Insights from the joy of having peace with God

Don’t Manage Your Stress and Anxiety

I know it all. Really. Ask my wife and she will tell you that I act as if I do. Sometimes I recognize this as pride, but other times I chalk it up to confidence. I pride myself on how “in control” I am in life and how little stress affects me. Correction: I used to.

Stress is not something I deal with often, but when it hits, it packs a punch. I know that many of you know what I am writing about. About 8 years ago I started experiencing dark periods of depression. I didn’t know exactly what was happening as I was usually known for my care free, easy going nature. I found myself in seasons of loneliness, indifference, void of feeling any emotion. In these moments I found that even knowing the truth of the Word did not mean that my body was able to believe it. I needed more than intellectual ammo, I needed the Holy Spirit. The good news is that He is always there. I am learning more about who He is and how great He is by my confrontation with how weak and depraved I am. I was starting to figure this whole thing out. But….

Recently I had some questionable news come back on a lab report during my annual physical examination. The info I received was so cryptic that I turned to the source of all credible information, WebMD. I knew this was a bad idea, but I clicked away anyways. If you are not familiar with the magnitude of this mistake please take note. Any symptom that you have on this site will show that it could be a sign of death, doom, and destruction. Out of hundreds of possibilities of what my reading could mean, my mind stuck on the worst of them, incurable cancer.

Within minutes my body literally went into panic mode and I experienced my first anxiety attack ever. For days I had no appetite, could not sleep through the night, and I even started to exhibit real symptoms of disease. After numerous tests my doctor could only tell me that the original reading that started this anxiety was a bad reading and that everything seemed to be fine. Right, like I could really believe that.

Finally I allowed myself to surrender to the thought that I was fighting a spiritual battle with physical weapons. I was trying to find ways to reduce my level of stress and anxiety through breathing exercises, stretching, walking, even praying. If I did enough of those activities I believed that I could “manage” the anxiety away. As I was reading through my Bible I kept reading commands given by God through prophets in the OT.

“Fear not.” 

I always thought of this phrase in Scripture as a kind suggestion. As I studied more I found that it was not a suggestion for managing problems in life, but a direct command. To go even further I found Scriptures that deal with anxiety and stress and found them to be commands as well. God does not command us to “fear not” and not to “be anxious” because he wants to help us experience a smoother ride in life. He commands it because it is not of Him. Because of this I was finally confronted with the fact that being apart from Him it did not proceed from faith, and therefore is SIN.

Paul writes in 2 Timothy 1:7 “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

Fear and anxiety are not from God. Therefore my reaction to fear and anxiety in my life should not be to try and manage it, but to hit my face before my God and repent of it. How freeing this is. The burden of worry is lifted. The pain subsides. Please make note that not all of my physical ailments have gone away, but they are no longer my burden to carry. I no longer need to worry about them because they are in the hands of my loving God. My job in this season is to live out His calling in my life. His job in this season is to bring about His will. Peace comes from not trying to do His job.

Obedience is Mine. The Results are His.


Joyfully Trusting Him in Drinking what He Serves

I recently finished reading the book Amazing Grace by Eric Metaxas. (I know that I’m late to the party) If you have not read the book or seen the movie, it is a biography of William Wilberforce of England. Wilberforce is mostly known for his many years of pushing for the abolition of the slave trade in England in the late 18th/early 19th century. By reading the book I was able to see a greater picture of his life and see how he lived obediently and faithfully before God, trusting in Him to rule faithfully in his life. Much of his life was plagued by bad health. Along the way he lost many friends, mentors, family members, and even his wealth.

I was struck by a couple of quotes that Metaxas shared from the hand of Wilberforce as he experienced pain, struggle and loss in his life. As I was reading this I too was going through one of the most difficult times in my life, thus magnifying the impact of his words.

He writes:

“A kind of providence has enabled me with truth to adopt the declaration of David, that goodness and mercy have followed me all my days. And now, when the cup presented to me has some bitter ingredients, yet surely no draught can be deemed distasteful which comes from such a hand, and contains such grateful infusions as those of social intercourse and the sweet endearments of filial gratitude and affection.”

If you are like me, taking a cup to drink without knowing about it’s contents seems extremely odd. There is nothing worse than thinking you have one thing in the cup only to take that liberal first drink and it turn out to be something different. There is a level of trust involved in taking that liberal swig from a cup containing mysterious drink. It could be sweet, bitter, sour, spicy, putrid, or bland. Wilberforce though equates the quality of the drink to the trustworthiness of the server. If the cup is being offered by a Creator, Sustainer, Purposeful, Just, Loving God then it’s contents must be trusted and ingested faithfully and thankfully.

Once his daughter Lizzie died, her infant daughter was being vaccinated and Wilberforce offered the following:

“I was much impressed yesterday, with the similarity in some respects of my own situation to that of [Lizzie’s] dear little innocent, who was undergoing the operation of vaccination. The infant gave up its little arm to the operator without suspicion or fear. But when it felt the puncture, which must have been sharp, no words can express the astonishment and grief that followed. I could not have thought the mouth could have been distended so widely as it continued, till the nurse’s soothing restored her usual calmness. What an illustration is this of the impatient feelings we are often apt to experience, and sometimes even to express, when suffering from the dispensations of a Being, whose wisdom we profess to believe to be unerring, whose kindness we know to be unfailing, whose truth also is sure, and who has declared to us, that all things shall work together for good to them that love Him, and that the object of His inflictions is to make us partakers of His holiness.”

Life is perplexing. Death, illness, pain, and sorrow don’t discriminate between the believer and the unbeliever. Good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people. This is the vanity of life that King Solomon wrote about in Ecclesiastes. The reality of God changes our perspective and our condition. We are not lost without hope in times of trouble, pain or sorrow. God’s sovereignty gives us confidence and hope to drink the cup we are given with thanksgiving knowing that it is given us to drink by a loving, just and sovereign God.

Philippians 4:6-7 instructs us to not be anxious about the bitterness of the drink and instead thankfully lift our burden to God knowing that he will give us peace that will guard our hearts and minds.

I am reminded of our Lord Jesus in the garden the night of his arrest crying out to God that if the cup that He was to drink is given to Him by God that He would drink it faithfully, trusting in His Father.

In times of turmoil, stress and anxiety I crave rest. Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30 to give our burdens to Him and that He would give us rest. Knowing that He is serving the drink gives me peace and rest knowing that it’s contents are purposeful and given to me by my Lord and Savior.

Like Wilberforce I am learning to focus on the server of the drink rather than on the drink itself.

Obedience is mine. The Results are His.

Inventors of Evil

As many people on the twitterverse have seen there is a trial unfolding in Pennsylvania involving Kermit Gosnell and his abortion clinic. There are many allegations that are shocking, disgusting, angering, and saddening. Despite a lack of coverage by major media outlets many are aware of the horrors that have taken place in this man’s clinic over the years. According to reports and witness testimonies hundreds of human beings have been murdered in the form of late term abortions, the severing of the spinal cords of children directly following their live delivery, and even two deaths of young mothers. Though this is illegal, the clinic operated without inspection for 17 years.

The stories of what took place inside the clinic are sickening and expose some of the most gruesome evil that exists in the world today. The evils of abortion, or murder, are easily identified by Christians as sins that are detestable to God. My spirit cries out in moments like this in agony longing for God’s justice and redemption. Admittedly, anger builds up inside of me along with heartache for the sins of this world. It even leads me to detest the sins that are still in my own life. Read more…

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Insights from the joy of having peace with God

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stories and happenings from our simple life and occasional adventures in East Asia.