Tag Archives: stress

God and Time Management

My times are in your hands;
deliver me from the hands of my enemies,
from those who pursue me.
Psalm 31:15, NIV*

The most important thing I learned in university had nothing to do with my field of study. I learned, through experience, that when the deadlines loomed and there was more to do than time to do it, I could ask God to help.

Our God is outside of time. He made time. We live in it, and He gives us enough to do what He has for us to do. I remember one specific time in university, praying that somehow He would stretch time to allow us to finish a hefty assignment.

We didn’t get a flashy miracle like the Old Testament king who saw the sun’s shadow move backward, but we got the peace and the enabling to do the work. And somehow, we had the time as well.

I told this story to one of my sons on the weekend, hoping to encourage his own stress load. Then I stopped and looked at him. “I learned this. But I haven’t been applying it.”

My husband, on my other side, was valiantly not saying a word. But I saw agreement in his eyes. He knows how heavy my to-do list has grown, and how I’ve been stressing about how to meet my responsibilities.

Knowledge not applied isn’t much use. Remember to pray. (Click to tweet)

God our Maker and our Sustainer, You never asked us to do life on our own. You ask us to let Your Holy Spirit indwell and empower us. Of course when we look at our responsibilities, they seem too much for us. You’ve designed us to rely on You. Forgive us for those many times when we’ve tried to carry the load in our own strength. Thank You for the opportunities in our lives. Please give us wisdom in our choices and faith to rely on You. What You give us to do, You will equip us to do. Help us not add in other things to weigh us down, and help us stay close to You.  

Chris Tomlin’s song, “How Great is Our God” includes a reference to this week’s verse, and it’s a good anchoring one for us to sing.

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


Fear as Opportunity

Stress and pressure are like strong winds. They knock us off our feet and send us tumbling, flailing for support.

As long as we keep God at our backs, we can stand.

I often use the prayer picture of a piece of paper, wind-plastered against a cliff, pressed so tightly against the rock face that you can see every groove and jut in the rock.

Isn’t that our prayer as Christians? “Lord, shape me to be like You.”

Life’s struggles are often His best tools.

So why hadn’t I recognized that fear is only another tool? Carolyn Watts writes that “fear can be an assetif we learn how to let it lead us closer to Jesus.” (see How to Turn Fear into an Asset)

Or as a good friend said to me the other day, “Fear is a driver—it can drive you to God, or deeper into fear. Pray to choose wisely.”

This puts fear in the same category as trials, temptations, stresses and even gifts: something God can use in our lives to develop perseverance and endurance. Instead of freezing up or shrinking inward, we can invite Jesus into our fear, ask Him to use it to draw us closer to Him—to let it press us into His likeness.

We can praise Him and rejoice over what He’s going to do, even though we can’t yet see what that will be.

Thanking God in our fear, instead of letting it close us off from Him… this is delightfully subversive and not at all what the enemy of our souls has in mind, I’m sure. But it matches Scripture: “For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow,” (James 1:3, NLT) and “Be thankful in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18a, NLT).

It comes down to this: who/what do we believe is stronger, God or fear? The loyalty to God that I’ve been reading about in the Book of James gives me my answer.

Not that I’m going to welcome fear, to throw open the door and invite it in, but this breaks its power. This lets me press into God, lets me know I’m in good hands and it’ll be okay. No matter what.

[If fear is one of your struggles, I highly recommend following the posts at Hearing the Heartbeat, beginning with How Do You Hear God’s Don’t Be Afraid?]

For the Little Troubles Too

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.
James 1:2-3, NLT*

Yes, these are the same verses two weeks in a row. What makes them such treasures to me is they’re not just for the huge troubles that life occasionally sends our way. They’re for the little trials and stresses too, even the things we might think are too minor to bother God about.

One night last week, I was late making supper and my husband had to leave promptly afterward. My family can tell you this is not a new state of affairs. It always stresses me, which tightens my muscles, inhibits my thought processes, and generally slows me down. And it makes me cranky.

But I’d been reading the first part of James 1 for almost two weeks by that point, and it was sinking in a bit. In the middle of “where did the time go, why am I always behind and I wish I could learn to do better,” I caught myself wishing I didn’t have to deal with this so often.

Wishing the trouble would go away.

Forgetting to see it as an opportunity to grow.

That stopped me and shifted my focus. Instead of fretting, I chose to say “God, thank You for this chance to learn to rely on Your strength and not my own. Thank You that this is an opportunity to practice living by faith.”

I kept praying. And working.

Calm replaced the frenzy, supper preparations went better, and my sweet husband even had time to eat his meal without rushing. And I think the whole family appreciated not eating with a frazzled cook.

God who saves us, who loves us too much to leave us in the sorry states you found us, thank You for how You patiently grow us. As much as we sometimes wish You’d just zap us and make us perfect, strong and whole, we know Your way of training and building us up is better. It grounds us in You, and it will last. Thank You for loving us.

A song I love that helps keep me focused: Geoff Moore‘s “I Believe“.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Joy Under Pressure

As pressure and stress bear down on me,
I find joy in your commands.
Psalm 119:143, NLT*

If that’s not a Christmas-related verse, I don’t know what is.

All jokes aside, you can’t read Psalm 119 and not see how the psalmist loves the Law of the Lord, how he thrives on it. I’ve been praying to better understand and follow his example.

At first this verse didn’t make sense to me. Pressure and stress bearing down… and he finds joy in God’s commands?

Pressure: God is the ultimate authority. This verse reminds me to trust Him to care for me and to ask for equipping wisdom or deliverance.

Perspective: It’s not me against the universe. God is bigger than the problem.

Focus: Centering on God’s way builds an attitude of God-trust instead of futile human striving or fighting the circumstances.

Wisdom: God’s code of conduct helps us know what to do, how to act in difficult situations.

Joy: There’s no joy looking at stress, but there’s deep joy in belonging to God. Keeping His Law, precepts and principles as the Spirit enables us keeps the barriers down between us.

Life: The next verse says

Your laws are always right;
help me to understand them so I may live.
Psalm 119:144, NLT*

Doing it God’s way brings joy and life in the midst of stress. What’s not to like?

God all-wise and loving, we can’t do this on our own, and that’s one reason You gave the Law in the first place, to help us see our need. Help us learn and understand, and through Your Holy Spirit keep us focused and following. Thank You for the joy and life You give.

The NewsboysWhen the Tears Fall is a song of trusting God through hard times. That’s not happiness, but it’s joy.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.


6 Links on Living Slower, Plus a Song

Rainbow: be still and trust GodAt The Write Conversation, Edie Melson encourages us to Be  Still and to realize that there is Time Enough.

At Michael Hyatt’s Intentional Leadership blog, he explores The Practice of Stillness.

At The Kill Zone, Jordan Dane shares Ten Simple Relaxation Techniques and Stress Relievers for Writers.

At This Day With God, Mark Shields offers simple advice on Using Time Wisely.

At Hearing the Heartbeat, Carolyn Watts invites us to live gently, not urgently.

Bonus song: Here’s a surprisingly peppy call to Be Still, from Canadian singer-songwriter Carolyn Arends. It’s so catchy, it’ll get in your head and remind you all day to slow down. 

Relying on the Truth

I know the Lord is always with me.
I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.
Psalm 16:8, NLT*

Sometimes we just need to declare the truth and choose to believe it, whether it feels true or not.

God is patiently retraining my responses to stressful or fear-inducing situations, and my part is to remember—and rely on—the truth.

Travelling to and from Write! Canada the other week let me practice. My route to the conference involved two planes, a commuter train and a bus. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

I actually suspect God allowed me to miss my train stop as part of the lesson. Not that He caused me to forget, but it was just after that stop a thought popped up: check where you’re supposed to get off.

It really was good practice to get off at the next stop muttering “I have a good Shepherd” and using the truth to subdue the muscles that wanted to clench. I repeated it in my mind when I had to ask a transit information worker for help.

My Shepherd had a friendly person on the desk, who didn’t yell at me or make me feel stupid. Instead, she told me what bus to take from there. No backtracking, no paying a second fare.

This retraining will be ongoing for some time, but after all, it took years for the problem to get this deeply entrenched. And it’s getting easier as long as I stay on guard.

God who rules the universe and yet who knows our smallest need, thank You for Your care. You love us, You save us, and You don’t leave us in the messes where You find us. Thank You for the truth in Your Word. Help us use all the armour of Christ and to cooperate with You in working out our salvation. Thank You that who the Son sets free is free indeed.

As an echo to today’s verse, here is Vineyard Music’s “I Will Not Be Shaken.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Self-pity or God-praise?

Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.
2 Corinthians 11:23, NIV*

The Corinthian believers have been listening to trendier leaders than Paul, and while those leaders may have a better delivery they aren’t delivering the truth. In this passage, Paul is reminding these Christians of his “credentials.”

His litany of sufferings prove he’s serving Christ—to the point of enduring persecution. But he’s not talking like a victim, nor a beaten-down fighter.

Instead of “poor me” he’s boasting about this. Not that he’s proud of the suffering as such. He’s saying “See how much Jesus trusts me—He knows I’ll keep focused on Him, and others will hear.” And “See how good He is to sustain me and to advance His kingdom even when its enemies throw everything they’ve got.”

That’s what happened in the jail in Philippi when Paul and Silas were singing praises to God. They showed how to “rejoice in the Lord always.”

Praise and thanksgiving really do work when we want to keep our spirits set on God.

Father, Sustainer of our spirits, most of us haven’t faced the abuse Paul did, and a lot of what we’ve endured hasn’t been because of persecution. But we still need to keep our eyes on You and our hearts tuned in praise and worship. You are God. Help us anchor in You. Strengthen us so others will see Your goodness and love even when we’re in hard times.

Casting Crowns’ “Praise You in this Storm” is a good song to keep us focused.

*THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Knowing Where God Is

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
Psalm 46:1-3, NIV*

This is one of those classic comfort passages. I heard it read at a recent meeting, and it started my mornings for the next few days.

Part-way through the first day, an idea came to mind that really helped my outlook, and seeing these verses in print the next day showed me where it came from.

Yes, there is stress here. But God is here too.

God is “ever-present.”

I knew that. I really did.

“Therefore we will not fear…” Whatever may happen in the future.

I knew that too, although it’s a challenge, and I’m pretty good at reminding myself “Jesus will be there.”

But what about the present? Our family is in a moderately stressful season. I tend to over-focus and make it worse than it is (hence all these stress/gratitude posts… they’re what God is saying to me because they’re what I need to hear).

I’ve been hanging onto God, trusting Him to provide a solution. That’s good. But time is passing and I’m still stressed. I want to rest in Him, be at peace and anxiety-free in the waiting.

Intentional, relentless thanksgiving helps. So does praising God for who He is.

Still there are a lot of “moments.” Perhaps accepting that fact is a step on the journey.

I think I’ve been seeing my stress level as a sort of pass/fail in how well I’m trusting God. On one level, it is: am I serene in Christ, or panicking?

But real life is stressful. Noticing that fact isn’t failure. Remembering that God is in it with us is success.

Faithful God who promised to never leave us, God of mercy, love and justice who is mighty to save, teach us to rest in Your character and rely on Your presence. No matter what this moment holds. Or the next. Yes, there is stress. But You are here. Right now. With us. In that will we rest.

Jeremy Camp’s song, “Right Here,” reminds me that’s where God is.

*THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

The Goal: No Fussing

Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself,
like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk.
Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, put your hope in the LORD—
now and always.
Psalm 131:2-3, NLT*

Some days I fight the good fight, and some days anxiety sneaks in there as fast as I can push it out. Self-pity swirls into a whirlpool, and the best I can do by holding onto God is to keep from going down the funnel.

I tell myself the truth about God, but then I look back at the feelings. Can’t seem to help it.

These verses are where I want to be, to rest.

A weaned child… able to sit on a parent’s lap, or to play nearby, not fussing or seeing Mommy as only a source of “what I want.”

Some parents can’t provide, even healthy mother’s milk if malnutrition is severe enough. Some parents won’t provide. Won’t love.

What do I know of God? He can meet my needs, when and how His wisdom knows is best. And He always loves me.

Abba God, Papa, whisper quiet to my soul so I can rest as if in Your arms, secure in Your love and provision without the incessant clamour of anxiety. I can’t deny the realities and possibilities that tempt me to fret, but I can believe in You. Help me trust You more.    

Here’s Phil Wickham’s soul-encouraging song, “Safe”.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Not Anxious

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Philippians 4:6, NIV*

Sunday morning I watched the blowing snow and thought about the 6-hour bus ride Wise Guy Son had booked for that afternoon to go back to university. The route includes a section of highway noted for its whiteout conditions.

I knew I could spend the whole day fretting about his safety, and the only thing I’d gain would be muscle tension. Been there, done that.

It took several times of consciously stopping to commit the situation back into God’s hands (and to remember that the bus driver is a trained professional who presumably dislikes death and lawsuits) but I was able to join in morning worship instead of worrying, and to relax in the afternoon instead of checking road conditions online.

The bus reached its destination safely and almost on schedule, and I’m praising God for the answer to prayer but also for the progress He’s making in my heart.

Usually my prayer is something like, “See the problem, God? Please help.”

I thank Him for His power and love, and for being with us. I thank Him for the plans He’s already made, that whatever the situation is has not caught Him by surprise. But I keep aware of the problem.

Now I see a bit more to the “with thanksgiving” part of today’s verse. I need to thank Him with expectation that He will act. Not to decide how He’ll act, because that’s His call. But after committing the need to Him, I need to stop looking at it and trust Him.

He reinforced the lesson by not bringing this devotional together until Tuesday mid-afternoon. I schedule them to post early Wednesday mornings, and this particular week has no time Tuesday evening to write.

He’s been giving me a Wednesday devotional thought every week since He nudged me to start blogging in March of 2008. It’s not usually this close to the line, though.

My prayer wasn’t “Lord, do You have something to say?” so much as “Lord, help me not to miss what You say.” Still, there was a definite choice to make. Would I go through the day reminding Him of my need, or would I look expectantly for His reply?

To me, there’s a difference. The first way still has the tension, the uncertainty. The second has a confidence that God will do what He planned, even if I don’t see it yet.

Father God, Your plans for us are good, and You love us. We don’t always like what happens to us, nor do You. But You are our Creator and Sustainer, and Your patient grace teaches us to trust You. Give us the confidence to pray with thanksgiving and with expectation that You have heard… and that You will act. Thank You for your grace.

Here’s another song from the newsboys that expresses our confidence: “Strong Tower” from their Devotion CD.

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.