Good morning, friends.
I’ve been wanting to write this blog post for a few weeks now. As a side note, tomorrow (February 17th) is my blogiversary! I’ve been writing here for 364 days so far, and what a journey it’s been.
I’m going to try to have a nice post up celebrating that tomorrow, with a survey and such…but we’ll see how it goes.
This year, blogging has made my life busier. I’m more consumed with writing, responding to comments, practicing with graphic design, meeting new people and staying in touch with them…all that crazy fun stuff.
And this is on top of schoolwork (which can drive me up the wall with discouragement at times), editing (which can hassle me with my perfectionism and procrastination), working, practicing music, and trying to take time for me.
Needless to say, my life can get stressful, and mostly for the pressure I put on myself. And my stress can lead to depression and discouragement. The more stressed I get, the less I want to work hard, and the less hard I work, the more stressed I get because nothing’s getting done.
Exasperating system, right?
I’m not going to keep boring you all with my woes, though. I just want to address a flaw that I’ve seen in my own life.
When I’m stressed, I do one of a few things.
I mope or hide.
I listen to music.
I find some book to lose myself in.
I watch YouTube videos (all good ones, mind you) or TV.
Basically, I turn my distractions up to drown out my life.
But when it comes to the end of the TV show, or the song, or the end of the book, and I’m woken back up to reality, I realize that nothing has changed. I haven’t improved my condition; I’ve enhanced it by drawing it out longer. And that is the worst feeling in the world.
When I use distractions – like adding more busyness to my already-hectic life – I’m essentially saying to God, You’re not enough for me. You can’t handle this, I can. My distractions can fix me, and You can’t.
Whoa, whoa, whoa. That’s not the right attitude.
And I know this is wrong. I totally know. I totally know I’m doing myself so much more harm than good. I know, I know, I know. But at some point in my life, that whole “Jesus is enough for me” thing seemed to be just talk, because I didn’t understand how to apply it.
We as Christians can waltz around, saying things like, “All you need is Jesus, and your life will be good.” Or “If you only pray, your situation will improve.” And “God will turn your life from messy to perfect.”
Cliché, right? And yet we say them. I mean, I suppose those first two statements could be stretched to be kind of right, but when we speak them literally, we completely deceive ourselves.
It’s 100% true that Jesus fills that hole in our hearts for meaning.
It’s 100% true that God has everything under control.
It’s 100% true that prayer works.
It’s 100% true that God takes us as we are, messy and sinful, and transforms our lives.
It’s 100% true that He never abandons us.
But He doesn’t give us easy lives.
Prayer isn’t like writing a wish list to Santa Claus or pressing a button on a vending machine.
He doesn’t (normally) speak to us in an audible voice.
He isn’t “magical” or like some genie.
But He does long for us to know Him.
He does speak to us in our hearts.
He does provide for our needs.
He does love us with an everlasting love.
And He can (and does!) heal our souls.
When we have problems, we shouldn’t hide from the God who knows what they’re like.
We shouldn’t try to handle things on our own, because quite frankly, we can’t.
Now, you know I can say all these things, and you can nod your little head, but just talking about something doesn’t help when it comes to practical life.
What should we do when we’re stressed out, depressed, discouraged, lonely, feeling hopeless, anxious, or downcast? What?
Pray. Cry out to God. Accept His strength.
This is our chance to say, “God, I cannot do this on my own, and I need your strength to sustain me.”
“When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”
“Do not be anxious about anything, 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 your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Listen to the truths in the Word of God (aka the Bible). Find refuge in Him, rather than yourself.
“Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.”
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
“You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word.”
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’”
Okay, prayer and Bible is great…but we know that already. What else can we practically do to take control of our feelings?
While this isn’t necessarily spiritual advice, it’s definitely helped me. For me, prioritizing means making a list (yes, a real list on paper with a pencil) of things I need to get done overall. And then, setting manageable daily goals to accomplish those goals.
If it’s still too overwhelming, I rethink my priorities.
Is there anything I can cut out or take a break from? Is there anything I can change my mind about and say, “I’m sorry, I just can’t do ___ right now?” Is there anything that I can put less time or effort into?
God doesn’t want us to be stressed. He wants us to rest in Him, and not freak out over our messy lives. It’s okay to say no. It’s okay to be imperfect. It’s okay to rest.
Build time in for rest.
Rest can take all types of different forms. This may be watching TV, pursuing a hobby, hanging out with friends, or taking time just to chill out and do nothing. This isn’t wrong. It’s good to take time to breathe, and good to take time to do what you love. There is no shame in that.
Take time to rest, take mental breaks, but of course, don’t use those things to disguise real pressure. Deal with the pressure, and additionally, take time to unwind and relax.
Live refreshed. Pressures come, absolutely. But when we can control some of our stress, we should. When we are stressed, we need to turn to God and find the peace that we need. Trust me, it’s there.
Never forget that God is always in control, and stress doesn’t have to be.