I feel I have been under considerable stress for the past three months. First, I had emergency surgery and then follow-up tests. Two months later, I had to rush my wife to the hospital with a possible heart attack. The next day I began a three-week program in which I mentored medical students for over thirty hours per week. After the three months, I felt drained, anxious, and depressed and wondered how could I get my joy and peace back?

How Stress Affects Us

Stress is with us to stay. We can’t avoid it. We experience stress in the big challenges of life, and in the daily hassles. There is nothing wrong with being under stress. It’s the way God designed life. What is important is to allow ourselves time to recover from the stress and not keep going as usual.

Ways to Recover

First, we need to face the fact we are tired and need recovery. Our natural tendency is to stay busy.

However, slowing down is not as easy as it seems. Many of us will suffer depression when we are not accomplishing as much. Our positive feelings about our worth are often tied to how much we get done. We may remind ourselves that with God we don’t lose any importance by not accomplishing as much.

We may also endure various physical and psychological pains that were masked when we were on an adrenalin high from responding to the stress. These pains would include headaches and indigestion.

We can become a student of ourselves in discovering what activities restore and refresh us. I have found it enjoyable to experiment to determine what activities add to my well – being. One thing I discovered was a love for deep-sea fishing.

Another action to take time is to rest. We need to slow down and take naps as necessary, and we can practice a Sabbath rest once a week if possible. Even God rested from his work on the seventh day.

We should be careful in making new commitments. I prayerfully consider each new commitment while I am in a recovery period which helps in not becoming overly – committed and stressed.

It is important to monitor our adrenalin arousal and how much “fight or flight” energy we are recruiting to handle each problem. Often, we use too much emotional energy. I recently started stressing over simply making an appointment for a test and had to talk myself down from a high adrenalin arousal. Remember God is watching over us and protecting us from all harm (Psalm 128:8).

However, we will need to be patient with ourselves. We didn’t get burned out in a day and we won’t recover in a day either. Many years ago, I knew little about resting and recovery and continued to push myself to do more when I was tired and needed to slow down. When I finally realized how depleted I was, I was exhausted physically and emotionally. It took me three years to fully recover my health.

Let’s learn to pace ourselves. May we enjoy the thrills, excitement and distraction stress brings us. But let’s also cooperate with our bodies and minds in being restored. May God grant us the grace to practice the actions that will help us to recover from stress.

 

 

 

 

I recently discovered I had another abdominal aneurism. They occur in weak arteries and often will rupture if they aren’t shored up by stents or other medical procedures. I had one three years earlier that had been successfully repaired through surgery.

Now, I had another one in the same area. The vascular surgeon recommended immediate surgery because it was growing fast and it was in danger of rupturing. Two weeks later I had surgery to repair the aneurism.

The doctor was pleased with how the surgery went. All the tests showed the aneurism was successfully repaired with a stent. I felt relief and a sense of security, at least until the follow-up scan.

Anticipating the results of the follow-up scan, what should I expect? Could God be trusted to give me good results?

What Can We Trust God to Do for Us?

As I waited for the scan results, God began talking to me through several verses of Scripture. One was, “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalm 23:13, NASB). This reminded me we can trust our God to be good and do good things for us.

He also said, “Delight yourself in Me and I will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4, NASB). We can trust God to give us the desires of our heart as we delight in his goodness and greatness and allow him to change our desires.

We can also trust him to grow us spiritually through the challenges we face. He says in Romans 8:28-29:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called by according to his purpose. For those he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son”

He tells us in these verses he controls the scan results and will work them to our good, which is to make us more like Jesus.

Finally, we can trust God to lovingly watch over us in the difficulties of our lives. He said to me, “I am watching over you lovingly so that no real harm will come to you” (Psalm 121:8, paraphrased). God is our Father who deeply loves us and has our best interests at heart.

Experiencing His Protection

How do we feel safe as we face possibly dangerous circumstances? How do we experience the protection we know we have?

One thing that helps is to reflect and give thanks to God for the many times we have experienced his goodness. When I recall his blessings to me, I often feel better.

Another action is to meditate on verses like Job 37:13, which tells us that God is the one in control. It’s not circumstances, doctors, or how much faith we have that determines the results. God causes the results he wants for his purposes.

A final thought is to pray knowing God Almighty is good and has the power to give us what we ask. We then ask and trust he will give us good results- even if they aren’t the results we hoped for.

Yes, God can be trusted. He will do what he has promised. He will always look out for our best interests. He will always be with us to protect and help us in whatever we face.

 

 

 

I didn’t like the job that God seemed to be leading me into. I wanted to be a missionary but I had just been offered a good job with county government. My leader had interpreted this as God’s will for me to work in a secular job instead of working for his missionary organization. But I felt very disappointed. I didn’t think the job would be as exciting or important as being a missionary.

I suffered for two years with feeling that my career was inferior to being a full-time Christian worker – until I read the book, Secular Worker is Full-Time Service. The book explained that whatever job God leads us into, it is important work. A missionary’s work is not more important than doing a government job. We are all God’s representatives to the people at our jobs and to those who benefit from our labor. We further God’s work in the world by doing our jobs well, even if they are secular.

After reading this book I felt better. I had peace. I embraced my new career and stayed with it for 34 years. Although my career may not have been as desirable as being a missionary, it was what God wanted to do.

Part of the problem with our jobs is that we often use them to try to meet needs that they were never been designed to meet. We seek a fulfillment and meaning that our jobs will never provide. Unless they are connected to God’s purposes, they will lack meaning and satisfaction.

However, in my experience, I feel his joy and peace when I sense he is using me in my job. The honor and respect we get from people through our job achievements will never match the love, respect, and acceptance we get from God from just being his sons or daughters. We can learn to be content in our secular jobs resting in what God thinks of us rather than depending on what others think.

We must see our jobs from God’s perspective. Every job that God leads us to do has an important purpose in God’s plan of revealing himself and rescuing people from Satan’s control.

When we see our jobs as our way to serve God, it takes on more meaning than just putting bread on the table. Also, I have found that any job can be made more fulfilling by doing a good job. I feel satisfied out of doing the simplest projects well.

As I reflect on my secular career, I see how God has used the experience to make me more like himself. The tedious tasks developed patience, the difficult assignments developed courage, and the overwhelming projects developed humility.  The times I wasn’t promoted produced endurance, the times of success produced confidence in God’s goodness, and the times of obscurity produced greater dependence on God’s high opinion of me instead of what others think.

As the Psalmist says, “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked” (Psalm 84:10, NLT). May we accept that God’s choice of our job is better than having any other job. We can then expect to experience joy and peace for doing his assignment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was fascinated by Jesus’s life and his challenge to follow him. But after five months of heavy Bible study, several hours of fellowship each week, being mentored, and being prayed for, I still didn’t have enough faith to receive him into my life. I thought that if I did, nothing would happen.

Then one night my best friend, Greg, shared that he had received Jesus into his heart that afternoon. I was flabbergasted! He was no longer one of my kind, but was one of them.

I sensed that I needed to make a decision about Jesus too. I believed that either I could accept Jesus into my life and keep my best friend, Greg, or reject Jesus and continue to live life the same old way without Greg.

But I didn’t have enough faith to invite Jesus into my life. I still doubted a lot and didn’t know very much. So, I went to Greg that night and asked him what had persuaded him that he could believe.

He shared with me several verses of the Bible that God had used to draw Greg to himself. One of these verses stood out to me. That verse was Mark 9:24 which says, “I do believe; help my unbelief” (NAS).

It was like a light bulb went on for me. I suddenly realized that I didn’t have to have all the answers to have enough faith for him to respond and come into my life. Just a little bit of faith. So, I prayed, “Lord I believe, help me in my unbelief.” And it was enough!

We seem to have mastered the idea that we need to know the Bible. However, we don’t seem to have the same commitment to rely on the Bible. Instead, we tend to rely on such things as our own strength, the approval of others, and good circumstances.

But knowing the Bible does us no good if we don’t believe the Bible. We believe the Bible when we depend on the God of the Bible to make good on his promises. As Jesus worked a miracle of healing for the father who asked Jesus to help him in his unbelief (Mark 9:24), he worked a miracle for me in helping me to believe enough to be saved.

Recently, I went to the doctor for a minor problem.  I don’t like going to doctors. I often feel scared, unsafe and embarrassed by my anxiety which often drives up my blood pressure.

However, I am learning to believe in God in these situations. By believing in God, I know I’m safe and okay despite my fears and what others may think. I choose to rely on what God thinks and that is freeing me from my unbelief.

Our belief grows in a partnership with God. He increases our belief as we cooperate with him. We cooperate by praying, obeying his will, depending on the Bible, fellowshipping, and helping others.

My faith in Jesus started out smaller than a mustard seed. I didn’t have enough faith to receive the gift of salvation. But as I have slowly turned away from relying on my own fortitude these past forty-six years and instead focused on our awesome God to live life, my faith has gradually grown.

 

 

Recently I faced major surgery. It involved doing some repair work on a major artery. Although the procedure was reasonably safe, there were some risks. I felt a lot of anxiety and despair as I faced the possible complications that any surgery on an artery has.

As I processed my fears and some negative thinking, I realized how much I was clinging to this life. I did not want to leave it. I like it here. I have a good family, good health and purpose in my life.

Yet, God could be leading in another direction. Was I willing to go?

As I struggled with finding peace of mind, God brought Matthew 6: 25-34 to mind. Through this passage, he challenged me to stop clinging to my life and trust him to take care of it. “How can your worrying add one hour to your life” he said to me. “Instead, I want you to focus on doing my work and becoming more intimate with me.”

Things We Cling To

We can cling to almost anything other than God. A few weeks ago, someone wanted to borrow our second car for as long as they needed it. Although it was God’s car, I felt like it was mine and I didn’t want to give it up.

We also cling to our reputations. We tend to worry about what others think of us rather than accepting what God thinks. We often seek to earn people’s approval rather than depend on our status as God’s children to find love and approval.

Men especially cling to achievement to feel important. Instead of clinging to what God says, which is “You are precious, you are honored and I love you” (Isaiah 43:4), we choose to rely on achieving impressive things to feel important.

A fourth example that many of us cling to is a happy marriage. We think if we only had a happy marriage we could be happy. But a fully-happy marriage is the product of clinging to God for the power and wisdom to make it happen.

My wife and I are celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary this month. We have had a good marriage. During the courtship and throughout the forty years, clinging to God has given us the ability to overcome some of our selfishness and to love each other.

Why Clinging to God Is Best

He promises that clinging to him will be best for us. “And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:29, NLT).

Clinging to God is the best way to live. It is better than clinging to our money, our family, our pleasures, and our very life. These things carry no value into the next life.

But clinging to God has great value that lasts forever when “our dying bodies will be swallowed up by life” (2 Corinthians 5:4, NLT).

Recently, I was going to the doctor’s office to get the results of my annual scan of how well a stent that was put in three years ago was doing. It was for an aneurysm. I expected good results as I had had in prior years. But the report was not good. I had another fast- growing aneurysm. I felt devastated.

The doctor said that we needed to operate soon. I felt fear as I faced a sea of scary thoughts and questions. I felt unsafe. I asked God what was I to do?

First, I decided to quiet my shaky heart. So, I turned to praying Scripture. As I prayed, God used the Bible verses to guide and lift me up. For example, the verse, “When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, thy consolations delight my soul” (Psalm 34:4) led me to ask God for his joy and comfort.

I also quieted myself so that I could feel my emotions and what they were saying to me. One thing they said was that I didn’t trust his help enough to keep me safe. So, I prayed that I would trust at a deeper level the verse, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.  I will help strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

Then, the next day I had a time of prayer with Jesus where I poured out my worries and fears silently and asked for his help. Through my thoughts, Jesus responded to my fears and offered his love and safety. I sensed that I had talked to Jesus at a deep level. I felt a little safer talking and listening to Jesus through this time.

I don’t expect to ever get over my tendency to fear bad news. And that’s OK. God still loves, accepts and respects me the same. Instead, what I do expect is that by praying, meditating on God’s Word, focusing on my deep emotions, and his help I will grow to feel safer in this unsafe world.

Relying on God’s help is the only way we can feel safe at a deep level. The safety we feel from other ways is false. Things such as good circumstances, immortality, success, and being respected can’t be trusted. But God can.

He says, “Though a thousand fall at your side, though ten thousand are dying around you, these evils will not touch you” (Psalm 91:7). He guarantees our safety until we have lived out the days he has planned for us.

Two other ways we can feel safer in this unsafe world is to praise and thank God several times a day for who he is and what he has done for us.   Praise will help us grasp that he is powerful. Giving thanks will help us give him the credit for the good things he gives. May you take one step today to grow in feeling safe in an unsafe world.

 

 

 

 

 

My fellowshipping has always been a mixed bag. I both enjoy and am disappointed by it. I started out in life being very introverted with only a few friends and have gradually migrated to being in the middle of the introvert- extrovert scale. One of the major reasons for this migration has been the benefits I have received from being in small groups and mentoring others. I have received camaraderie, encouragement, and care, and have helped others. Thus, I am a believer in the importance of fellowship, even if I don’t enjoy it sometimes.

Many people in our society are disconnected from meaningful relationships. They are isolated and lonely. They don’t seem to know that IPhones and Facebook are poor substitutes for life-to-life relationships. Thus, as I greet people at church, I look for ways to connect to them meaningfully- to fellowship with them at the deepest levels that are appropriate.

For example, last Sunday, I talked to a man who is being developed as a future pastor about some of the challenges that this will bring him. Also, I talked to a young man who is pursuing his dream of a career that differs from what society or even his parents think is best for him. He helped me to more deeply realize that my identity came from who I was and not from what I did. Finally, I talked to a third person about his family and some of his personal issues. Each was a meaningful interaction lasting at least 10 minutes and I believe guided by the Holy Spirit.

Fellowship is communicating with other Christians at various levels of depth in the power of the Holy Spirit (1 John 1:7). For example, the men in our small group met over breakfast recently. I was tempted to try to structure the time and ask questions that would help them connect in deeper ways. But God led otherwise. We just had friendly conversations that focused on day-to-day challenges. I sensed that this is what God wanted us to talk about. It was a relationship-building exercise that would enable us to have deeper conversations at another time.

We need to love, help, and encourage one other (1 Corinthians 14:26). This is why it’s so dangerous to isolate ourselves. Satan likes to pick off Christians who have wandered from the fold by not being in fellowship by discouraging and hardening them to sin.

For example, one of the members of our small group had been going through some difficult circumstances. At first, he decided to drop out of the fellowship and to try to fix himself without any help. But his life continued to fall apart as he stayed away from nearly all the Christians that cared about him. Fortunately, after three weeks, he learned how much he needed fellowship and returned.

We need each other desperately to grow and prosper as Christians. As we express acceptance, kindness, truth, respect and vulnerability to each other, we are encouraged, instructed and challenged. We also need models of how to live godly in the nitty-gritty of life. Many times, people have said that they are greatly encouraged just being around people in our small group because they see how to live out what they are studying in the Bible.

So, are you going to conform to the many people in your world who are disconnected from deep relationships? Or are you going to commit to meaningful fellowship with other Believers? It’s really not an option if we hope to live lives in which God will one day say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).