March 22, 2016

Stress, Stress, Go Away!

It is a good Tuesday in sunny and warm Phoenix. Yes, it is Tuesday, and I am stressed. I shouldn't be stressed. I mean, after all, it is spring break, and I am off all week (praise the Lord!) Yet, I am stressed, so stressed in fact, that I woke up with a stomach and headache this morning. I know it is my nerves; it is my panic over grading my student essays. I shouldn't be stressed, really. I shouldn't be stressed at all. Yet, here I sit, feeling the knots in my stomach and sensing the worry as it rises up inside of me.

The Lord has me well-covered. I know this, I know this for certain. He has me in the palm of His hand, and He is good to me. He keeps me safe, protects me from harm, and shelters me along the way. His plan for my life is good too, and I can trust Him, rest in Him, and know that He will see me safely home. Yet, I allow my worries and fears to drive my anxiety. In doing so, I lose my peace quickly, and I suffer the consequences of the effects of stress. I hate this feeling, but still, I allow it to linger. It is my fault, my fault.

Today is a good day. It is a good day to be alive, and to be living in the land the Lord has given to me. I am reminded of how much good there is in my life, how the Lord has seen to provide for me, to keep me safe, to give me a good life. Thus, when I think about how He cares for me, I realize that there is no need at all to allow stress to rule over me. No, if my Father in Heaven cares for me, why do I allow the worries of the day to consume me, to rob me of my peace and my joy?

Choosing Peace

I woke up this morning feeling the pinch of panic. I needed to post my student grades to the grade book, and of course, that thought just sent icy shards of pain coursing through my veins. You see, ever since last week, I have been afraid of making errors with my student grades. I am being watched now, observed, and that thought panics me. I don't want to err. I don't want to be unfair. I don't want to make a mistake. It is awful to feel this way, and while I am not sure that was my mentor's intention originally, it appears to have been the outcome. Now, I have to wrap my head around what has happened, pick up my cross (so to speak), and move on. I cannot let what happened last week derail me from moving forward in my career as a teacher. I must move on; I must move on.

I believe that what happened to me, simply happened for a reason. I may not know the true reason, but nonetheless, I have to accept what happened as a fact, and I have to move forward. As I think about moving forward, I realize that these types of events, circumstances, and experiences are bound to occur, and while I don't care for their impact, I must accept them for what they are. Often, they are meant for good, even when they seem to be critical and not the most flattering. Sometimes, they are meant to hurt or wound, and when that happens, my response needs to be gracious. I must remember that I will be persecuted in this life, and persecution comes in all shapes and sizes. My enemy often uses people to do his bidding, even Christian people, at times. I know that seems weird, but often, Christians are open to allowing the enemy to use them to spread lies, gossip, and even wounding words. It is vital to remember that we don't always know what is going on in an individual's life. We don't always know what they are dealing with or struggling to overcome. I don't want to judge a brother or sister for their behavior. I want to be gracious, kind and good -- just like my Father is in heaven. Still, it is hard to deal with the pain of the attack, and to react appropriately when we are being targeted this way.

I am letting this go now. I have spent too many good, good days worrying about what may or may not happen. I am done with it. I am letting it go so that my peace can return to me. I am choosing the way of peace, and I am resting in the sufficiency of God to keep me in this blessed state of rest.

Obedience is the Ticket

I blogged yesterday about obedience, and how my former Pastor, gave a sermon on how obedience can empower self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). I have been thinking more about obedience, and I have been thinking about how I have not obeyed the Lord as much as I should have over the past couple weeks. The Lord has been gracious to me, leading me, helping me, and showing me where He intends for me to go. Yet, I have been trying to have my own way, to walk in my own counsel, and in doing so, I have rejected what the Lord has asked me to do. I have favored the parts that pleased me, but rejected the parts that were not to my liking. I wasn't fully aware I was even doing this until Sunday, when I listened to my Pastor teach on the ninth fruit of the Holy Spirit, self-control. It was an odd message especially since it was given on Palm Sunday, but there you have it! In fact, it was odd in that it indirectly spoke about self-control through the direct teaching of obedience. Man, I love it when people use indirect communication this way. There is power in indirect speech, and many difficult things (issues or concerns) can be communicated without appearing too strident or too ready to cause offense.

The more I think about obedience, the more I am reminded of Scripture and God's delight in the obedient servant. Some of my favorite verses include:

Deuteronomy 5:33 NIV - Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.

Joshua 1:8 NIV - Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

As I consider the word of the Lord, I am reminded of His many promises for acts of obedience. Obedience itself is a Christ-like characteristic. Jesus obeyed the Father, and as such, He encouraged His followers to do the same. Walking in obedience means that we love God, and we love His word. 2 John 2:16 NIV says,

And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love. 

Therefore, if we are living according to His commands, then we are living in obedience to the will of the Father. This was the crux of what my Pastor was teaching on Sunday. If we are truly servants of the Lord, then we will choose obedience to His word in order to demonstrate our love for Him and for others. It is really quite simple -- walk in obedience (keep His commands) as a testimony to our love for God.

I think, however, the problem occurs when we try to do the "walking" bit in our own strength. We either fail outright or we turn to legalism in order to restrain our thoughts and impulses. The word tells us that if we are living as a Spirit-filled believer, then we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. We will, in short, live our lives as God's Holy Spirit guides, and not according to our own motives, interests, wants, or needs. 

I am sure that walking in obedience is not something we can do in and of our own selves. No, the only way to obey God is to allow the Spirit of the living Christ to dwell within us. In doing so, we become people who obey the Spirit rather than people who obey the flesh (Gal. 5).

My struggle is not so much with my flesh (as in lusts), but with my mind (as in intellect). I know I cannot rule over my fleshly lusts without His help. But, often, I do battle with the Lord when it comes to reason and rational thinking. I tend to wrestle with Him on matters of fact. I question His authority, His integrity, and often, I test Him on whether what I hear or see, is in fact, from Him. I wonder, I analyze, I observe...I do all the things a good investigator would do. The problem is that I choose to investigate the authority of the Lord's word rather than to investigate the world around me. Why? Why do I do this? I am not really sure, other than I think part of it is my inquisitive mind. Part of me wants to know the truth, the whole truth, and then part of me doesn't want to believe the truth when I hear it. Sigh!

Making Peace with God

So today, I prayed to make peace with God on this one issue. I decided that I had enough of stress, and that I no longer wanted to play the enemy's game. Yes, I decided that it was time to agree with God, to agree with Him that His word is truth, His way is right, and that He does know what is best for my life. I've struggled enough this week. I've struggled to make sense of my experience. I've struggled to find answers, and yet, I am still questioning the Lord in an effort to get Him to give me the answer I want to hear. He will not. Of course, He will not. He is not going to agree with me. He is going to wait until I agree with Him. Oh Lord, how foolish I am, how foolish I have been!

He is God

Yes, He is God. He does know what is best for me. I relent this day. I turn myself around, my stubborn self around, and I choose to walk in obedience to His commands, to His advice and counsel. I choose this day to follow Him completely, 100%, with my whole being because I know that He is I AM, and as I AM, He does have my life (in it's entirety) figured out. Selah!

Dear Lord,

I relent of my stubborn position that asserts that I know what is best for me. I turn around, and I look to you for your advice, guidance, and counsel. I give you all authority over my life -- to do with -- whatever pleases you. I look up, and I wait for you to deliver your promises to me. You are God, and as such, you do know what is best for me. I thank you, Lord, for your grace, for your forgiveness, and for your patience as I stomped around in my pride, hoping somehow to convince you to change your mind, to alter your plan, to come to my way of seeing things. In true form, you waited for me to give up, to give in, and to agree with you. I am ready, Lord. I give up, I give in, and I agree with you. You do know what is best for my life. I ask now that you forgive my bull-headedness, my stubbornness, and my willfulness. Restore to me the blessings of peace, joy, and prosperity that you promised to me. I relent, Lord, and I give you way. May your Name be blessed today and forevermore. May my lips constantly praise you, worship you, and adore you. I ask this now in Jesus' Name. Amen. So be it. Thy will be done! Selah!

No comments: