Stress and worry are as familiar to me as breathing, and I know I’m not the only one who faces these. If you haven’t felt a sense of stress or worry this year, then this blog isn’t for you.
The Massive Problem: Smear and Fear
How could we not stress some? We are steamrolling to the 2020 election in the midst of pandemic and lawlessness that seems to be taken straight from a fiction novel. It is surreal. Forces have combined to create a campaign of smear and fear.
Heroes, villains, intrigue, and the realization that both political parties expect the other to cheat to win join with the past three-plus years of political plays and ploys to attempt to push the current president out of office. This is life now, and some may be feeling like it’s too much.
Most likely the smear and fear will continue until the swearing-in of the declared winner on January 20, 2021. If the media doesn’t like the winner, then it will continue.
Wait! Unfortunately, there’s more.
Like a smorgasbord of despair which mysteriously satisfies our taste buds yet disturbs our stomachs, many questions and concerns may appear throughout our day which we can chew over and over.
These affect us along with our family and friends whether we dwell on them or not: government overreach v. Constitutional liberties, church gatherings, relatives who are ill or who have died, schools, college, work, money, masks, media, COVID-19, professional sports, BLM, Antifa, violence, riots, vaccines, social distancing, Supreme Court rulings, corruption in government (FBI, Obama administration, and mail-in voting v. absentee voting), and so many more.
Any of these conflicts and worries may help create great fiction, but in real life, they often create turmoil in our hearts and minds. This isn’t a fictional story because we are the story. This is our reality.
What should we do with all of this?
When life brings stress, lean on God.
Does this seem trite? Despite the lack of originality, doesn’t it make sense to seek the One who is the origin of all life? Would not the Creator of all who knows His creation best know how to help us cope with these things?
I fail at this too often. For any of the topics above, I could create at least 10 questions with the majority being scenarios that may never occur. These are easily identified because they often contain a version of “What if ____ happens?”
One day, while worrying about something, this verse popped into my mind.
Take therefore no thought for the morrow:
for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.
Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof (Matthew 6:34 KJV).
Has this truth changed since Jesus' time? No, the truth remains the same, but some things have changed.
Today we have the added ability to pull news and worries from across the globe today versus the time of Jesus when news traveled slowly across oceans and seas. Those concerns and worries often lessened with time before being heard back then. Today, our luxury of speed and news is a disadvantage. No wonder we feel stress!
Moving from the smorgasbord of despair to the table of life requires us to consider His Word in a way shared by Bert Harper, one of the hosts of Exploring the Word on American Family Radio.
Harper was driving through Yosemite and looking at the beautiful sites. He said his wife reminded him to spend less time looking at the sites above and below the road they were traveling with a phrase, “Gaze at the road and glance at the sites.”
It’s important to note, many classify stress into two types: distress and eustress. Distress matches up with the many worries and trouble listed earlier and is defined as severe worry, anxiety, or pain. Eustress matches up with positive experiences in life and is defined as moderate or normal psychological stress which is experienced as beneficial. Eustress may lead to the euphoria whereas distress may lead to despair.
Harper’s advice to gaze means to study deeply, to ponder, and to dwell upon the road. The primary road Christians travel is prioritized by seeking God first, by loving God first and then neighbor as self. This is where our eyes and minds should be most of the time. The “glance at the sites” – whether they are stress or eustress moments – simply remind us to be diligent in our awareness while remembering our God first.
Harper tied "Gaze at the road and glance at the sites" with the verse below to remind us of how to look at life:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (Philippians 4:8 ESV).
Doing these things will definitely help us get the right perspective and the ability to cast our cares upon Jesus.
But how do they help us use our stress to advance God's Kingdom?
Advancing God's Kingdom
I always suggest praying for wisdom per James 1:5. What initially started as just a prayer has changed with time and experience into a prayer God has always answered for me. However, I don't always like the answer! “Lord, give me the wisdom to know what to do, the courage to do it, and the ability to do it in the most loving way possible which brings glory to You. Amen.”
This same prayer can be used to lift up others in their work for God's Kingdom too with just a small change.
God has given us each a field of work over which we should be concerned and diligent at doing. Our fields of work may overlap, be adjacent, or not even touching. Yet we can lift up our fellow workers in Christ! "Lord, there are those dealing with these issues of ____________ in today’s world. I know they are praying and seeking Your will and Your help. Please provide them the wisdom to know what to do, the courage to do it, and the willingness to do it in a way that glorifies You. Amen.”
This is my version of casting my anxieties upon Jesus (1 Peter 5:7) who is able to answer above and beyond what we are able to ask (Ephesians 3:20; Philippians 4:19).
My heart, mind, and soul know that doing these things will allow us to dine at the table of life, even in the presence of our enemies (Psalm 23), so we can taste of God’s mercy and see that He is good (Psalm 34:8).
With God’s help, you can rewrite your story to match the reality of His power and love for you. If you haven’t secured your eternity or have questions about it, please visit www.peacewithGod.net.Ep[h