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Four Options

Cesar has many famous catchphrases like, “No dog is too much for me to handle. I rehabilitate dogs. I train people. I am the dog Whisperer.” His rules, “No touch, no talk, no eye contact” and “Exercise, discipline and affection—in that order” are more examples of popular expressions he's uttered in that endearing Mex-english he speaks. I’ve written about many of these principles and how they’ve impacted my life.

There is another saying Cesar often uses when dealing with out of control dogs that I'd like to examine, and that is, “fight, flight, avoidance and submission.” These are the four mindsets a dog can have when dealing with a stressful situation. Submission is obviously the goal Cesar intends to achieve because he knows this is the only state of mind that accomplishes balance and well-being. If he can rehabilitate and teach a dog to trust and respect leadership then the dog will learn to remain calm under stress and follow wherever the master leads.

I have spent a good portion of my Christian life in every state of mind but submission when dealing with stressful situations. I had it in my thinking that stressful situations were the enemy; that they were the problem. If only I could get rid of stressful situations, stress could be avoided and all would be well with my soul. But since that is a real-world impossibility, fight became my normal default position. Apparently I was not paying attention to my Bible reading. The New Testament is filled with exhortations about how to deal with stressful situations, which God refers to as “trials of many kinds.” From His perspective, these come in order to prove (or disprove) the genuineness of my faith. Therefore my constant opposition to all the trials in my life was actually an act of warfare against the Almighty. It was apparent that my faith needed some refining because it was far from authentic. I either had to accept and learn to deal with the stress that accompany these “trials of many kinds” or continue to live in a constant state of anger and upset at my vain attempts to stop them from occurring.

Fighting trials is one way to deal with them. Flight is another option. If trials can’t be stopped, maybe they can be outrun. This may seem to work for a short time but running has a dark side. In order to cope under extreme stress I can run to food, entertainment, alcohol, or a myriad of other unhealthy habits. But they are all false comforts, counterfeit remedies to soothe a trouble soul. Each comes with it’s own set of self-inflicted woes that ultimately catch up and overtake me, leaving a trail of heartache and destruction.

Avoidance is an appealing alternative. I can restructure my life to avoid any and all triggers that cause a negative reaction… until it becomes obvious that the problem runs much deeper than the impact of any outward influences. No, the problem lies within the core of my existence. Buried under a thin veneer of spirituality giving lip service to the Lordship of Christ, lays a dominant attitude that has usurped His throne. The truth is, I don’t trust or respect the Master. I don’t believe His way is good. I think I know better and insist on going my own way.

But the Good Master holds His ground. He will not be detered from His goal. He knows what is best and waits for submission. It is the only mindset that brings calm, wholeness and peace. God knows why trials must come. He intends them for good. He plans to use them for His glory and for my sanctification if only I would trust and cooperate. But how? Amy Carmichael said, "In acceptance lieth peace". I must accept the circumstances that God allows with open and willing arms and embrace them as from a wise Father who loves me. Only then will I be able to recieve them graciously with the gratitude that accompanies true faith and obey the command to:

~Consider it pure joy, my brethren. James 1

~In every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6

~Don’t be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come upon you…but rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ.

1 Peter 4

Stressful situations. Trials of many kinds. They are not the enemy. Rather, “These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith… may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” 1 Peter 1:7. Rebellion, resistance and a dominant attitude—these are the enemies of faith. Thank you Lord for loving me enough to persevere until I get it (even though it's taken years of heartache) and bend the knees of my heart in submission to your will.

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