(Good News newsletter, February 2015)
Of course, sometimes! We all worry and we all have stress. It can be part of life. What could we accomplish if we did not worry, or did not have some stress? What we do not need is so much worry that it keeps us immobilized, or so much stress that we have headaches, stiff necks and shoulders or even stomach problems. Worry or stress can be a genuine motivator! It is also an invitation to prayer. The God who loves us is concerned about every moment in our lives, and He is there to help us. Most of us are more willing to talk to Him when things are not going well than when things are moving along smoothly. Check out some of the psalms that David wrote when he was worried, or stressed or just felt he was all alone.
When you find yourself worrying, find a quiet place and share your concern with the Father who loves you. If you are stressed, take a walk and look at all He has created, breathe deeply and open your heart to Him for a conversation about what is out of balance in your life. “When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions. Wait for hope to appear. Don’t run from trouble. Take it full-face. The ‘worst’ is never the worst.” (Lamentations 3:28 MSG)
As you focus on the problem you face, define it clearly. Be specific. Sometimes the hard part is actually figuring out what is bothering us. Where is the worry or stress coming from? Tell God exactly what seems to be the problem and ask Him to help you resolve it. Tell Him how you feel. Are you confused? Angry? Is it a problem with a relationship? A situation? God will help you clarify and perhaps understand better how the problem developed. Most of the things we worry about or become stressed over did not happen overnight, and resolving them will not happen overnight. Becoming caught up in worry or stress can separate us from the God we love.
Once you have clearly named what is bothering you, spend a day talking to God about possible solutions to this problem. Talk with Him about several options, don’t settle for a quick answer you believe will meet your needs. If others are involved, it must consider them as well. Spend time praying for His guidance and direction. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 NLT)
When you have at least three possible ways to address your worry, consider the steps needed to implement each solution. Are these steps realistic? Reasonable? It doesn’t hurt to have friends whom you can talk and pray with along the way. God will give you guidance as you pray and consider your options. Be honest about how God would direct you, remembering He will help you, if your plan is consistent with His solution.
As you take the next step and act, keep praying and asking for guidance. The situation is unlikely to change immediately, but God does not choose to have you worry or feel stressed. He wants the best for you. He wants to free you from worry, stress and guilt. He loves you enough to have given His son to die for you.
Most of us do not have to go through all the stress Job did. But remember, when God restored the sheep, camels, oxen, sons and daughters to Job, they did not all arrive as adults. It probably caused Job to pray continually and depend on God. Again.
Experience hope, practice trust, have faith and pray. It took time for them to become adults. ALL stress and worry did not disappear and pray.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:4-7 NIV)