Tag Archives: stress

A greater source of strength

The New Starter Test

Don’t you find that life is full of patterns. As if there are a set of laws that have to be followed. For example, the moment you make a decision to change or to start something anew there comes an immediate challenging test to try and wreck our plans. It’s not even been five minutes since we decided to turn over a new leaf, or to try extra hard from now on. We’ve made what seems like a tough and real decision to do something good. Then BANG! Not so quick, now you’ve got your special powers you can fight this monster problem.

This happened to me only yesterday. I’d been thinking and praying about whether to take on a new role within a charity I am involved in. It’s a position with a lot of responsibility and I wasn’t sure I was the right person for the job. After spending time talking to various people and listening to God everything seemed to stack up. I decided that it was the right thing to do and knew that the time was right. Before I’d even informed anyone about my decision, out of the blue came a major issue that had the potential to change my mind straight away.

This is where the rubber hits the road. God’s wants to know how serious I am, and whether I and going to trust in his ability or my own. This is one of those patterns that we see all the time and are never seemingly prepared for no matter how obvious it is to others.

My first instinct is to draw up a plan of action and to start firing off emails. My mind is spinning, desperately trying to conjure up ideas that will fix the situation. I’m in serious danger of falling at the very first hurdle. I’m thinking to myself, “I’m not up for the job. I can’t do this.” I’m already not relying on God.

It’s then as I sit down for morning quiet time and begin to read his word and clear my mind of the troubles that he softly begins to speak to me. He tells me that I am to struggle and strive for his purposes but not to use my strength and energy. I’m to use his! How on earth is that possible I ask myself. Can someone strive and wrestle a problem with another person’s power. Wouldn’t that be great if it were true. I could dream up the best person to handle this situation and use all of their gifts and abilities instead of my own.

Well, apparently it is possible. Colossians 1v28 says ‘I labour, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.” So how do I use God’s power instead of my own? Firstly I need to talk to him about my challenges and allow him in to my situation. Secondly, I need to start trusting in his ability and believe he’s going to help me. Lastly, I need to revise my plan and expect him to do all that I cannot.

So it’s time to start trusting this morning in the one who is our inexhaustible source of strength, who is for us and with us in every situation.

Busy Bees

I’ll take care of it

Just when I begin to get everything sorted out, with all things in their right place, someone messes up what I’ve spent so long putting straight. Do you ever feel like that? The days are not long enough and all the time seems to disappear. I’m a list writer and without my lists I don’t get very much done. They are a necessity that keeps me from procrastinating or being drawn off at a tangent. They help me focus on what I need to do and remind me where I was if I get pulled into something else.

The problem with lists is that they can become rather long, especially as I being to plan out all the various things I have to take care of. There’s stuff to do round the house, there’s my work, there’s church, places I need to go, people I need to see. Something is always being forgotten.

Then there are the things that I didn’t even think about; thoughts that didn’t even enter my head. How on earth did I forget to get a mother’s day card for my wife from the dog? Why didn’t I think about what we would have for dinner this evening? Why didn’t I see that big problem looming up and do something about it sooner? There is just so many things to consider; sometimes it seems as if the world is just too big.

And, of course it is. The world, even my little part of it, is far to big for me to manage all of the details and it’s kind of inevitable that I’m going to fail to look after it all. It’s a pretty good job that, first and foremost, none of my failings are held against me. God’s word says that he keeps no record of wrongs, that I’m forgiven and nothing is held against me. Secondly, he says that he will take care of everything that I forget or neglect to do. Everything!

This means that after I’ve finished doing my work for the day, I do not need to worry or even think about the things I’ve not done. All I need to do is focus on the here and now, just today. That doesn’t mean I don’t plan for tomorrow, it means that I don’t need to worry about it. If those plans get blown off course or never come to pass then that’s alright. I can only do what I can do. Just when I need it I can rest without any guilt or condemnation. I am accepted and loved for who I am and not what I achieve.

Psalm 130:3,4 NIV If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
Philippians 4:19 MSG You can be sure that God will take care of everything you need, his generosity exceeding even yours in the glory that pours from Jesus.
Try Praying

Have you ever tried praying?

Life can be tough, but is it tough enough to seek help?

I think each one of us has a certain level of determination to be self-sufficient, a need not to rely on others. Some have tremendous levels of drive and are fiercely independent, seemingly able to operate in total isolation without any support. Some appear weak and feel the need to tell everyone their troubles as they desperately look for someone to share their burdens, secretly wishing they were stronger and more readily able to withstand the pressures of life.

For us Brits it’s often a sense that we don’t want to be a burden on others; that somehow we will be inconveniencing people if we ask for their help and if we are too much of a burden they will no longer offer their friendship. Or we think they will see us as pretty pathetic and we’ll feel even worse about ourselves. So we continue to aspire to be like the many people around us, that are doing the exact same as us – being independent and standing on their own two feet.

So here’s the thing. Most, if not all, are not doing very well at this self-sufficiency thing. It might appear as if they have it all together by themselves but it’s all a front. Unseen by others they are in one of two camps or somewhere in-between.

Camp one: not doing very well. In camp one people spend a lot of time and energy planning, covering up, distracting themselves, being busy and avoid problem. People here are either tremendously busy doing seemingly nothing of real value (by that I mean stuff that needs doing but that virtually no-one will remember) or they are trying to cheers themselves up. They are always talking about the next thing they are going to do or buy, and tend to focus on themselves more than most.

Camp two: they have a secret supply of help. In this camp people have friends that they talk to and share their problems with. They are actually sharing their weakness and failings with others and are getting help. These people have a sense of security and confidence that is not found in camp one. They are not as independent and strong as they appear. Their secret power supply is coming from others.

So where are you? Are you in camp one desperately trying to get to camp two? Or spending some time in camp two but more often than not you’re visiting camp one?

It’s typically only when things get so bad that we can no longer cope that we reach out for help. And what do we find? We find that people do not judge, they don’t drop us and run, they are pleased to have been asked.

The good news is that there is hope. Sometimes finding friends to confide in can be a tricky business. There is, however, another option – Prayer. There is one who already knows all of our weaknesses and failures but loves us despite them. A person that is ready to listen night or day will never by shocked when they hear what we’ve got to say. God really is good.

So why not try praying today. If you’re not sure where to start then take a look at this great booklet called ‘Try Praying’. You can download a free copy here: http://www.trypraying.co.uk

Storms of life

Who, little me?

In January this year I was having possibly the worst time of my life. I had been accused of causing a major overrun on a project at work and was off sick with stress. Twice I had collapsed at work during meetings with my then boss – a humiliating experience when trying to defend yourself from blame. I was struggling to sleep, often waking at 3 or 4am. My head was clouded and I couldn’t think straight. I had no appetite. Worst of all, I could not think of a plan to fix the problem.

So, where was I? Well, I was precisely where God wanted me – helpless. I usually spend most of my waking moments planning and strategising. My head’s often full of ideas and dreams. A lot of the time I’m thinking about how to fix problems; problems at work, problems at home, my problems, other peoples problems, even God’s problems. It’s a full time occupation!

God said this to me a few years ago, “I don’t need your contribution. I don’t need your help. I do not need your ideas, thoughts or opinions… but I want you.” That really broke me, in a good way.

We imagine that our problems are ours to fix. Quite often we’re the cause of the problem and we feel obligated to try and make amends, and rightly so. But the truth is this – it is often not within our power to fix the situation, nor is it God’s plan for us to fix it.

God chooses us, despite all our failings. In fact, he chooses us because of our weakness. What he wants from us is to trust him in all circumstances.

You see, God is fully self-sufficent. He is not in need of anything. He is not some weak, insecure power that craves attention, who would pop out of existence if everyone stopped believing in him. No. He requires no-one but he desires everyone; because He values us, more than that, He loves us.

We not stuck in our situation because we have a wrong view of ourselves, but because we have the wrong view about how God sees us. We’re not the solution to our problem – He is.

No matter how bad the situation there is someone who is able to be trusted. Let’s learn to trust in the one who values far more than we could ever know.

Dear God

Self-help is not the answer to my problems. I’m all out of ideas. There is seemingly no way out, but I keep on trying to plan.

I recognise that now is the time to stop. I’ve done my best and I’m at the end of the road. I hand over my situation to you – finally. You’re going to have to take it from here.

God, I thank you for being so infinitely patient with me, as I struggle along with life without asking for your help. Forgive me. You are faithful and loving and kind. You value me not because of what I can do but just because I’m me.

Thank you that I can place all of me into your capable, strong hands. I can rest easy in the midst of the storm.

In Jesus name I pray.

Amen

Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord of heaven's armies.
Zechariah 4:6 LT
Who can advise the Spirit of the Lord or be his teacher or give him counsel?
Isaiah 40:13
The battle is not yours, but God's.
2 Chronicles 20:15
The Lord does not depend on weapons to fulfil his plans - he works without regard to human means.
1 Samuel 17:47

 

Debt Crisis

Most western economies have suffered from financial depression over the last few years and analysts would generally agree that the cause is bad debt. Bad debt is money invested with little to no chance of a return. Now, while we didn’t necessarily make those investments directly ourselves, we are all paying the price.

Society is a lot like that. Anxiety and depression is common place in the western world. The cause of depression is bad investments. We have invested our time and energy in the wrong things in an attempt to make our lives more comfortable and our future more secure. The things we thought were sound have been shown to be anything but.

What God requires for the payment of our debts in His economy is obedience, humility and submission. These are not popular themes in modern society. The last thing we want to do is to put ourselves in someone else’s hands, especially when it comes to our money, our family and our personal ambitions. But if we begin to put our ‘ours’ in His hands, then we are investing our most valued resource, ourselves.

God isn’t asking us to put ourselves into someone else’s hands. He’s asking us to put ourselves in His hands. That is the big difference.

Where do we get the idea that we know best? How many of us have heard it said, “If you want something doing, do it yourself” or “Trust is earned not given”. In our arrogance we often believe that we are the only reliable person we know. Perhaps because we’ve been let down in the past and do not want to get hurt again. I have walked that path. But it leads only to myself, my own understandings. I need His understandings; His hands.
In and of ourselves we have little to no ability to be resilient when hurt by others. But we are going to experience pain at the hands of others and this is absolutely unavoidable.

There are many ways people choose to deal with this pain and nearly all of them are self-destructive. And at times they are more destructive than the original offence, whether intentional or unintentional. For it is our response that dictates how we will feel and who we will become, our reaction that causes the damage in our life.

Resilience is not about making ourselves into some sort of untouchable. Hollywood would have us believe that toughness is about hardness, about justice and revenge. It is modelled as something to aspire to, something to work towards; self-reliance the way to a happy life.

Instead God calls us to die to self. To put ourselves into the only truly trustworthy hands – His hands. Only God is able to give us the true resilience to lead a life of love, submission and service to others and to Him. Then we are able to soak up the punches that life throws at us and come out undamaged on the other side. Life’s hands can no longer harm us; we are in His.

God not only promises to pay off our spiritual debts for us but he also promises to put enough into our account to cover our future bills. Just so long as we continue to bank with the saviour we’ll never find ourselves in debt again.

Dear God

I pray that you would forgive me for seeking to protect my own interests. For I have invested my time and efforts in the wrong things. I have yielded to the influence of others and handed control of my life over to those who hate me.

I will refuse to be led down a path of sorrow and despair for I now know a better way. It is the way of love. It is your way.

I choose to lay down my life and put my trust in you – the one true, loving God. I bring you all my debts and thank you for paying all of it. I want to be obedient to you because you deserve it. May my life bring you glory and honour.

In Jesus name I pray.

Amen

Trust GOD from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out
everything on your own. Listen for GOD’s voice in everything you
do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.
Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to GOD! Run from evil!
Your body will glow with health; your very bones will vibrate
with life! Honour GOD with everything you own; give him the first
and the best. Your barns will burst; your wine vats will brim over.
Proverbs 3:5-12 MSG
You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore
honour God with your bodies.
1 Corinthians 6:19b-20
He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his
name’s sake.
Psalm 23:3

 

Lies I tell myself

One of the biggest barriers to overcoming the problems in life is being open to the possibility that we might be the problem. That may sound a little harsh, especially if we are suffering at the hands of someone else. Not quite so harsh though, when we recognise that it’s not the problem that causes us the pain but the way we respond when it occurs. Having a bad attitude or a negative outlook can mean that life’s events can often beat us down without us even realising why.

That doesn’t mean that we need to start beating ourselves up when taking responsibility for being the cause of our unhappiness. It’s not time to break out the bunting for a pity party. We might be having a so-called “run of bad luck”, but if we believe God is good we will soon find out that he’s faithful, and will be able to move on from the bad things that happened to us.

Unfortunately we have been taught to think in a particular way. Life experiences have told us who we are and what we’re capable of, or more often the case what we’re not capable of. Whatever has happened to us we can’t go back and change it. We are where we are. We may not even know how we got to where we are, but we’re here and there doesn’t seem to be a clear way out of this place. The fact is this: we’ve been lied to and have lied to ourselves. We are the ones who have listened and told ourselves that we can’t win this game of life.

There is an enemy and they are out to kill you.  A contract has been put out on your life because you are a very real threat to your enemy’s plans. That at least should give you a hint that perhaps you’re more valuable than you think.

The world will tell you that you’ve got rights. That if life’s unfair to you then you have a right to justice. If you’re feeling low then you have a right to reward yourself in order to feel better. The truth is though, that outside of God you have no rights whatsoever. Our so-called rights are forfeited each and every time we reject God and do the wrong thing. The bible say that without God we also have no power and can achieve nothing of lasting value or worth. That includes the power to win in life or change our response to our experiences.

Good news: We don’t have to go back and try to fix everything in order to move forward. We can be right with God and be right with ourselves – we can do that right here and now. That’s doesn’t mean we are free from the consequences of our actions, or that we do not have to try to make amends.

If we’re going to defeat our enemy and live our lives in joy and victory we need to know our God-given rights. To be truly successful in life we need to know who we really are. God alone can give us ultimate assurance of our identity and bestow on us a security that will allow us to stand against every thing life has to throw at us.

God uncovers the lies that run through our mind, allowing us to take hold of them and dump them in the trash. We can then exercise our faith and put God’s truth in the place of those lies.

It’s important to find someone who can stand by you, pray for you and pray with you. Especially if we’re feeling weak and worn down. It is equally important not to put off tackling the lies because we’re weak. God’s power is made perfect in weakness. Now is the time to put yourself in his strong, loving arms and really wholly on him. He will come through for us; he will not forsake us.

Do yourself a favour today: Stop lying to yourself, face up to your failures and ask God to show his live-giving truth to you. He’ll not let you down.

DEAR GOD

I’m sorry that for all this time I have been lying to myself. I thought I would get away with it because I thought no-one would ever find out. You knew though. You knew all along. And even though I rejected your love and truth you still cared for me. all you were trying to do was look after me. Please forgive me.

I now want to stop the lies and begin to listen to your truth. Help me I pray. Give me the strength and wisdom to listen and put into action hope. I know that you are faithful and you will not leave me in my mess. You will bring me through and it will be for your glory. Praise be to my ever-loving father God.

AMEN

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth
is not in us.
1 John 1:8
Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the
standards of this age, you should become "fools" so that you may become
wise.
1 Corinthians 3:18
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us
our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9

Change the Flavour

What we say doesn’t just reflect our mood, it affects are mood. More than that, it affects the mood of those around us.

It’s just so easy to join in on a good grumble about all the problems that we share at work, or at church, or in life in general. We might well be the instigator of such conversations without even realising it. Of course, everyone joins in; no-one wants to offend the person who is feeling down by telling them they are wrong.

“If you can’t say something nice, don’t saying anything at all.”

To be able to move on and get beyond problems that affect us we will need to deal with the way we talk. By continually complaining and grumbling we are actually telling ourselves that things will never be any different. We confirm that we believe that the problem is too difficult to overcome and list excuses why we should not even try. Complaining undermines hope.

How many times have we watch a hollywood film where one member of a group seems intent on spoiling the hero’s plans. They go against every good idea and grumble at any attempt to get out of the current peril. We recognise them instantly as the ‘baddy’ by their behaviour. The question is though, do we recognise when we’re being the baddy in our work, or in our homes, or with our friends?

To see our situation change we need to begin to change the flavour of our conversation. This might mean just being quiet and refusing to say anything negative about a person or situation. At first this will be difficult because we’re so used to joining in with everyone else. People will expect us to back them up when talking about how terrible things are.

Here are some suggestions on practical ways to change the way we speak.

  • Refuse to complain about a person or situation
  • Make a list of positives and focus on those instead
  • Stay quite and listen to others when they complain
  • Resist being draw in to a negative conversation
  • If necessary, make an excuse to go and do something else
  • Ask questions like, “Why do you thing that is?” or “What are you going to do?”
  • Don’t think yourself better than others just because you’re not joining in
  • Give thanks to God for the other person or situation

Dear God

I’m sorry for the times I have pulled others down by the way I have spoken. Forgive me for being negative and affecting the mood of those around me. Instead of using opportunities to build others up, I have acted in weakness and joined in the complaining. Help me to now to focus on the hope you have promised me, to change the way I talk, that I might be a blessing to others. Thank you for the MARVELLOUS work you are doing in my life. Thank you that you do not leave me in my situation forever but instead help me to overcome.

Amen

The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the
body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one's life
on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
James 3:6
Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.
Proverbs 21:23
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as
is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace
to those who hear.
Ephesians 4:29

Moving On

From time to time we get to a point where we just wish that we could move on. We find ourselves back in the same place again, facing the same issue that we’ve faced on more than one occasion. But despite our efforts we are seemingly unable to know what to do differently that will free us from this never-ending cycle. We might ask our friends advice, read the latest book or blog and put into practise a new set of techniques to help us overcome the issue. Stubbornly it remains.

A major factor in being able to move on in life is to cut our ties to the past. Before a ship can sail it must first release the mooring ropes and lift the anchor from the sea bed. Failure to do so will result in a pretty short trip and a hasty return to the same port. The engines might be running at full power and there may well be a large amount of noise and action, but in the end there is little achieved. So what anchors us to the past?

One thing that can seriously affect our progress in life is unforgiveness. By refusing to let go of past hurts we continue to drag a large, heavy bag with us through life. Our reaction to what has happened to us acts like a large weight that we’ve picked up, slowing our progress through life. After a while we don’t even bother looking in the bag to see what’s inside, we just carry it into every new situation that comes along. And guess what, we act out the same response again and again.

Forgiving is not easily. We want justice for what was wrongly done to us. The wrong must be paid for and we will fight to the last to see that happen. It feels that to forgive would be a betrayal of what we believe – the righting of wrongs. But the only person who is being punished for the wrong is us, as we carry around the hurt letting it poison our lives.

Now we’re not making excuses for what has happened but here are some thoughts that may help us to begin to take some things out of our bag.

  • They didn’t know that what they had done was wrong
  • They didn’t know how much it would hurt us
  • They hadn’t been taught how to treat others with respect
  • They hadn’t experienced love and kindness
  • They had been seriously hurt in the past
  • You got too close to them and they find it difficult to trust others
  • We were overly sensitive and took offence
  • They didn’t mean to hurt us but struggled to express themselves
  • They decided to take the easy option because they couldn’t handle the situation
  • They believed they were justified in what they did
  • You had hurt them and they wanted to get their own back

Furthermore, there are better reasons to forgive:

  • We are equally guilty of hurting others
  • People are carrying unforgiveness because of what we’ve done
  • We deserve punishment for all our wrongdoings

God says that unless we’re willing to forgive others then he can’t forgive us. Our present suffering is not some punishment for all our wrongdoing. The wonderful thing is that we can be free from our past and we can move on. Forgiveness is God’s gift to us, for all the things we’ve ever done and will ever do. All we need to do is share that gift with others.

Dear God,

Thank you that I can trust you to right all wrongs. You know the hearts of every person and you are just and true. You do not treat me as my sins deserve but instead have pardoned me through the death of your son. Help me to forgive those that have hurt me. Search my heart and reveal to me my true motives. I thank you that my future is secure in you and that you have promised to move me on. I put myself into your hands merciful God.

Amen

He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our
iniquities.
Psalm 103:10
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still
sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your
heavenly Father will also forgive you.
Matthew 6:14

 

Running Late

How many times have I raced to for an appointment only to find out that there was no need to hurry at all. There must have been at least half-a-dozen times in the last few months where I’ve rushed to be somewhere on time, only to find out that I was by no means the last to arrive or the start had been delayed. In the process I was flustered and had not really prepared. On one occasion it also resulted in me being invited to a Speed Awareness Course!

But it’s difficult to not let time dictate our actions. We tell ourselves that we should be better organised, or that people will think us unreliable, or that we don’t value them because we couldn’t be there on time. Some of this may be true and we might need to check how much we’re trying to do, but there will always be circumstances beyond our control. We need to learn how to deal with these situations when they arise and not to spend all of our time trying to plan for every eventuality. For the performance driven ones among us this can be the difference between burning out or living successfully.

Here are few handy thoughts when running late.

  • Perhaps I won’t be the last to arrive
  • People will be even more glad when I arrive because they had begun to think I wouldn’t make it all all
  • They will understand that I was delayed
  • My apology will be accepted and everyone will quickly forget that I was late
  • The meeting will not start on time
  • Not everything is my responsibility
  • They have allowed time for me as they know I have a lot on
  • Teas & coffees will be served first
  • I may have the wrong start time
  • It’s more important I am relaxed when I arrive so I can give my best
  • It’s better to arrive late in one piece than not to arrive at all
  • I may not even be required for the meeting as others have it covered
  • People will not think less of me for not arriving on time

It’s good that you care about being on time and not letting others down but it is important that it doesn’t turn into anxiety and stress.
If you can let people know that you’re running late. If you’re really late then perhaps you should just send your apologies and miss the meeting altogether. Better that you allow sometime to prepare and get to the next one onetime and get control of your day back.

Prayer

Dear God,

Thank you that even when I don’t find time for you, you alway make time for me. Help me to trust you for all the things that I cannot control, and to know when enough is enough and I cannot do anymore. Just because I think I’m able to do it doesn’t mean that I have to, I can trust things to others and ultimately trust everything to you.

Help me to give my best. Even when I get things wrong and let others down you do not condemn me but love me always.

Thank you God for your patience with me. May I show others that same patience when they don’t arrive on time for my next meeting.

Amen

“But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin
construction of a building without first calculating the cost to
see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might
complete only the foundation before running out of money, and
then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person
who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’
Luke 14:28-30
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own 
understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make 
straight your paths. 
Proverbs 3:5-6
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and 
supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Philippians 4:6
The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone 
who is hasty comes only to poverty. 
Proverbs 21:5