Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Matthew 6:26-30
Every spring I notice a contrast between opposing feelings: the exhaustion of two non-stop seasons of work and activity contrasting with the renewal and rejuvenation of spring. Stress versus refresh. Life is stressful for us all. The problem is that the stress causes a crash and burn that requires a full resuscitation rather than just a renewal.
I imagine this is a common problem for most folks. We get into a cycle of Run-Crash-Burn-Recover. We are constantly on the go, never stopping to fully rest and destress. Then when the beauty of spring with all its warm weather and purple flowers arrives, we don’t have enough energy to really appreciate and embrace it. When end up too tired to let the warmth and light of the sun and beauty of nature renew us. So let me offer a few points about stress and how we navigate it.
Some stress is inevitable and inescapable in the tough seasons of life. Certain stages of life are tough no matter how you slice it. Just. Plain. Hard. I would argue that the last few years for our church have been one long stressful season. Some of us personally are going through tough seasons now: caregiving, health challenges, job and financial struggles, the list goes on… But God tells us to hold fast and rely upon Him in these times, for He will carry us when we can no longer walk.
Some stress is avoidable, voluntary, a result of choices we make. Overscheduling, pushing beyond our limits, and ignoring warning signs all result in unnecessary stress. When we try to be all things to all people, when we try to please man rather than God, when we listen to every voice except the Lord, we become exhausted, frazzled, and defeated. Thus, it is important live within a spiritual margin. If we find ourselves overly stressed, we may be pushing the boundaries. We should take a timeout from our work and our thoughts and ask ourselves if what we are doing is God-pleasing or man-pleasing. For if our efforts are not aligned with our vision, we likely need to make some changes. Creating a healthy margin has many benefits:
Protects us from “fraying around the edges.”
Prevents us from playing Messiah--from thinking it all depends on us.
Provides life-giving resilience for the bumps and bruises of life.
Improves our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.
Makes us easier to live with, as rested people are more kind!
Author Henri Nouwen tells us that creating space for God is a spiritual discipline. This means creating a margin in which God can act. This is a place in our spiritual life that has not been filled by everything else in life. It is a time that we are not occupied and not preoccupied. And it is a space in which something can happen that you hadn't planned or counted on. Is there any margin in our life for Jesus to interrupt and reassign us? Any space for air, light, and water? Any possibility of serendipity? These are all good queries to help us avoid the avoidable kind of stress.
Some stress can be diminished by adding life-giving experiences. In order to tend to our soul, we need to reorder our inner life, my rhythms, patterns, and pacing. We have to replace the cycle of Run-Crash-Burn-Recover with Rest-Prayer-Work-Play. We need to include activities that add to life rather than drain it. Have fun with others, teach and learn from each other, fellowship with one another, serve one another, minister to one another. When we care for each other, the load balances out and the stress we bare becomes much more manageable.
Are you feeling stressed right now? If so, try being more present with the Lord. Be present in the moment and take time to recognize the purple flowers. Try creating a spiritual margin to keep you present and in tune with His presence. You will be a better preacher, teacher, disciple, caregiver, spouse, parent, worker, and servant of the Lord if you do.
-- Pastor Justin
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