By Wilma Davis
When I began teaching in public school in January, 1987, I had the lowest kids in 2nd grade, and the teacher I replaced had not established classroom management. In four short months, I had to train the children in proper classroom behaviors and catch them up in reading and mathematics. In addition, my daughter was having problems adjusting to middle school. I felt like I was about to have a nervous breakdown when I cried out to God and my Bible opened to Psalm 42:11, “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” That verse gave me the hope I needed to endure. I wrote it on an index card and put it in my pocket, where I could retrieve it throughout the days until Spring Break when I could get some extended rest. I clung to the promise that this too would pass, and I would again be praising the Lord, because He is faithful. Whatever your stress is, ask God for relief, write down the verse He gives you, and read it throughout the day. Be sure, this too will pass.
Joyce Smith had a stressful life. Her two daughters, daughter-in-law and new grandbaby were traveling to see the baby’s father who was stationed at an Army base in Louisiana. On the way, they missed a curve and hit a tree head-on. The baby was killed and her sixteen year old daughter was permanently paralyzed. Not long after, Joyce’s husband was involved in an accident that caused the tanker truck he drove to explode, sending acid all over his body to eat away flesh, muscle, and bone. In spite of such losses and the trials of two quadriplegics, Joyce remained positive every day. She was known for answering her telephone with “Smile, God loves you.” She did this every day, every time, even as she lay ill with liver disease. I wondered how she did it, and realized she kept Christian radio playing 24 hours a day. She constantly fed her soul with God’s word. That is positive self-talk that makes a difference!
Don’t be afraid to tell God what is bothering you. That is what He tells us to do: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”9 Have you noticed how the psalmists unloaded their hearts to God? You will identify with them as you read, “Answer me when I call to you, O Lord.”10 “Why, O Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?”11 You are in a support group with men of old. Hang with them as they complain about life’s problems and give God suggestions: “Banish them for their many sins.”12 “Let death take my enemies by surprise; let them go down alive to the grave, for evil finds lodging among them.”13 Go with them as they run to their Refuge: “In you, O Lord, I have taken refuge.”14 “Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge, I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.”15 Then, rejoice with them as they proclaim victory, “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever.”16 “But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.”17 At the lowest point in my life reading the Psalms was all I could do. My prayers seemed to go no further than the ceiling, but when I read the Psalms, God’s peace overflowed in my heart. Those were very precious times! And I must say, God did turn my mourning into dancing in such a way, I would not have believed it, if I’d been told.
Another psalmist found rest by recalling how good God has been to him: “Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.”18 Consider writing your own psalm by patterning Psalm 136. “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever…” Write a verse that recites something God has done for you and repeat “His love endures forever.” Continue until you can write no more. You will be surprised at how meaningful the experience will be.
One of my husband’s favorite songs is “Count Your Blessings”. It says to “name them one by one.”19 And that reminds me of the exhortation to “continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise ? the fruit of lips that confess his name.”20 God sacrificed His beloved Son that we might have eternal and abundant life. Our praise seems such a small sacrifice in comparison.
When relationships cause you stress, it is important to know your and the other person’s temperaments. Know what pushes your buttons, and theirs, and plan ahead as Daniel did when knowing he would be tempted with the King’s diet.21 Plan how you will react godly to situations and ask God for an escape. Know your plan and use it the next time you are faced with the stressful situation or person. When you know and accept who you are, realize that the other person deserves the same respect. As an example, I know I am melancholy, overly serious, and will never be sanguine no matter how hard I try. When I work with someone who is sanguine and has trouble settling down or following through with details like I want them to, I remember that kind of behavior should be expected from someone of her temperament. Knowing that helps me appreciate her excitement, enthusiasm, and concern for others’ feelings, thereby relieving stress by relieving my expectations. That frees her to use the gifts God has given her to focus on the relationships while I focus on the nitty-gritty of the project. Remember, too, sometimes, the best plan is to walk away from conflict.
We can forfeit the respite God plans for us by ignoring His design for a Sabbath rest. He commanded the nation of Israel to cease all labor and devote the day for sacred assembly.22 Though we are not under the law, and no longer observe the Sabbath, as with all of God’s laws, a day of rest each week is good for us. Certainly, setting aside the first day of the week to devote to knowing and worshipping God is in His will as evidenced by the first church that began worshipping with Jesus weekly beginning on his resurrection day.23 If God rested after six days of labor, commanded Israel to do the same, and Jesus and the early church followed the same pattern, we are surely short-changing ourselves of the benefit of a day of rest and worship when we forsake assembling ourselves together as His church and refraining from the daily grind.
Above all things, regardless of how trying life becomes, never forget the cross. That is where God showed His love for you.24 We love to sing the song, “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” That is from Psalm 118:24, but unlike, what we first think, it isn’t talking about today. To get a clearer picture, read verses 22 ? 23: “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” The day we can rejoice in, regardless of what conflict and fears are raging around or within us, is the day Jesus was victorious over the grave. While people who reject Him stumble and fall over Him, those who believe in Him as their personal Savior have victory over death and hell. That is a great day, and we rejoice and are glad when we shift our thoughts and attention from our problems to His victory.
If there were no heaven and no hell, no life after death, or no resurrection, I would still want to know Jesus because of the joy, peace, and comfort I experience when walking through life with Him. But, Jesus’ tomb is empty! His resurrection assures us of ours. We rest secure in hope of what is to come, “Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”25 God cannot lie and He promises everlasting life to those who believe in Him. We will experience joy and pleasures in the presence of our God, one day. “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”26
Believers are true winners for we have everything we need to walk through life resting on His yoke, carried by His resurrection power, and looking forward to our everlasting heavenly home. If you have never made the decision to accept Jesus’ death and resurrection as your own payment for sin, you will never have the rest and peace that passes all understanding.27 Jesus begs you to come. “Come unto me and I will give you rest.” No wonder Billy Graham used the old song, “Just as I Am”28 for his crusade invitation for so many years. Yes, Jesus calls to us to come, just as we are. He will give you rest!