Tag Archives: stress

Responding To Distress


If you were to take a piece of pottery and a stick of butter into the oven, you’d get two different results. While the pottery would harden, the butter would melt. Even though it’s the same fire, things react differently to it. The same goes for us. Each one of us go through the fires of tribulations and troubles here on earth. Not one of us are exempt from it, but we each respond differently. Even though we have the same physical properties, those fires produce different results in us.

For me, those fires nearly wiped me off the earth. They destroyed everything in my life and left me with nothing. My response was to shut down and check out. I thought, “If I don’t have anything left to live for, why should I live?” Other people who have been through similar fires used it as fuel to get stronger, tougher, and better. They didn’t let it get the best of them. I don’t know that there’s a right or wrong way when it comes to how you respond to distress in your life except when it comes to your spiritual life.

Fires, tribulation and distress should push us closer to God, not away. Those are really the only two options spiritually. You can run to God and become totally dependent on Him or you can turn your back on Him wondering why He let this happen to you. II Corinthians 7:10 says, “Distress that drives us to God does that (produces all gain, not loss). It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets” (MSG).

In my life, the distress pushed me toward God in the end. It wasn’t until I had nothing left that I told God, “I give up. I can’t do this without you.” That moment sparked a change. Life didn’t get better immediately and not everything was restored right then. It took years, but God has been faithful to me and I don’t regret the pain I went through because it caused me to run back to God. I started off like that butter in the fire, but ended up like the pottery. You can too. Whatever you’re going through, it’s not too late to let it push you to God instead of away.

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Umbrella Of Praise

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Have you ever just allowed your mind to worry? I’m sure you’ve been there where your every thought is consumed by all the possibilities. You replay the scenario in your mind over and over again until you can’t think of any good outcomes. Your heart rate goes up. Your stress increases. You get that feeling in the middle of your chest that something’s not right. Your sleep then gets affected and your exhausted because you’re mentally drained. It happens to the best of us, but it doesn’t have to. We don’t have to let worry consume our mind and lives. There’s a better way.

Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers…Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” Worry takes a lot of energy. It takes a lot of time and effort too. God would rather we spend that time, energy and effort in prayer. That’s what David did when he worried. He spent a lot of time in dark caves hiding from people who wanted to kill him. His mind would wander in the darkness and worry would creep in.

It was in the darkness of those caves in the stress of worry that he wrote so many Psalms. We like to think of him as the giant slayer, but he was also a worrier. Writing the Psalms helped him channel that worry into prayer and praise. When we worry, we take control of the situation that we have no control over. When we pray, we give God control of the situation that He already knows the outcome of. If we can learn to hand that off on prayer, we can displace a lot of worry in our life and use the energy for productive things.

The scripture also said to let petitions and praise shape our worries into prayers. I’ve found that when I’m most stressed, most worried and most consumed with a problem that I need to break away and spend time listening to Praise and Worship music. When I begin to praise God and worship Him, I invite His presence into my situation. I invoke all of Heaven’s authority to come stand by my side and fight on my behalf. I’m then surrounded by God’s peaceful presence because He dwells in the praises of His people. When that peace comes over me, I begin to see the battle is not mine, but His.

Worry doesn’t change my situation, prayer does because it moves the hand of God. Worry leaves me empty and broken, but God’s presence makes me whole. Worry sees every negative outcome in a situation, but praise sees everything working together for my good. The choice is ours. I personally like the outcome of prayer and praise than worry and fret. If you’re caught in that storm of negative thoughts, put up an umbrella of prayer and praise today and let the peace of God that passes all understanding come and rule in your heart and mind. Leave worry behind. Give it to the One who already knows what’s going to happen and is in control. It’s a wonderful feeling when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

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Back to the Basics

After watching my favorite team lose yet again, I remembered a famous speech by Vince Lombardi. Every year, at the beginning of the season, he would walk into the locker room, hold up a football as if they has never seen one and say, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” He would then go over the very basics of football and lead them out to the field. He would point out the boundaries and lines on the field explains each one. He’d take them down to the goal line and let them know that their job was to get the football across it. The men had grown up playing football, but his speech was very effective because it was all about getting to the basics.

How do you and I handle defeat? How do we handle loss in our lives? There’s a lot of options to choose from. We can blame God, blame others, have a melt down, pretend it didn’t happen, rise to the challenge or any number of other ways. I like Vince Lombardi’s idea of getting back to the basics. We can complicate things beyond where they are when we try to go beyond the basics. He can take a bad situation and make it worse. Our response to bad situations is crucial to our success in overcoming it.

When I think of the basics, the first thing I think of is prayer. We typically react to a situation and pray second. If we react wrongly to the situation, we blow things up and make them worse. If we stop and pray, we have the opportunity to react out of God’s wisdom instead our our emotion. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lack wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all.” Stop, pray and ask God for wisdom in how you should respond to the situation.

The next thing I think of is to go to God’s Word. It’s full of people who faced disappointment, failure and loss. You can see how they responded and the outcomes. I’ve been reading “The Divine Mentor” by Wayne Cordeiro, and in it he talks about being mentored by people in the Bible. He doesn’t just read the Bible to check off a box, he reads it to get to know the people in the Bible and to learn from them. He sees them as mentors who can help him in whatever situation he faces. It’s helped me to look at the Bible in a different way and in turn, I’ve been getting more out of it than before.

Another basic step I can think of is to breathe. It sounds simple I know, but stop and take a breath. When everything is happening at once, stress kicks in no we start reacting in order to contain the situation. We forget to breathe. It’s important we don’t react out of emotion. We need to take that breath, survey what just happened and choose the appropriate response. That breath puts a gap of time for God to give us the wisdom we prayed for and let’s Him help our mind to recall any mentoring that we’ve received from His Word.

I know these are very basic, but that’s what we need. You may have been a Christian your whole life and have heard these things a thousand times, but we all need to be reminded of the fundamentals from time to time. It’s the fundamentals that are the foundation of everything. It’s good to go back and to look at them every now and then so we are reminded of what we know, but forget in pressure situations. They’ll help you to make the right choice in how you respond when the time comes.

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Removing Your Training Wheels

I remember when I was five years old. My grandmother bought me a bike. I absolutely loved it. I rode it up and down the driveway, across the street and to the neighbor’s house. I can still hear the training wheels scuff the ground and make popping sounds as they crushed sand and went over rocks. There came a day though when my dad had to remove the training wheels. They started to become something that slowed me down rather than to speed up.

Dad held onto the back of my banana seat and ran with the bike as I pedaled. I felt just as safe with him there as I did with the training wheels. I realized that I was going faster than I ever had with training wheels on. You could see my smile clear across Texas as I pedaled. Then, I looked back to see if my dad was enjoying it as much as I did. When I saw him way behind me, not holding on anymore, I got scared, panicked and wrecked. We tried again and again until I realized I could do it.

I think God does that with us. When we are new in our faith, we have training wheels. We take it slowly, but we have movement and freedom like never before once we believe. But there comes a time when we have to exercise our faith. The training wheels have to come off and we have to trust God fully. It can be scary when you are being grown. We might even fall a couple of times. The disciple Peter did.

Jesus removed the training wheels from the disciples after thy had been with him for some time. He put them in a boat and told them to sail across the Sea. He would meet them on the other side. He let go of the boat and let them sail on their own. It should have been no big deal since many were fisherman. When a storm came, they began to panic because they were all alone.

Jesus came walking to them on the water and said, “Don’t be afraid. Take courage. I am here.” Just like a parent after their kid’s initial wreck on the bike, Jesus came to them to calm them down and to help them. After the encouragement, Peter decides he’s ready to try again. He steps out of the boat and begins to exercise his faith. I’m sure you could see his smile all across Galilee as he realized he was doing it. About that time, he panicked and started to sink. Jesus helped him up and they continued to walk on water.

Our faith never really grows until we exercise it. God allows opportunities in life to trust Him and to build our faith. Just because it feels like He has let go and is allowing you to pedal, doesn’t mean He isn’t watching you or is right there to help you if you crash. We all crash. We all fall. It’s what we do after that that matters. Are you willing to get back on the bike? Are you willing to step out of the boat even in a storm to trust God and to exercise your faith?

He’s watching you, cheering you on and calling out to you, “Don’t be afraid. Take courage. I am here.” He hasn’t left you or forsaken you and He never will. Like a good parent, He helps you grow and do more than you ever thought you could. There are times when He is running behind you, holding onto the banana seat of your life helping you along. Then there are times when He lets go and cheers you on. Wherever you are in life, know that He is with you and growing you because He knows what is best for you.

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Surviving the Wilderness

When I was a teenager, I was involved in a scouting program that my denomination has. One of the merits that we had to earn was the Survival badge. There were several things we had to do to get it. The last thing we had to do was to go on a survival camp out. My commander Jamie took a group of us about 45 minutes away, explained to us that we had been in an airplane crash, what the rules were and that he’d be back the next day when we gave the distress signal.

When he left, I became the oldest person in the group of teenagers. We were out in the wilderness alone. Later I would find out that Jamie wasn’t too far off. He wasn’t just going to leave a bunch of boys out in the wilderness by themselves! Thinking we were alone until morning, I got to work. I knew that we only had a certain amount of daylight left. I built a shelter, gathered wood, started a fire, pulled some string and stink bait from my survival kit, made a hook out of wood and set a line in a pond nearby.

Jamie did what God does when we are in the wilderness of life. He prepared us for what was coming. He gave us the tools we needed to be successful in a time of survival. He taught us how to trap food in the wild, clean it, cook it and how to build a shelter. God prepares us as well. When you are in the wilderness, survival is key. You need to eat spiritually. Get into God’s Word and hear His voice through scripture. Surround yourself with others who can help you survive. They will be your shelter.

The next thing Jamie did was to take us to the wilderness to test us and to show we learned what he had taught us. God allows us time in the wilderness to put into action what we have learned. In Matthew 4:1, the Bible says that Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted, tested and tried. God knows that when you put into practice the knowledge you have been given, it becomes skill. In those times, God proves to you that you can survive with Him.

While we were in the wilderness of East Texas, we felt alone out there. That’s true of us when we go through things in life. It can seem like God is no where near us and that we are left to survive without Him. That’s not the case though. Just like Jamie was for us, God is near by and is watching you, keeping you safe and making sure you are taken care of. It may not feel like it, but He is there. He sees you, He’s prepared you and now He’s watching over you.

The last thing Jamie said before he left was that when we had survived the night, we needed to send up a distress signal and he would come for us. God knows you can survive the night in the wilderness and is waiting for you to signal Him to come rescue you. In Psalm 91:14,15 the Lord says, “When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue them.” He made that promise to you.

If you are in the wilderness today and are trying to survive, know that God has given you what you need to survive. He has given you shelter (Psalm 91:1). He has given you the tools to survive (Psalm 119:105). He is right there with you. He will not leave you nor forsake (abandon) you (Hebrews 13:5). When you have survived the night with His help, He will come to you and minister to you. You are not alone. You can and will survive this.

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It’s Time to Reprioritize

This is a very busy time of year for most of us. School has just started back, labor day is approaching, the companies we work for are gearing up for fourth quarter and we are still trying to balance family, relationships and all of our extra curricular activities. Even with all the advancements in technology, life can still be complicated and difficult. Finding a moment of peace where we can just breathe seems impossible, but that’s what we need. We need to stop for a moment and take a breath.

While everything we’re involved in seems necessary, not everything is. I know we want to be involved in this or have our kids participate in that, but at what cost? You are driving around town, burning the candle at both ends, sacrificing too much just to feel stressed out. That is not the way to live. When did we start putting more emphasis on doing things than our own peace and health? We justify it by saying, “I’m doing it for the kids or if they can do all of that, so can I.” Quit comparing yourself to others. You aren’t them.

If this sounds like you, slow down. Determine what in your life is a priority. Cut out the things that aren’t priorities and focus on the things that are. You will find that your quality of life improves. When that happens, your relationships and everything else will get better. I heard someone say that you really can’t multitask. You can do a lot of things poorly or one thing really well. Focus on what you want to do well.

It’s also important to learn to use the word “no”. You can’t do everything you’re asked to. It’s ok to say no. Life will go on. Someone else will be able to do what you couldn’t. It doesn’t mean that what you say no to is not important or that you don’t care about it. It simply means that your plate is full and that if you take it on, something else will suffer. Jesus said that if we were faithful in the little things, He would make us faithful over many things. Learn to be faithful and good at managing what’s on your plate before accepting more. If you don’t, everything you do will suffer.

You also need to find time to relax. By the time you leave work, get the kids to their activities, get everyone fed, get home, washed up and to bed you realize you still have more to do and you haven’t even stopped yet. You can’t live like that for long periods of time without being stressed out and sacrificing the important things in life. It’s ok to slow down and to relax from time to time. You need it.

When we get too busy, we get stressed. When we get stressed, we begin to worry. God did not intend for you to endure long periods of stress or worry. When Jesus was visiting the home of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:40-42, Mary sat at His feet and listened to Him. Martha was busy making dinner, straightening the house and doing so many things. She even told Jesus to tell Mary to help her. Jesus looked at her and said, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her (NLT).”

If your life has gotten so out of control and busy that you have forgotten the one thing you should be concerned with, then it’s time to reprioritize. Your main focus in life is to follow Jesus. Everything else are just details that distract us from that one thing. Stop today and take an honest look at your life. Have you forgotten to sit at the feet of Jesus? Are you too busy or tired to give Him your time? Are you giving Him what’s left over? If so, it’s time to make a change. When you get your priorities in life, everything else falls in to place. Matthew 6:33 says, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need (NLT).”

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Finding Rest

Are you exhausted mentally, physically or spiritually? It’s easy to get that way. We have so much going on in our lives today that exhaustion becomes the norm for our lives. We have work, school, relationships, activities and families that require our attention 24/7. It seems we can never escape the stresses we allow ourselves to acquire.

When we finally break free from everything, our mind continues to try to solve problems, plan what’s coming next or think through our next steps. We never get a break and our bodies, minds, spirit and relationships suffer for it. That is a high price to pay for doing what we do.

God wants you to rest and recharge. He understands the pressures of this life. He set the example Himself for us by resting on the 7th day. There are some things found in scripture to help us find that rest that recharges us.

1. Hear His voice

If you are going to allow Him to lead you, you must first be able to hear His voice. Jesus often referred to himself as a shepherd and to us as sheep. He said that His sheep know His voice. That means that we need to be able to quiet all the voices and thoughts that are fighting for our attention and to listen for Him.

Psalm 95:7 says we are the flock under His care. If only we would listen to His voice. We have that ability to hear him, but we don’t make the availability. That is where we fail. Stop today to listen for his voice. He’s calling out to you to take you to a place of rest.

2. Obey His voice

Once we hear His voice, we must then obey it. It’s a two part process. We often hear God speaking to us, but we choose not to obey it because we either don’t like where He is telling us to go or we don’t think we have time to do what He is asking. We allow our minds to overrule what we heard from Him and that keeps us from the rest He promises.

Hebrews 4 talks about how the disobedience of the Israelites kept them from that rest after they left Egypt. They did not obey and did not find rest. God renews that promise of rest to us, but only if we obey His voice. That promise is contingent on us following through on our part.

3. Let Him lead you to it

In one the most quoted chapters of the Bible we find a scripture we pass over. Psalm 23:2 says that He lets me rest in peaceful meadows and He leads me beside peaceful streams. God wants to lead you to those places. He wants to be the one who takes you there. You cannot find fulfilled rest on your own.

We try to find that place through meditation, exercise or getting away. We often fail though at trying to find that rest, but it eludes us. You can get there if you allow Him to have that control to take you to those peaceful streams and quiet meadows. His desire is for you to find that rest.

If you find yourself in need of rest today, I encourage you to stop and listen to his voice. Once you have heard His voice, obey it and allow Him to lead you to that place of rest in your life. Without that rest, you will burn out and sacrifice things in your life that you hold dear. What will you do today to find that place of rest you desperately need?

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