mental illness, abuse, addictions, death, poverty and natural disasters are all major tragedies out of our control.


Telling ourselves or someone else they are strong enough to handle adversity is not biblical. God knows we can’t handle it alone. God didn’t create us to handle it alone and God doesn’t want us to handle it alone.
People who can do everything themselves don’t need help.  They don’t need a savior.

God wants to be part of our lives.  God wants us to give up, call out for help and embrace our savior.

PrayerRead Matthew 11:28-30 

“Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

  1. Discuss Matthew 11:28-30. Why is it hard to ask for help?

Babies cry out for help.  Children cry out for help.  “OUCH” or “HELP!” is a normal natural quick way to tell people who care about us that we need help.

Is there an age when we are too old or a time when we are too able to ask for help?

So why is one of the very first lies we teach children “you’re OK, you’re not hurt, shake it off, and don’t let anyone know you’re hurt, don’t show weakness…”? Why do we put so much emphasis on self-sufficiency?

Also not biblical.

God hears our cries.

Read Psalm 55:17

Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and God hears my voice.

God wants us to cry out.

When we are weary and burdened we appreciate rest.  We appreciate help.  We notice when we are relieved of our burdens.

God created us to be social.  We are yoked, tethered and joined together with Christ in his baptism, life, death and resurrection (Romans 6). We need each other.  We need Christ.

Accepting things we can’t change is an important recovery step.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

~ Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)

The path to acceptance isn’t easy. It is a journey of its own. Some people are determined to figure out how to solve all their problems on their own. Some have too many secrets, hurts, habits and faulty beliefs to get help. They are afraid and don’t have the support system to recover.

The path to recovery should never be ventured alone. Seek God, a good counselor and healthy support group.

The hardest problems to accept are other people’s problems. When we love someone, we want to protect them.  We want to end their pain. We feel responsible for them and their problems. We struggle for them.

But we have very limited control over other people and their problems, even when those problems hurt us.

Trying to change other people is futile.

The only path to acceptance is through grief.  We have to let go of our old tired beliefs that don’t work (Romans 6:6), reveal our secrets, accept humility and admit weakness.

Read 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.


  1. Discuss 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. Why are church people afraid to share their weaknesses, sins and hardships?

In 1969, Swiss psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, MD identified five emotional stages of grief from personal loss or change from death, illness, incarceration, divorce or addictions. These five emotional stages apply to any stress or change in our life, including traffic.

It is important to remember these stages aren’t sequential.  They don’t work like a check list.  We go back and forth between them as we attempt to cope.

And when crisis hits a family or group everyone covers different stages making communication and progress difficult.

  1. Discuss each emotional stage. Request a volunteer to represent each stage.

Denial: Our first reaction to stress is denial.  It is a retreat when we feel overwhelmed. While in denial we refuse or are unable to believe the truth. Denial is a mask. It provides a false reality to the truth.  Denial is the furthest point away from recovery.

Denial says “I’m not sick”, “My brother isn’t dead”, and “I don’t have a problem with alcohol”.

Dysfunctional behavior flourishes in denial and denial leaves victims open to further abuse.

Read Proverbs 23:29-35

“They hit me but I’m not hurt! They beat me, but I don’t feel it! When will I wake up…”

Anger:  Anger is our strongest emotion.  It can range from mild irritation to rage. Anger emerges when we feel pushed to acknowledge our loss.

Anger is an important emotion and an important step in recovery. Anger acknowledges and protects us from the raw truth. It is a crossroad, to truth or denial.

Anger shouts, “Why me?”, “It’s not fair!”, “How can this happen to me?”, ‘”Who did this to me?”, “Why did God let this happen?”

Unfortunately, anger may stall recovery for people who are uncomfortable with conflict, afraid of anger and unable to face the reality of their loss.

And anger is destructive when turned inwards or out to others. Angry people are motivated to do something but rarely is anger productive.

Anger blames God, the addict, their family and everyone else. Anger shames the victim and is unproductive.

Read Ephesians 4:26-27

“In your anger do not sin” Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.

Bargaining: Everyone learns how to bargain or negotiate to avoid punishment. Bargaining demonstrates hope in a higher power’s ability to change the situation and restore their life before adversity. While bargaining offers hope, it is still far from acceptance. Bargaining is another strategy to avoid adversity. It is an effort to gain control over the situation.

Bargaining says, “I promise I’ll never have sex again if I’m not pregnant” or “I promise to stop drinking if the judge lets me go.”

Read Psalm 66:13-14

I will fulfill my vows to you – vows my lips promised and my mouth spoke when I was in trouble.

Depression: Depression hits when we feel the full weight of the situation, and know we are powerless but not ready to accept help. Shame, guilt, past memories and clinical depression may stand in the way of healing. Depression is silent, tearful and mourns the loss. Depressed people may feel ashamed or lack the energy to be with other people. They are afraid and hopeless. Depression says “I’m so sad”, “what’s the point?” and “why go on?”

Read Psalm 22:2

My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.

Acceptance:  Acceptance doesn’t mean we celebrate the bad things that happen to us or declare them good.  It simply means we accept the truth, whatever that truth may be. Acceptance acknowledges we are powerless over things beyond our control and ready to shed our secrets.

We are only as sick as our darkest secrets.

Denial, anger, bargaining and depression are all part of the journey to acceptance.

Acceptance is the first step of recovery. Acceptance leads to peace.

Acceptance says, “I know I have a problem.  I need help. Will you help me?”

Read 1 Peter 5:7

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Remember: These emotional stages aren’t sequential.  We go back and forth between them as we struggle to cope with loss. We can fall asleep in acceptance and wake up in denial.

It is important to be patient in love and recovery.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

~  Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)


  1. Group activity: Volunteers role play how each emotional stage interacts within a family for the following issues:
  • Death
  • Addictions
  • Domestic Violence
  • Mental Illness


1 Thessalonians 5:11 

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

Homework: Make a list of your hurts.  Identify everyone who may be hurt by these issues and identify where you are in the healing process.

Luke 12:2-3

There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed, or secret that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.

Talk to God about your hurts, the people hurt with you and the person(s) causing the hurt.  Keep praying every time they enter your mind.

 Matthew 7:7 [Effective Prayer] “Keep asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you”. 

Not sure what to say:

“God restore us.  Help me accept my past, present and future.  Help me accept that I am powerless over _(my hurts)_.  Restore and heal those I love.  Help us walk in truth.  Pour out your grace upon us. Help us.  Give us the courage to accept help. Amen”

Remember: You may not know what wall is preventing you or them from restoring peace.


2 thoughts on “Survival Skills

  1. Good as always. The Serenity prayer has gotten me through and still does a lot of things in this life.😊🌹

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