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Friday, March 9, 2012

Stress

Stress is plaguing us in record highs these days. It's all around us. Our homes are not immune to the disease of stress. It has crept its way into our families. It has become a way of life.

Stress is caused by many factors, including financial woes, marital or health issues, and simply too much to do, and many times, a combination of several factors. Certain personality styles struggle with it more than others.

Stress has a negative physical effect on our body - science has proven that. It can also lead to that feeling of a black cloud over your head - or depression, which is running rampant in our society, and in our churches. I've experienced the black cloud myself.

I have dealt with stress most of my life. I am a task-driven personality style. I love my to-do lists, and I like them even better when they are completed. If I don't get something done, I have a tendency to believe the whole world will fall apart because I let something go unfinished. When the to-do lists get too big and I cannot manage it all, and everything on my list doesn't get checked off before I go to bed at night, stress sets in.

In addition, my task-driven personality style causes me to always want to fix and improve things in life - whether it be schedules, decorating my house, how I school my kids - there's always new ideas. I am notorious for laying in bed, trying to fall asleep, while my mind races with unfinished business and concern about how to improve life. Often, this leads to discontentment - it's hard to admit - because perhaps I cannot make something better right away. I become unhappy with the way things are, longing for the way they could be - and the black cloud sets in.


I do not claim to have the magical formula for removing the black cloud. I do know that it is not God's desire that we live with that black cloud. God is all about the "exceedingly abundant" life! He is all about JOY! Psalms 16:11 tells us that in God's presence is the fullness of JOY. I know this! I know what God's Word promises! But there have been times in my life when, no matter what I tried, I could not make myself feel joy. I wanted it badly, but couldn't find it anywhere.

God heard my pleas to remove the black cloud - but He didn't do it instantly, the way I had hoped for. He did it by giving me new revelation. He does that a lot. I want Him to do the work for me, but He chooses instead to teach me how to do it myself.

So what did He reveal? Well, first, that the root of stress is fear - fear that the world will fall apart, fear of lack of progress, fear that if I don't do something, it won't ever happen - and fear is not of the Lord.

And to go even deeper, the things that created the black cloud over my head had everything to do with my perspective - how I viewed those events in my life. I know the Scripture that says God's ways aren't our ways and His thoughts aren't our thoughts - I recite it to myself all the time. But I mistakenly thought that He operated in my life in such ways that He knew were comfortable to me or that would make me happy. I didn't take into consideration that He isn't AS concerned about my happiness as He is my wholeness.

As a parent, I know that my job is to train up my children in the way they should go. By nature, they don't want to go that way. But I am not concerned about whether or not they WANT to go that way, because I know that way is the best for them, and that's what I truly want - the best for them. I realize that they may scream and kick and flail and throw tantrums as I train them, but all the while, I know it is for their best interest that they learn God's WAY. Sometimes, I even set up situations to test their growth in this area or that.

Life is a giant one-room schoolhouse, isn't it?

So I began to understand that what I perceived as "bad" in life, God may not necessarily see that way - even when "bad" involved loosing a child or being trapped in miserable employment - things that seem obviously "bad" to us humans. I began to understand that even these experiences have a purpose, and it's not my job to try to figure out what the purpose is, but instead, to trust God and roll with the "punches." Fighting Him doesn't make things better - it just leaves me exhausted - and with a black cloud over my head.

If anything I'm saying is ringing true to you in a personal way, I would highly recommend picking up a copy of One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. This book will take you on a journey towards a much-needed life perspective-shift, and as you shift your perspective on your life, the black cloud slowly is removed. I've experienced it for myself!

I pray that you begin to look at life differently - ask God to allow you to see from His perspective - and even begin to thank Him in trials. I am praying for victory in your life, and growth in God!

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