How to Deal With Stress- Girlfriends in God- Dec. 31, 2012

December 31, 2012
How to Deal with Stress
Mary Southerland

Today’s Truth

Hebrews 13:5 Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be satisfied with what you have. God has said, "I will never leave you; I will never forget you” (NIV).

Friend to Friend

Here I am, writing about stress. It seems that I always have to re-live a topic before I write about it. (I think my next book will be "How to Become a Millionaire and Lose 20 Pounds in Six Short Weeks." Interestingly enough, I have had several offers to co-author.) Recently, stress has been camping out on my doorstep. Admittedly, it seems that a helicopter is always landing somewhere in my life, but these last several months have exceeded my wildest stress-filled expectations.

We learned that both of my husband’s parents have cancer. His mom and dad both had major surgery and his mom had chemotherapy. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and have been having trigger point injections for some lovely muscles spasms in my back. My husband was hospitalized with a massive sinus infection. One of our grandsons has developed a severe allergy to all dairy products, nuts and red dye – which is in 99.9% of everything in the entire world and has had several severe reactions. Gwen, Sharon and I had a manuscript due. I could go on, but you get the picture.

We cannot negotiate the existence of stress. We simply have to learn how to manage it, and one of the most important steps in managing stress is learning how to be still and rest. As parents, how many times have we issued the command to “be still”? Our children have been the recipients of that decree more often than I care to remember. The truth is, they take after their mother when it comes to being still – or should I say not being still. Furthermore, I have inadvertently conveyed the message that to be still is to be useless and unproductive, a truth that was brought home to me by our daughter, Danna. 

To say that I spend a great deal of time at my computer is like saying that the sun usually comes up each morning. In my defense, a great deal of my job and ministry responsibilities are done through our home office. Every writing assignment and bible study is done on my computer. Online Bible studies, newsletters, resource orders, prayer requests, responses to emails and website updates make up a great deal of the day-to-day management of Journey Ministry and are all orchestrated from my desk.

One of the things that I love most about Danna is her desire to share the minute details of her life with me.  When she hits the door, she always has a story to tell and heads straight to the sofa in my office to find her audience. I am usually there. However, last week, the walls of the office began to close in and I began to whine. "I am never writing another book!" I promised God and myself. "I am sick and tired of putting words together in sentences!" I moaned. "My back hurts from sitting at this ridiculous desk." Enough! I needed a break and headed to the back porch to soak in some sunshine and get some fresh air.

I heard Danna come in and knew exactly where she was going - to the study. Silence – followed by the sound of footsteps across the living room, through the kitchen, through my bedroom and into my bathroom. More silence. I wondered how long it would take her to find me. I then realized just how sad it was that the first two places my daughter thought to look for her mom were the study and the bathroom. As I pondered that pathetic realization, Danna burst through the door, a look of relief on her beautiful face. "Mom, are you OK?" she gasped. The look of concern on her face drove home a fresh realization. My life obviously preached the loud message that rest is sin and that if I am sitting still, something must be wrong. I tried to dress that realization up and make it look and sound better, but the ugly truth blatantly remained. Obviously, I am not an expert when it comes to the subject of rest. In fact, I have met few people who are. It’s time for us to surrender, sit at His feet and rest.

A friend recently told me the story of a young mother attending church with her five-year-old daughter. As the congregation stood to sing the chorus, “I exalt thee, oh Lord...” the mother glanced down at her daughter standing beside her to see her little arms up in the air as she sang, “I’m exhausted, oh Lord...” I can relate! I am terrible at this "rest" thing, forever walking the thin line between being productive and my life spiraling out of control. When I asked friends and prayer warriors to pray for me as I worked on a manuscript entitled “Escaping the Stress Trap”, they would invariably burst into laughter. I did not appreciate their attitudes! 

I have repeatedly tried to defy my God-given need for rest, thinking I am somehow "above" both the occurrence and consequences of exhaustion. Some urgent task will always call my name as will that person whose life will absolutely disintegrate before my eyes if I do not do something right now! Stress seems to shout, "Get busy! There is so much to do!" Stress applauds and dances with delight as I keep on "doing" instead of "being." 

Stress can make us sick and, according to medical experts, is deadly. Between 60-90% of all medical patients complain of stress-related symptoms. My doctor tells me that stress can be good or bad, but either way, stress takes its toll. The psalmist writes, "He lets me rest." Do not allow that gentle statement to fool you. The Revised Standard Version of the Bible says it this way, "He makes me lie down in green pastures.”  I can personally testify to the fact that the word "makes" holds a world of possibilities from God's hand in our lives and have come to the conclusion that, make no mistake, we will rest - one way or another. Through the years, God has gently grabbed my attention with an illness that drove me to bed or a crisis that drove me to my knees. He is a persistent, loving Father and is well aware of just how much we need to rest and how much rest we need.

Rest is part of a Godly character. Interesting truth, isn’t it? We sometimes equate rest with weakness when, in reality, rest is spiritual obedience. I pray that as you live out this week, you will do so from a life at rest in Him. 

Let’s Pray

Father, I am so tired of constantly running. Please show me how to stop and rest in You. Give me the strength to say “no” to those things that are not part of Your plan for me. Help me remember that You alone are my audience. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Now It’s Your Turn

Get honest and consider the following questions:

  • What has been my attitude concerning rest?
  • How has that attitude affected my work, my family and my own journey? 
  • What is the first step I need to take in the application of the principle that I need to rest? 

Set aside time each day to rest. Take “mini-vacations” by carving out time for solitude. Build some “stops” into your daily schedule during which you can focus on God and leave your cares and concerns with Him.  

More from the Girlfriends

One of the greatest ways to start the New Year is with a commitment to pray and study the Bible more in 2013. That’s why I began my weekly online Bible Study. I want you to be able to get in God’s Word, understand it and apply it so you can live the life of victory God wants you to live. So check out my weekly online bible study, Light for the Journey, for practical ways to tap into the power of God’s Word and learn to pray. The first study of 2013 is Power Up With Proverbs and begins January 14, 2013.

FREE MP3s on Mary’s website in the Freebies Section!

Do you or someone you love struggle with depression? Mary’s book, Hope in the Midst of Depression, offers practical steps you can take to get out and stay out of that pit. You can alsoconnect with me on Facebook or through email.

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Originally published Monday, 31 December 2012.