Now that the year is well underway; school, uni, work are all in full swing, home and family responsibilities are being completed with ease, community involvement is ticking along nicely and perhaps you are wondering what additional services you can take on for the good of humanity? (And all pigs are fed and ready to fly!)
Or, more realistically, are you struggling to keep up with the avalanche of stuff to get done, things to think about, stresses to endure and anxieties about tomorrow? This is the more likely situation for those of us who don’t wear bright red underpants and blue lycra body suits. So what to do about that rising sense of panic?
The pat answer is generally to make time for yourself, secure a quiet time each day to get alone with God, exercise and look after your own health so that you can better cope with the pressures of life. My response to such advice is simply, “How?” If I am stressed out and anxious with too much to do, too little time and not enough sleep, there are no spare moments in the day to have a quiet time, there is no energy left to exercise. It is not practical to suddenly not do any of the things I am responsible for.
Some might point out that nothing is as important as our eternal destiny and so remaining in Christ is worth laying aside everything else to gain. I am not arguing with that, but Paul addressed this issue in 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12 regarding those who placed too much emphasis on ‘resting in the Lord’ and not enough on doing the work God has given them. There is a place for shedding unnecessary burdens in our daily lives (Hebrews 12:1), but we are also called to fulfill our responsibilities (Luke 17:10).
In 1 Corinthians 15:10 Paul virtually rejoices in the knowledge that he worked harder than anyone else in the task God had given him. He likewise encourages the Colossian Christians to work hard, as for Christ, and to look for a reward from God (Colossians 3:23-24). I think this is very important in the thick of the daily grind because if we look to get a reward for all our hard work in this world we will be disappointed, especially as believers (1 Corinthians 15:19).
However, we also know that it is God’s will for us to grow in knowledge of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18) and in this we struggle to lift our thoughts beyond surviving today. But Jesus did not necessarily expect us to, he tells us to leave tomorrow’s anxieties until tomorrow (Matthew 6:34) and to ask our Father for what is needed to get through today (Matthew 6:11). He delights to show forth His strength in our weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:9), so in the very middle of weakness, anxiety and stress, cry out to Him.
I’m no expert on how to get from stressed to spiritual, all I know is that it is only possible to take very small steps. You have to repeat those small steps as often as you can. It is very good to assess what you would most like to drop from your workload if you could — then your brain may surprise you with cunning ways to offload at least some of that work.
I am convinced that the person in whom Christ delights is not always the one spending long hours in prayer and Bible reading, but the person who rejoices in Him. To have my heart responding with joy / reverence / astonishment / humility / praise / obedience / worship / sorrow / exaltation… when I consider Jesus, that is my aim.
Here are a few other ideas that might be useful:
Find ways to make distracting technology turn your heart to God, even if only transiently.
Get a cheap paperback Bible and hunt for all the verses on a theme that is close to your heart.
subscribe to a daily inspirational quote such as Of First Importance (click on the Email link) to be reminded of Christ as you check email.
The point of these suggestions is to plant things into your day, your life, that will nudge your attention and heart Godward in the midst of normal busy life. The real strength and endurance comes from God, not the means we might use to draw near to Him.