Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Do you ever feel anxious? Under pressure, real or imagined? 

My family would tell you I can turn anything into a source of stress. I don't appreciate that choice of words, because it sounds intentional, as if I want to be stressed. The fearful part of my mind instinctively analyzes opportunities and events in terms of risk or trouble and puts me on alert.

God has proved Himself faithful in my life during health and financial struggles, but like the Israelites of old, I'm prone to forget the past and think I'm on my own. It really shouldn't take another crisis to prod me to rely on Him.

After all, if a Christian's purpose is to "glorify God and enjoy Him forever" (Westminster Shorter Catechism), our day-to-day relationship with Him should be growing deeper. I want to be like a child with a beloved parent, or like my spiritual hero, Brother Lawrence, depending on God's presence each moment.

I stay close for a while, and life is good whatever the circumstances. Then, slowly, my attention wanders. I pay more attention to the struggles and responsibilities and less to the security of trusting God as my Shepherd.

I drop into a vague malaise that steals my joy and makes living hard. Something's wrong, even if I don't know what. 

There's always "something," if not big, then little. Plenty of people would love to have my small stresses. It's not the size of the burden, but how we handle it. And it's the size of God. 

When I realize I'm back in this mental space, I have a choice: believe my feelings, or believe the Lord's presence, power and promises?

One thing I've learned is to ask Him what's bothering me. Elementary, right? Yet this is a fairly new development. Once I can articulate the root of the issue, it's far easier to bring it to God in prayer. It's also easier to focus on His sufficiency to deal with the issue at hand.

Speaking the problem reveals the underlying fear. 
  • I have more to do than time to do it... What if I do a poor job, forget a crucial element, or miss a deadline? What if I let someone down? Or fail?
  • My church is struggling... What if hurt overrules love and the congregation makes some destructive decisions?
  • Two of my sons need employment... What if they can't get jobs? Or they get stuck in harsh ones?
Recognizing the fear shows those aspects of God's character I need to rely on.
  • Responsibilities... God is my Shepherd, my source of wisdom. He provides enough time to do what He wants done.
  • Church... God is Healer, Shepherd, Judge and more. He can speak to hearts. 
  • Sons... God is Provider, knowing His plans for the future. He works all things for good.
God's character points to His authority.
  • He's well able to direct and provide in each situation.
  • He never fails.
  • He always loves and forgives.
It also points to my true role.
  • To rely on His authority instead of trying to solve things on my own.
  • To submit my responsibilities to Him, cut out anything that's not on His list, and work in trust instead of freezing in anxiety. 
  • To reject fear's whispers and keep my confidence in God. To allow my countenance and demeanor to reflect trust in His good care, instead of moping or looking harried.
Taking control of my wayward thoughts, refocusing on God's sufficiency, is a form of worship. Prayer is essential, and I "self-medicate" with praise music. If God has pointed me to a specific verse or verses, I'll print them and leave them in a prominent place so I'll see them throughout the day.

Looking back, I see progress. The pit of anxiety used to be so much deeper, the walls more slippery and harder to climb out of. My hope and prayer is that as I keep practicing, I'll learn to stay close enough to my Shepherd that I won't slide in at all.

Janet Sketchley's newest novel, Secrets and Lies, has recently been short-listed in the 2015 Word Awards. Like Carol in Secrets and Lies, Janet loves music and tea. Unlike Carol, she isn't related to a dangerous offender, has a happy home life, and has never been threatened by a drug lord. May those tidbits continue to hold true! You can find Janet online at janetsketchley.ca. Fans of Christian suspense are invited to join Janet's writing journey through her monthly newsletter: bit.ly/JanetSketchleyNews.

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Amazon Author Central: www.amazon.com/author/janetsketchley


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