The other evening/morning, I was wide awake until about 3:30am. Tossing and turning with my mind in full chaos. I was mulling over who I’d become lately and the past 2 years of my family’s and my life – pretty much every event, circumstance, change, memory, “trauma”, stressful situation, etc. that I could recall. Mostly the major pinnacle moments or series of events. I realized just how many hits we’ve had in just this 2 year history (not to mention the years prior) as I began to trace back the linear events that lead up to this particular evening of un-rest. I felt like I was going insane, my brain was about to explode trying to process it all. I didn’t intend for my mind to continue down this path or to loiter within all of this history – it was just out of control and something I could not seem to help thinking about. Finally, despite all this noise – somehow – I drifted to sleep.
The next day, my mind was somewhat distracted from it’s unrest by the day’s activities – which was very nice. Yet there was still the creeping confusion and chaos raging deep within my head and heart despite my smiles, laughter and enjoyment of the morning and afternoon.
May God bless the dear but unsuspecting friend who called me in the early evening that day! I unintentionally held him captive for over 20 minutes as I confusingly attempted to express an answer to his “what in the world do you have to be stressed out about?!” question (a question brought up because I was trying to just generally explain and apologize for the way I’d been acting lately – ‘I’m just so stressed out’). If I’d of known I was going to have a meltdown right there on the phone, I would have warned him! It just started coming out in odd spurts and I couldn’t properly express it all. I attempted to explain only one of the major events that was on my head and heart the previous night and had been buried by distraction throughout the day. I was verbally venting and hadn’t “vented” to anyone outside of my family in years. I felt like an idiot and really awkward after I hung up the phone. It took me another couple of hours just to process through what had just happened in that 20 minutes. Thank God and bless my sister for being there to help me process this as well! What two beautiful people to thank God for!
Toward the end of the phone captivity, my friend simply stated “You’re not going crazy!… You need to relax!” People have told me this for years… family especially, including myself… but I just can’t seem to grasp it – it’s a phenomenon for me… this “relaxation” or “chill out” way. I desperately want to relax and just chill, but I justify it as part of my “personality” since I was basically born “uptight”. Yet, there is something SO majorly wrong with this picture. I DO need to relax, and not listen to the psychology explanation that I ‘have a “type ___” personality so I’m JUST this way’. That’s wrong. And I need to relax for more reasons than the obvious ‘you’re going to drive yourself nuts and everyone around you too!’ or the health/physical consequence reasons, etc. I realize more and more lately that I just can’t relax based on those reasons, or I just can’t change based on my physical or mental health… sound rediculous that I can’t just chill, doesn’t it? But for some reason, something does not click inside my heart and head to calm down and stop being “stressed out”. I can know these things all day long and I can know that I need to chill… but I just can’t will myself to relax based on this knowledge. Something in me needs a different motivation to change that can’t be told to me or put into practice by my sheer will.
I was trying to remember the past couple of days something that I had read last year. I remembered the impact it had on me then, but I couldn’t remember the contents of it. I read it in a book another dear friend had given me as a gift. I don’t normally read – if I read a book it has to either propel me closer to Christ or have a real purpose behind it like learning a new skill or something… I just can’t focus on it otherwise. The book that was given to me was the former, and it was a good one (I may just need to read it again too)! I had never heard of it till she handed it to me, it’s called Crazy Love by Francis Chan. The section in particular I was trying to remember was on stress. I found the section and read it today, it’s on pages 41-42 and here’s what was written:
I used to believe that in this world there are two kinds of people: natural worriers and naturally joyful people. I couldn’t really help it that I was the worrying kind. I’m a problem solver, so I have to focus on things that need fixing. God can see that my intensity and anxiety are ministry related. I worry because I take His work seriously.
But then there’s that perplexing command: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4). You’ll notice that it doesn’t end with “… unless you’re doing something extremely important.” No, it’s a command for all of us, and it follows with the charge, “Do not be anxious about anything” (v. 6).
When I am consumed by my problems—stressed out about my life, my family, and my job—I actually convey the belief that I think the circumstances are more important than God’s command to always rejoice. In other words, that I have a ‘right’ to disobey God because of the magnitude of my responsibilities.
Worry implies that we don’t quite trust that God is big enough, powerful enough, or loving enough to take care of what’s happening in our lives.
Stress says that the things we are involved in are important enough to merit our impatience, our lack of grace toward others, or our tight grip of control.
Basically, these two behaviors communicate that it’s okay to sin and not trust God because the stuff in my life is somehow exceptional. Both worry and stress reek of arrogance. They declare our tendency to forget that we’ve been forgiven, that our lives here are brief, that we are headed to a place where we won’t be lonely, afraid, or hurt ever again, and that in the context of God’s strength, our problems are small, indeed.
Why are we so quick to forget God? Who do we think we are?
I find myself relearning this lesson often. Even though I glimpse God’s holiness, I am still dumb enough to forget that life is all about God and not about me at all.
This was one of the hardest things for me to read in that book because it was so convicting. It’s convicting even now as I read it again. It goes along with the “Acknowledge the Giver” blog I wrote last week as well. How can I be thankful and praise God but also be stressed out about life? Are not the gifts/blessings God has given me still from Him? Even the very circumstances I am in? I either trust God or I don’t… there is no middle ground here. In these “stressed out” moments, I am NOT trusting God with my life. I am not letting go of my control and surrendering to His lead. I am not rejoicing or thanking Him for all that He is and does! My point in this life is to point to Him, no matter what. To bring Him glory, in whatever circumstance… so when I whine that I’m “stressed out” or when I constantly worry – how does this glorify Him? Especially if I’m whining to somebody else in the process… can they see then that I’m glorifying God and then be propelled closer to Christ? No, they may only be able to see my ungratefulness and the ugly untrust I then have for the Man I claim to follow. This breaks my heart… why do I assume I have the “right” to be “stressed out”? So gross…
“What in the world do you have to be stressed out about?” – that question now haunts me daily. I’m sure my friend has no clue that it does either (unless he reads this). He meant nothing by it except to ask, he was likely just asking in jest as well. It hit me hard though, and I ask myself this now throughout the day. I pray that it sticks so deep in my heart that I never forget it. It’s an intense reminder of how poorly I handle life on my own. It pushes me to dwell on God’s goodness and faithfulness, which makes my circumstances so trivial in comparison to His Awesomeness. It is completely unfair for me to be “stressed out”… do I even know it’s true definition? Have I ever truly experienced real stress, real pressure, real heartache and pain? Do I really understand what “stressed out” is? I can now truly answer – no, I don’t.
It’s dishonoring of God for me to be “stressed out” and it also dishonors the people who know true stress. The people who are on the front lines of a battlefield risking their lives to fight for freedom; people who are persecuted, abused, imprisoned for their faith in Jesus Christ; people who’s homelands are in disarray and at war who may have their homes invaded and plundered any given week; a family who’s child has been kidnapped; the people who are not guaranteed their next meal; or people who are diseased without hope for a cure… the list can go on and on. No, see, I don’t know stress. I don’t know “stressed out”. It is unfair for me to utter those words now. It’s a socially acceptable term nowadays, and I’ve used it foolishly and sinfully by focusing on my menial circumstances rather than on the Lord.
After my sad rant that day to my friend and this new understanding, I’m ashamed. Yet on the other end, I’m beyond happy that God could turn my petty frustrations into something to open my eyes and heart. Only He can make something so stupid on my end into something beautiful for His glory. I couldn’t have learned this without my friend, my sister, my 20 minutes of shame, and God orchestrating those moments to bring me to this point. I can only just turn around and glorify Him!
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. – 1 Peter 5:7
So now… what in the world do you have to be stressed out about?