Dealing With Stress: It’s Not As Hard As You Think

Dealing With Stress

 

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.

 

Distraction.

 

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.”

 

 

Psalm 34:17-18

“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.”

 

Philippians 4:6-7

“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.

 

Psalm 30:5

“Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.”

 

Psalm 119:105

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

 

Psalm 119:114

“You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word.”

 

Psalm 91:1-2

“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?

 

Prioritize.

 

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.

 

And lastly…

 

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.

 

*aj

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It’s Okay To Rest.

It's Okay To Rest.

 

It’s okay to rest.

 

I know, I know. This message that I’m about to share is probably not what most people are going to tell you.

 

We hear Christians everywhere, saying “Do this project!” and “Accomplish this task!” and “Work hard to serve God!”

 

But if we never realize that it’s actually a good thing to rest in Jesus for a while, we’ll easily burn out.

 

We hear messages like Do Hard Things, and get inspired to “work hard for God.” There is a time and place for that, of course. I’m not going to minimize the message of Do Hard Things or any others like it.

 

However, so many times, we try to do something big. Really big. Really significant. But in our own strength. And we burn out and become discouraged.

 

Doing hard things is a great concept, but it can easily become just like the story of Mary and Martha.  Are we so focused on doing things for God that we neglect to get to know Him?

 

Matthew 18:28-30

“Come to me, all 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.”

 

Rest is a good thing. In resting, we get to cast our cares at the feet of Jesus.

 

1 Peter 5:7

“Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

 

Psalm 55:22

“Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”

 

We can’t depend on our own strength to accomplish big things. For one, we can’t do it alone. And when we try, we become discouraged because we burn out.

 

Rest is important.

 

By growing our relationship with Jesus, we get to know Him. We get to set our anxieties of all kinds aside and rejoice in His strength over our own. We grow in our knowledge of Him, and also our personal knowledge of Him. He isn’t just the Lord, but He is a Friend Who Sticks Closer Than a Brother (Proverbs 18:24).

 

When we rest in Him, and not fret over big projects because we feel obligated to do them, we choose the greater thing.

 

I cited Mary and Martha earlier, and here is Jesus’ response to Martha preparing a huge dinner while Mary listens to Jesus:

 

But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:41-42

 

Work is good, of course! But if we work so hard that we lose sight of the One we should be doing it for, it becomes meaningless and can render us useless.

 

Whether you’re 13 or 93, know that it really is okay to rest.

 

Don’t get bogged down by obligation to serve God. Instead, rest and grow in Christ and let that fuel you to do what He leads you to do.

 

Because honestly, that is what will allow us to be effective.

 

*aj

Guest Post – What Can I Do? – By Rachel Joy

What Can I Do

Happy Tuesday, my friends. Today we have a SURPRISE! My wonderful friend, Rachel Joy, is here to be my guest blogger for the day. She writes every Monday and Friday over at her blog, Noteworthy. It’s an honor to have her here with us today, and I hope you take the time to check out her blog! Enjoy. 🙂

I’m done!” I internally screamed, my heart beating with vehemence.

As some teenagers do, I then proceeded to turn my music up probably a little bit too loudly. What can I do?

Nothing.

So why not just sit here and listen to music probably a little bit too loudly?

Did you know that there are people who are literally dying on the streets of hunger, illness, and are being abused within an inch of their lives and then expected to put a full day of work in? Did you know there are children younger then my kid brothers who are being sold into slavery?

Which is frustrating, because really what can I do?

I would love to just fix the whole thing. But it’s not that easy.

There are kids my age who are making choices every day– both for good and for evil.

I would love to talk to all the kids who are making stupid choices and just tell them about about Jesus and the amazing life that he gives, but let’s be honest, would they listen to me? Probably not.

Which creates more frustrating problems. Because really, what can I do?

How can I fix this?

It’s a messy world. The chaos that is going on everywhere isn’t getting any less messy.

I wish I could just press this magic button. A sort of “Clear all” or “Escape” key and then everything could just be perfect.

I mean here I am, just sitting here being, like, a normal teenager in the midst of all this insanity.

What?

Here I am just watching the world fall apart and doing nothing but listening to really loud music and banging away on the poor abused keys of my laptop.

It’s so hard to realize that there is nothing I can do. There is no magic button, magic speech, no blog post I could write that could change the world.

The truth of the matter is I can only be in instrument of that God uses to fix it. I can only point and lead people to Jesus.

Which… is actually really hard. It means that you have to trust in him unconditionally. It means you have to surrender to whatever he asks you to do and that you have to fix your eyes on Him even though the road is narrow and the world is exploding everywhere.

It’s not easy. Not easy at all.

It’s not easy to keep being hopeful even when everything is crashing in. It’s not easy to believe that God is forever sovereign. It’s not easy to trust in His unfailing love and that He has a plan that is for our good.

I know that bad things happen. I also know that the world is messed up because of this ugly thing called sin. But we have hope. Jesus told us we would have trouble – in fact that’s why He died for us. He died to overcome the insanity of this world. He died to break the power of sin and death.

He died to give us peace and grace and His Holy Rest.

So that we can stand strong and lead people to Him and His rest.

Sure, it’s gonna be hard. It’s hard to think about the people who are younger then my brothers who are trapped in the chains of slavery.

It’s hard to think about my peers who are in the process of ruining the rest of their lives.

It’s hard to think about the people all across America – and the rest of the world – who don’t know about the redeeming love of Christ.

How can I fix this?

Point them to Jesus.

And know that He is sovereign- even when I can’t see it.

“It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights. He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You give me your shield of victory, and your right hand sustains me; you stoop down to make me great. You broaden the path beneath me, so that my ankles do not turn.”  ~Psalm 18:32-36

~Rachel Joy