Stress is everywhere! And it shows. It shows in our bodies — in our relationships — including our relationship with God.
It's hard to find time for intimacy, because intimacy takes time.
Time is a commodity you wish you could buy, and if you could, you would use it simply to buy peace, quiet, leisure — to do some things you long to do and not have to do them in such a rush. Just having time to think and to have the right atmosphere for thinking would be nice, wouldn't it?
There will always be tension to life. But it needs to be a healthy, creative tension, not life-sapping stress. Marriages, families, and personal lives are falling apart as stressed-out people run away, withdraw, explode, crash, burn out — and eventually find themselves so very much alone.
Beloved, I believe a major cause for our stress is that we react rather than act. We're all moving so quickly that we don't stop and consider our future. What will it demand of us? What will it cost? Are we willing to pay the price?
We simply move. We react to the immediate.
Is that you today? I know it's an area where I really do battle. I want to do everything. I have so many ideas and I love the excitement and challenge of a new venture — the potential — the "project." So I react in the moment. I say yes when I should say no — forgetting that my time is already allotted to other things. We react in a response of the flesh instead of acting under the Holy Spirit's control.
You see, God knows what each one of us is dealing with. He knows our pressures. He knows our conflicts. And He has made provision for each and every one of them. And that provision is Himself in the person of the Holy Spirit, indwelling us and empowering us to respond rightly.
This liberating response is wrapped up in a single word, and if you grasp the meaning of it and put it into action in your life through the Lord's grace and power, you'll know how to walk with the Spirit in complete control, and not one single stressful situation or circumstance in your life will be beyond your ability to handle.
The word is meekness! Meekness is the key to acting rather than reacting when disappointments come. Meekness carries the idea of humility and submission and of bringing yourself low. God is at work to build meekness into our innermost beings. And the way He works meekness in our hearts is through disappointments and trials.
I encourage you to look at Deuteronomy 8:2-3. Look at what God allowed His chosen and beloved people to go through — and why:
"You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD."
Remember how the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness for forty years after coming out of Egypt? When you're wandering in a desert, you aren't planting crops and reaping harvests, so you get hungry.
It was God's obligation — as their God and their Redeemer — to provide for all their needs (just as it's His responsibility to provide all your needs and mine). One of God's names is Jehovah-jireh, which means "The Lord Will Provide." In providing for the children of Israel in the wilderness, God told them to gather manna every morning. The first morning when they went out and found this stuff covering the ground and looking like frost, they said, "What is it?" It was manna. The word manna comes from that Hebrew expression for "What is it?"
God said He didn't want them keeping any manna overnight; He told them they had to gather it each and every morning. Only on the day before the Sabbath could they gather enough for two days and have the manna keep that long.
What was God doing? He was feeding them, but He was doing something much more. He was teaching them a lesson on meekness.
"That He might humble you," Deuteronomy 8:2 says, and "He humbled you," the next verse affirms. The Hebrew word translated humble here is from a root word meaning to afflict, to oppress. This humility, this meekness that God was forging in their lives would be the outcome of affliction, of being oppressed, of humiliation.
God was letting them be hungry, giving them a little affliction and difficulty. Why? It was a testing, the passage says, "to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not." He wanted certain attributes to be tested and proven in their character — just as He does in yours and mine. He wanted them to grow in faith — to teach them a principle about life: that we don't live by bread alone, but "by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD." Life is much more than food and clothing and shelter. Real life is in the spiritual dimension, in the kingdom of God, in full dependence on God and on the bread of His Word.
Meekness is born in stress, in trials, in affliction in conflict, in difficulties. Meekness is born in situations that humble you. This meekness that God so highly values in your life will show itself — prove itself — in oppression and pressure and disappointment. It was true for God's people Israel, and it's true for you and me.
Let me ask you, when do you run to God the most? When do you pray the most? Isn't it when you're hurting the most? When you're disappointed, stressed, pressured, you fall back in dependence upon the Lord instead of upon yourself.
God works in affliction! And those times when we're afflicted are the times when we're open to see it. Go to Psalm 119 to see the heart of someone who truly understands this as he goes through severe trial. "I know, O LORD, that Your judgments are righteous, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me" (verse 75). "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word" (verse 67). And verse 71 — "It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes" (italics added).
In God's wise care, it is good for us that we are afflicted. Oh I know sometimes you think you won't survive, but eventually you see "it was good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn His statutes."
Are you going through a difficult situation, a trial? Does this stressful time seem more than you can bear? It is not, Beloved. Whatever the situation — whatever the stress — it is designed to make you, not to destroy you. It has been permitted by God to mold you into the image of His Son rather than disfigure you for life. God doesn't test us to see if we'll fail — but to show us how strong we are. He wants us to score a hundred on the exam!
Dear one, our God is faithful. Our faithful, sovereign God will not permit us to be tried or tested or tempted beyond what we can bear. But along with that trial or test or temptation He will also make a way of escape. His grace will be sufficient for anything that comes our way.
No matter what happens to us — God has totally and completely and absolutely equipped and prepared us for it.
So we're not to fight these afflictions we encounter, the trials and disappointments, these oppressions, these humbling situations. God is in perfect control of them, and in His perfect design He's permitted them to teach us to act rather than react. We're in training, Beloved!
In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus said: "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden." Does pressure make you weary? Jesus promised, "I will give you rest" and again, "you will find rest for your souls."
Host, Precepts For Life
Co-CEO, Precept Ministries International