Image by Gabriela Piwowarska from Pixabay
This season has seemed like a marathon, hasn’t it?
Most of us can handle the stress of a sprint, with the finish line always in sight. But the very publicized worldwide stressors of 2020 have just seemed to go on and on, adding to the load each of us already carries in our private lives.
The results are predictable: our health suffers. Fuses get shorter, leading to unnecessary interpersonal conflict. Sometimes this is directly related to differences of opinion, and other times, it’s due to misdirected anger from a sense of helplessness.
Some panic; some get depressed.
Many look for someone to blame. Of course this just adds to the overall stress levels: fanning flames, shortening fuses, and resulting in bitterness, hatred, and explosive confrontations.
How are we to manage all this?
(Disclaimer: I’m about to talk about God. A lot. If you don’t want to hear it, feel free to stop reading now.) 🙂
Humility = Rest
My grandfather used to say, “there’s never an atheist in a foxhole.” The reference was to World War I, and it meant, whatever one’s beliefs might seem to be when life is going well, when our backs are against the wall, all of us cry out to God. It’s instinctive.
It may take more extraordinary circumstances to get to this place for some of us than for others, though. Most of us will exhaust our own resources first. So the more intelligence or finances or influence or abilities we have, the longer it might take for us to finally get to the place of admitting we can’t do it on our own, whatever “it” may be.
Another word for this is humility.
Humility isn’t doubting or demeaning ourselves, just as pride doesn’t necessarily mean arrogance or looking down on others. Pride is just self-sufficiency. Humility is recognizing our limitations, and thus, our need of God.
In Matthew 12:28-30, Jesus makes the declaration, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
God always intended to give His people rest, as they trusted in Him to deal with the problems they faced—no matter what they were. He never expected them to deal with the problems of life all on their own.
“There remains a rest for the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9), even in the midst of the challenges. 1 Peter 5:6-7 says, “‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”
When you give Him your cares, they’re His to handle from that point forward. He doesn’t give them back (unless you take them back.)
What are We Trusting Will Happen, Exactly?
It’s hardest to give up control over a situation or an issue about which you care desperately. Believe me, I get this. It only becomes doable once you truly trust that God is good. And giving up control (for those things that aren’t under your control anyway) is the only path to rest and peace.
Once in a season of personal turmoil, I wrote this handout, originally for myself. The title has to do with indecision, but it’s really about anxiety and control in all its forms. It makes explicit the biblical steps of surrender—not just what to do, but why it makes sense to do it.
The reason, in a nutshell, is because we have a good Father.
“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles [read: those who are not in faith] seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:25-34).
He’ll meet your needs when the time comes, if you trust Him to do so. He’s got this.
What About All the Scary Stuff in the World?
There are multiple different (and even contradictory) definitions of what constitutes “the scary stuff,” but it doesn’t ultimately matter what your definition might be. Other people are not your enemy. Even if they think they are. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12).
Knowing this makes it possible to respond in love to those we disagree with. We can break the cycle of anger and hatred.
But that doesn’t mean we ignore the darkness. What we should do instead: pray. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6-7).
We can have absolute confidence that any promise we can find in black and white in scripture is ours (2 Cor 1:20), the moment we pray for it (Mark 11:24). That’s why we can give thanks, as Paul instructs: the answer is as much ours as if it had already manifested physically.
If what we’re requesting is not written in black and white, but it is something that we know is God’s will based on what we know of His character, it’s still ours (1 John 5:14-15), and we can still give thanks for it.
If we don’t know whether what we are asking for is God’s will or not, that’s when we focus on getting to know Him better, renewing our minds with His word, until we do know His will (Romans 12:2). And we pray for wisdom, trusting that we’ll get it (James 1:5). Once we get it, again, we can pray in confidence, and thank Him for the answer.
Staying in Peace
Once you’ve prayed, then “Let not your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1).
That’s a command. Jesus wouldn’t have said it if we weren’t capable of doing it. He also wouldn’t have bothered to mention it if He didn’t know it was a temptation.
But we have to be intentional about where we choose to place our focus.
Turn off the 24-hour news cycle. If you must listen or watch, limit the amount of time you spend on it, or read headlines only. Limit social media, as for many people, that can be just as toxic.
Instead, spend time meditating on what God says, rather than being conformed to the things that consume the rest of the world (Romans 12:2). Be selective about your entertainment. “Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things” (Phil 4:8).
One practical thing we all can do to make a difference is vote, when we have the opportunity. It is our responsibility to do good when it is in our power to do so (James 4:17). If you haven’t registered, or if you don’t know if you’re registered to vote in your state, click here.
Then, whatever happens, keep your mind fixed on Him.
“You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3).