Tag Archives: stress

Season of Joy? Maybe, but not Without a Fight.

Holiday stress is real, just Google the term. Most of us are adding additional spending, shopping, decorating, cleaning and traveling to lives which already lack margin.

Add over eating, under exercising and family dysfunctions and you understand the following exchange in the movie “Christmas Vacation.”

To his father, Clark Griswold asks, “How did you get through it?”

“I had a lot of help from Jack Daniels,” his dad replied.

Compare Grandpa Griswold’s  response to that of the magi when they saw the star above where the baby Jesus  lay.

And when they saw the star they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. Matthew 2:10

Debilitating stress, numbed with alcohol compared with having great joy?

We have gotten way off track.

The wise men’s  joy was a  reaction to the coming of  Emmanuel – God with us. They got it.  God coming to earth in human form is a reason to rejoice exceedingly with great joy.

“In your presence is fullness of joy.” Psalm 16:11b

If we want to experience true joy in a society fighting to keep Christ out of Christmas, we must fight to keep Christ in the center of every aspect of our lives.

The Magi’s joy preceded the timeless sacrifice Jesus would make for the sins of men.

Jesus said, “Truly, truly I say to you, he who hears My words, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” John 5:34

The word “believe”  above means  to commit to, trust in and rely upon.

If you have believed in Jesus in this way, the following facts are true about you:

  • You are not an orphan, but are a true child of God
  • You have been given an inheritance which includes the Indwelling Holy Spirit and an Eternal home
  • You have been made into a new creations, freed from the penalty of the law
  • You have been given supernatural peace, hope and joy which transcends all earthly circumstances
  • Your purpose is now clear. You are to love others as Christ has loved you
  • You don’t need anything else to give you the same joy the magi experienced

Pause: Don’t rush past these glorious facts. The tremendous significance of the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ on our behalf is a reason for even greater joy than the wise men experienced.

No matter how stressed we feel in this busy season, we must fight to find our joy in Jesus and what he’s done for us.

No matter how disappointed we feel when expectations aren’t met, we must fight to remember the significance of God coming to earth to grant us lasting peace.

No matter what devastating circumstance we may face, we must fight to  guard our hearts and bring our pain to Jesus, asking him to lighten us with the joy of His presence.

And no matter how magical the season becomes with family and gifts and celebration, we must fight to keep Jesus in the center of our affections.

No matter how society tries to take Christ out of Christmas, we must never forget the significance of  Emmanuel.  The calendars we use are based on His coming

Prayer: Lord Jesus, you are our true Joy. This world is filled with grief and loss, but You’re always the answer. I’m sorry for when I’ve allowed other ‘joys’ to compete with you in the deep affections of my heart. Please help me guard my heart. Show me quickly when I care too much about the world around me that I forget about you. And when pain threatens to steal my joy, keep me delighting in you all the day.

Thank you that if I had nothing on earth but your love and the hope of my eternal home with you, these facts alone would be reasons for exceeding great joy.

We celebrate You.

 

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Philippians 4:4

 

Dead Bugs on the Windshield

The clouds opened up and the rain poured.

We sure need it, thought Peter as he stared at the drops disappearing into his brown, parched back yard grass. Looking out his porch screen, he noticed the holes.

There were a hundred things  needing to be done between the house repairs, his duties at work and his other responsibilities. Peter was completely overwhelmed.

To him, life was one big problem. He didn’t even know where to begin. Exhausted, he laid down on the chaise lounge  and shut his eyes. Before long, he was asleep and began dreaming.

In his  dream, Peter was driving  a convertible in the mountains. Around a curve,  he came upon a lake nestled in a valley between rolling hills of lush meadows and trees. Peter gasped at the  beauty and pulled into an overlook parking area to take in the view.

The sun was low in the sky and the colors of the sunset were beginning to dance across the lake. Peter reclined his seat. The air was cool. The wind gently slapped his face and he detected a sent of mountain laurel. The more Peter pondered the scene, the deeper and richer the splendor appeared.

In his spirit, Peter knew he was looking at  heaven. He felt a  deep security and hope. The problems, which  had seemed so gigantic moment ago were like nothing compared to the beauty and magnificent splendor before him.

The rich implications of being a child of God began to flood his heart. He realized, as never before, how unbelievably awesome it is to have been forgiven of all his wrongs.

He had done nothing to earn God’s love. God loved him with an eternal love, unaffected by life. Joy and peace welled up into euphoria.  He just laid there soaking it all in, like parched, cracked soil drinks in an early morning rain.

Peter was not sure how long he lay in bliss, but before long and very slowly at first, he began to notice tiny specs on the windshield of his car; little bits of dirt, smudges and dead bugs. He hadn’t noticed them before, but as he shortened his focus he could see them clearly. The closer he looked, the more he saw. Soon the imperfections began to distract him from his appreciation of the grandeur he had been enjoying.

He tried to ignore the windshield, but before long he had been completely overtaken by the details of the mess in front of him. The reality of the brilliance beyond the windshield had been lost.

Suddenly a voice came from the seat beside him.

“What happen, Peter?”

Startled, Peter turned to see a man dressed in a white suit seated beside him in the car.

“How long have you been sitting there?” asked Peter.

“The whole time.”

“How did you get here?”

“It doesn’t matter, Peter.

Why did you take your eyes off of what you were looking at; the reality beyond and what has been done for you? You were focusing on truth and hope and enjoying your inheritance as a son, but then you chose to stop looking at it. Why did you  start focusing on the things close up on the windshield?” The man asked.

“Who are you?”

“I’m a messenger, Peter.

Why did you start focusing on the windshield? That stuff was there the whole time you know.”

“I don’t know?” Peter explained. “I  began to notice how dirty it was. There’s so much needing to be cleaned.”

“Is that your goal, Peter, to have a clean windshield?

You’re forgetting something very important. How did you feel when you were focusing on what was beyond the windshield?”

“It was the most unbelievable feeling I’ve ever had!” Peter exclaimed, a great big smile returning to his face as he recalled it.

“Everything about this world seemed insignificant! My problems and obligations were like little bits of sand on the floor.

All that seemed important was the splendor beyond the windshield. I wanted my family and others to see and experience it.”

“That’s good, Peter,” said the man. “That’s exactly what you should have been feeling. But then something changed. You began to believe a lie that has haunted you.”

“What lie?” Peter asked.

“You began to believe  that the way you handle your cares and problems can change God’s love for you.

Did you really think a few dead bugs on your windshield could effect all that brilliance?

You fell for one of the greatest deceptions the enemy uses to rob God’s sons and daughters of their joy and strength.

All he has to do is to get you to take your eyes off the marvelous truths of the gospel for a moment and to begin to focus  on your problems. Before long, you think  it’s all up to them again. You start living like an orphan and your joy is zapped..”

“But we have problems and obligations. We can’t just ignore them, right?” questioned Peter.

“That’s right, Peter. We can’t just ignore them. But if your goal is carefree living, you’re end for a weary journey of endless striving.

Can you prevent bugs from running into your windshield and dying? Can you prevent dust and dirt and rain?”

“No.”

“Of course you can’t! Dead bug end up on the windshields of life. Until you realize your goal is not to prevent them, you won’t  see them in the proper light. Does that make sense, Peter?”

“I think so”, said Peter. “But I certainly can’t just ignore all this stuff. How do I look at this filth?”

“Peter, when you were looking at the mountains and the lake, were the smudges and dirt and dead bugs on your windshield?”

“Well, yea. I think so.”

“Look at the mountains again, Peter. Tell me if you still see the smudges?”

“No, not while I’m focusing on heaven, I mean the mountains.”

“Now, look back at the windshield again and pick one of the worse dead bugs, the one you think should be cleaned off first.”

“OK, I’m looking at it. It’s that one, next to the rear view mirror.”

“Good. Keep your eyes on that bug, but begin to focus on the mountains again. And tell me what happens to the bug and the mountains?”

“Well, the bug seems really small and insignificant when I focus on what’s beyond the windshield. And when I focus on the beauty beyond, but still have the bug in sight, the mountains and lake seem even richer than before. Why’s that?”

“Peter, beauty is magnificent to gaze upon, but it’s even more marvelous when seen in light of something not so wonderful.”

“I can’t believe it!” exclaimed Peter. “You mean all this time I was fighting and striving and working myself weary to prevent these dead bugs and this dirt from landing on my windshield. And all along, they were going to end up there whether I wanted them to or not?

And not only that, the very things I was striving against the wind to prevent are the very things that God is using to help me focus on his truths more deeply?”

“Amazing, isn’t it Peter,” said the man.

“Yea.” said Peter. “But what should my goal be if it’s not to reduce the problems in my life?

“Great question Peter, but I think you already know the answer. What do you think your goal should be?” asked the man.

“Well,” said Peter.  “All I can think about is what I was experiencing before I noticed the bugs on the windshield. My mind was filled with thoughts about God and how much He has done for me and how much He loves me. I was amazed at the fact that He actually sent his son to die for me, so that I could become one of His children.

All I could think about was how I wanted to be the best child I could be for him. I wanted to please Him in my role  husband, father and friend.”

“Peter, you’ve answered your own question. The longings you have, while focusing on Jesus and his great love for you, become your goal in life, nothing else.”

“But what about the bugs?” pressed Peter.

“You can view them in two different ways,” said the man. “You can view them only as problems and obligations, there to weigh you down. Or, in light of your goal of pleasing your Father, you can develop a passion for serving Him in everything He calls you to do, including approaching the dead bugs that go along with living on this side of the windshield.

Having a passion and resolve to give God glory in all  you do, can unmask the problems. You can then see them clearly for what they really are, little dead bugs and dirt on a windshield, having no effect on the marvelous truths beyond.”

Peter seemed to understand. He was looking again at the brilliance beyond the windshield.

“Peter.” The man said.

“Yes.” Peter looked over at the messenger.

“There’s one more thing I need to tell you.

No matter how many dead bugs and how much dirt and grim which lands on your windshield; and no matter how ugly the mess appears, never, ever think that it’s all up to you to take care of it by yourself.

Remember; the richness of your inheritance. When you were adopted as a child of God, you received the full rights of a child; the wonderful hope of heaven beyond the windshield. But not only that Peter, God gave you something for now.

When you became His son, God came to live inside of you in the form of His Holy Spirit. This is an unbelievable truth! God does not expect you to take care of all this mess alone. God Himself indwells you.  He wants you to depend on Him to work in you to handle every dead bug.”

Peter smiled. Already he was seeing the mess in front of him in a different light. He had the power of the universe inside of him, ready to show forth in strength at each and every opportunity.

Peter looked at the man, but he was gone. Without a second thought, Peter turned his focus again to the soothing, powerful, peaceful truth beyond the windshield.

Meanwhile, back on the porch, Peter’s 8-year old daughter Lisa came crashing through the door to the porch.

“Daddy!”

“Wha, Wha What’s going on? Oh hey sweetie. I was asleep. Is any thing wrong?”

“No Daddy, not really, well yea, we had an accident. Randy had an accident.”

“Is he OK? Is he hurt!”

“He’s not hurt Daddy, but he’s scared. He caused an awful mess! We were trying to reach a game on our closet shelf and we couldn’t reach it. Randy brought in Mom’s paint cans from the bathroom and stacked them up so he could reach it. He was able to get the game, but then he lost his balance and fell. One of the cans came open and blue paint got all over the carpet.

Seeing Peter’s look, Lisa stepped back. “But, we cleaned most of it up Daddy!  Please don’t get mad at him. He didn’t mean to!”

Peter could feel the pressure mount. He could never fully clean blue paint from the carpet and he had no money to spare to get it professionally cleaned or to replace it.

Add it to the list, he thought. One more thing for him to do, one more. Peter stopped in mid thought, paused, then continued his thinking. One more dead bug on the windshield. One more opportunity to see the beauties of God’s truth through a stained carpet bug on the windshield. One more opportunity to see God work in me to handle this challenge of life.

Peter looked at Lisa. He could tell she was scared and worried. “Where is Randy?” he asked.

“He’s hiding Daddy! He’s scared of what you’ll do.”

“Let’s go find him. I’m not mad. I know it was an accident.”

Peter found Randy huddled in the pantry, terrified and sobbing. His bottom lip was trembling as he cried. When he saw Peter a look of terror filled his eyes.

“Randy, it’s OK!” Peter assured him. And then their eyes met. Instead of the anger and rage he was expecting, Randy saw something else in his daddy’s eyes.

“Come on Randy, we’ll figure out a way to clean it up.”

Peter reached out his hand and Randy took it. They walked out to the porch, Lisa following.  They all crawled into the chaise lounge where  they hung out for the longest time,  laughing and enjoying each other until the sun started setting and mom called them in for dinner.

Turning Deadlines into Lifelines

And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

Romans 8:10

 Deadlines create stress even in the most joyous of occasions.  “Deadline” is a negative word which first appeared in a Georgia Confederate prison camp. Confederates built a rail around the stockade where they held the Union soldiers. The deadline loomed twenty feet from that railing. Death awaited any prisoners caught beyond that line.

Though today’s deadlines rarely result in actual death, the word speaks to the inner turmoil. A fixed point in time, when all work must be completed, can evoke serious stressful feelings. Nobody wants to fail in any responsibility.

Recently I was the best man in my son’s wedding. Granted, the success of the wedding didn’t depend upon me, but I felt stress as deadline approached. The house needed cleaning for out of town guests. I had to produce a bride and groom video for the rehearsal dinner. I had to plan the bachelor party. I had to prepare speeches … and …. and ….

The wedding ended up being a joyous occasion, but leading up to it I fought to stay in the present moment and embrace life rather than duty.

As believers, Christ is our life. When we embrace Him as our value and our source, He becomes our lifeline, turning deadlines into joy because of His presence and life.

Value  One reason I dread deadlines is my fear of failure. I struggle seeing my value in what I do. In the wedding I didn’t want to let my son down, but I also didn’t want others to see me as a failure in my roles of best man and father of the groom. Truth: My true value has nothing to do with what I do, but with what Christ has done.[1] It’s by Christ’s life that I’m righteous, not by my own success.[2] My greatest value is being a child of God.[3] Failure has been nailed to the cross. [4]

Source  When I strive to succeed in my own strength, I become very dutiful, and allow my work to steal my joy. I believe the familiar lie that it is all up to me. Truth: As a believer, I was crucified with Christ. By His Spirit, He now indwells me. My life is now a moment by moment dependence upon His life in me. Apart from this yielding to Him, I can produce nothing of eternal value.[5] [6]

Lord, I’m sorry for seeking value apart from you and striving on my own. You are my value and my source of strength. When I see you as my life, the stress of deadlines are turned into the joy of your life in me. You have done it all, please help me to continue to rest in your finished work.

 Challenge: Think of a deadline you have coming up. Determine to work for God’s glory and not your own. Ask Christ to be your strength by His Indwelling Spirit and rest in His finished work.

 

 

[1] Ephesians 2:8-9

[2] 2nd Corinthians 5:21

[3] Ephesians 1:5

[4] Galatians 2:20

[5] Galatians 2:20

[6] John 15:5