Handling stress ineffectively

Today I can’t seem to quiet my brain down to think. Either that is the problem or I just don’t have anything creative inside to work with. I want to have some brilliant thoughts to work with–something that will bless both of us because it was put to words. But I don’t seem to have the capacity for that today.

What I do have is a rushed feeling that fills my minute periods of silence. I have a strong ambition to get everything accomplished that is on my list for the day and not let the effort kill me. At the moment, that seems like a tall order. One I don’t know how to squeeze into the few hours with which I have to work. So I just keep working as fast as I can. I don’t want to get lost beneath the piles of uncompleted work, nor do I want to…to…

Well, I don’t know what else I don’t want. Is it that I don’t want to be embarrassed that I didn’t get more done with the time I had? Am I comparing myself to some imaginary genie who would no doubt put me to shame if he walked, for a day, in my own shoes? I don’t know. I think those things are part of it, but not all. Another part may be that I fear the consequences of not getting everything I have to do completed on time. I fear my own inadequacies. Not just that it will be seen, but that it is a reality too grievous for me to handle. I do my best to supersede it by doing everything I can to achieve–more, more, more!

But it all feels like a rat race. Rather than making me feel more capable and significant, it makes me feel less so. The hurried-ness I face provokes in me the fear that I can be swallowed-whole by tasks and requests that are too great for me, yet ought not to be. Amidst this mess, how can I think of being a conduit of blessing in my world? Before the Mount of De-emphesis I question my resources and worth, believing all that I claim is nothing.

But what does Paul say in 1 Corinthians 13? Only the one who has not love is of no benefit, “nothing” as it says. He didn’t say the person who can’t keep pace with their to-do list or the one who is crippled in their daily execution of life-on-schedule. These things only matter to the degree that they affect our ability to love.

In God’s kingdom you have innate worth. The real question is whether you will use your worth to build God’s kingdom or thwart it. Will you be a blessing–fulfilling the law of love by the empowerment of Christ–or will you forsake the essence of the One who gives you value in His love? Maybe how you and I answer that question will contribute to how we deal with stress. Maybe.

6 thoughts on “Handling stress ineffectively

  1. That was always one of my favourite passages. I don’t go to church or Bible study anymore but I still regularly remind myself that “love is patient” and “love keeps no record of wrongs”

    I frequently suffer from that harried feeling you describe. I am an anxious, perfectionist, easily stressed person and I almost always feel inadequate. It never occurred to me to read that passage the way you just did, but I like it. I think I will remind myself of that from now on too.


    1. I confess that I never felt like I really understood that verse until recently. I always found it convicting, but in a bewildering sense like: “Great! So what do I do now?!” It wasn’t until I really began to understand God’s love for me that I had any practical knowledge of what the love chapter is all about. Now I read the passage first with my focus fixed on how they display God’s love for me and next how He intends for that love to flow out of me.

      I’m so glad you shared about this verse and how it relates to you as well as how you identify with the struggle I talked about. Being able to share these pressures and what they reveal of our hearts makes them so much more of a blessing than they would be if we kept them to ourselves.

      I’m curious–you mentioned going to church and Bible study at one time–and I was wondering why you’ve stopped going. How has the way you’ve looked at God and interacted with Him changed as your interactions have? I’m not trying to be nosy, but if you’d like to share I would be most interested in listening. I’d like to know what your journey has looked like so that I might understand to some degree where you’re coming from. If you wouldn’t appreciate this, I understand.

      Oh, and you’re welcome Queen Gen! I love getting your comments. 🙂

      1. I will answer you. I actually meant to answer your other comment as well but have been going through a hard time the last couple of weeks. But I appreciate that you replied and I promise I will get back to you. Since you were so willing to be open and personal with me, I will tell you about my journey – but not tonight. Will get back to you soon.

  2. Okay, so to answer what’s happened in my life that I no longer go to church … it’s a big question, actually, with quite a terrible and bitter answer, and a lot of Christians don’t know how to respond to it. I think this is because they feel convicted by it – and in a way, I think they should.

    When I was younger, my faith was my entire life. I attended five different churches. I went to a Pentecostal church on Sunday mornings (and Wednesday nights, cos I was in the band and we rehearsed then). My boyfriend was in the youth ministry at another Pentecostal church, so I went there on Sunday afternoons and usually attended their youth group on Saturday nights. Sunday evenings I alternated between two churches: The first was a baptist church that I got involved with through my high school. I sometimes played with the band there, and often attended youth ministry functions with them like concerts or outreach programs. The second was a Brethren church where I’d known people since I was in primary school – again I was involved with the band, but I also helped out sometimes as a Kids Club leader, and I did Bible study with them on Tuesdays. I also attended one of the Hillsong churches with one of my friends for their youth service on Friday night.

    I know this is a lot of detail, but the point I want to make is that I was very involved in the church for years. These people saw me every week, and many of them had known me since childhood.

    It all went wrong when I married that youth minister. We never had a good relationship, but I don’t think I was mature enough to realise that at first. I won’t lie – we both contributed to the problems. I was 19 when we married, and he was 26. I followed his lead on a lot of things – and we had a very bad marriage. It turned out that he was an abusive person. He was violent, jealous, possessive, and he gradually managed to cut me off from all my friends. I do admit that I behaved badly as well, but he terrorised me, and made me what I was. I will never actually forgive him for that. I know I should, but I can’t and won’t even ask God to help me try, because he did terrible things and I don’t think he deserves my forgiveness.

    You have to understand – in hindsight it seems so easy. If I just told someone he was abusive, they could have helped me. But at the time it wasn’t so easy. I strongly believed that God wanted marriage to be a bond between one man and one woman, for life. When I finally left, it was out of desperation. My ex – the youth minister – told me outright that God hated me, and used that as his justification for all the nastiness that followed. My own mother didn’t even want to take me back in when I told her I was leaving my husband, because “you don’t leave a marriage lightly”. So … I was ashamed, and afraid, and alone.

    I left my husband, but I didn’t want to talk to anyone about it. I didn’t want to blame him, I didn’t want to complain. I just wanted to be allowed to move on. And in the end, that silence was my undoing. He was furious, so he told everyone that I’d left him for another man. He did everything he could to destroy my life, destroy my belongings, even destroy my friends’ lives. And it worked. Everyone shunned me. Every. Single. Person. The pastors, my church families, my friends. Not one person asked me if I was ok. Not one person wanted my version of the story. Not one person reached out to me. These were people who had been my friends for years. In some cases, my whole life. And NOT ONE of them was there for me.

    I still believe in God. I still talk to Him a lot. But I will not go to church anymore, because I do not believe in the church. A lot of Christians respond to that story by telling me that I was unlucky – but I don’t think so. The fact is that five separate churches from five different denominations is a fair sample of the Christian community. When every single person from five different churches fails someone they’ve known and loved for years, that is a very damning statistic, and something has got to be wrong with it.

    The church is (inadvertently, I think) raising hypocrites. People who won’t tolerate sin, who won’t reach out to people if they think they’re doing the wrong thing. It isn’t right. In my case, they were very wrong to let me down. I was being abused and no one cared. But even if I wasn’t – even if I left a good marriage for another man like my ex said I did – does that matter? Who is anyone to judge? Wouldn’t they wonder why I would do that – why would someone who they’d always known to be loving and faithful and good suddenly do something so out of character if there wasn’t a reason? Wouldn’t they want to know what the reason was? The fact is, people don’t.

    If I was a much better person than I am, I would go back to all those churches and preach forgiveness and understanding to them. I would go back and tell them that they failed, and they need to step up their game. Unfortunately, I am not a better person than I am, and I think that’s a much bigger task than I am capable of tackling. I don’t think that I can change the world. So instead I just changed myself.

    I used to be just as bad as everyone else. I wouldn’t even talk to people who didn’t go to church, wouldn’t dream of going out with people who didn’t share my beliefs. But after I lost my whole life over one failed relationship, I had to pick up the pieces and figure out who I was. And I discovered I had a lot more friends out there. The people who supported me most were the drug-addled, messed up crowd I befriended at a goth nightclub. They listened to me. They helped me when I needed to face my ex to fetch my belongings. They even held my hand when I tried to go to church again. I’m still friends with a lot of those people, and am far more willing to listen to their stories, and respect their opinions and beliefs than I ever used to be. If God hadn’t shown me away from the insular Christian world I inhabited, I would never have learned understanding and acceptance.

    1. Oh, girlfriend. I’m so sorry for the pain in your story. I’m just reading your response today because I haven’t had a chance to be on my computer since you sent it. I’m grateful that you shared so much of your story with me. As I read, I realized that so much of what we talked about earlier is deeply personal for you. I want you to know that I appreciate your honesty as well. It is a powerful component of healing–both for you and those who hear you. I want you to know that you are not alone. And not everyone who goes to church wants to condemn you for being involved in the struggles you’ve shared.

      It’s a shame that sometimes, like you said, it takes being rejected by the church to be able to begin seeing others the way Jesus did. It’s one of the hardest things to swallow both personally and theologically that the church does not always reflect its Head in the most basic points of human interaction and welcome. I wish I could change that. I wish I could make it so that stories like yours never happened. But, much as I would like to, I cannot. I am only one person, yet I make it my goal to be the hands and feet of Jesus. I make it my ambition to not be ruled by fear or self-focus in my interactions with others who need Jesus just as much as me. I make it my life’s pursuit to let God have all of my heart so that He may break and remold it into a heart that is just like His.

      I am encouraged by how your relationship with God has proceeded amidst these trials of exclusion, etc. I challenge you to continue pressing into God and letting Him press Himself into you. Where His Body of believers on earth falls short, He never does. He is your Champion and your Guide. He is the One who redeems every piece of your brokenness that you give to Him. If you need a break from church, take it. Let God use this time to deepen your relationship with Him. Let Him turn this into a new season of intimacy with Him. Some times He allows broken places to be formed within us so that we will bring parts of ourselves to Him that we would never have brought otherwise. It is a painful and mysterious grace–but it never ceases to be grace.

      I want you to know, that while you walk through your pain and explore your questions that I am here to walk with you. I’d love to listen to your heart and give you a hand when you just need to know that someone’s there and you’re not all alone in the pits. I’ve been in some pits of my own and I would be so blessed to be able to remind you that they are not the end of the story because God still works amidst the utter failings of men. If there’s anything I’ve staid that has sparked a thought you’d like to share or was something that you don’t agree with, please don’t hesitate to share it with me.

      Thank you, Gen!

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