Four months have passed since I posted my last blog. The past several months have been extremely challenging. Like most of you, I have a job that demands a great deal of my time and effort. There have been days when I am so mentally fatigued, I am convinced that some of my brain cells are melting and leaking from my ears.
Thoughts of running away seem to be a constant recurrence. While running away might have been an option forty years ago, today I have too many responsibilities to entertain the prospect of even a tame adventure.
When I was first starting out in my career, I thrived on stress. Stress on my job was a shot of adrenalin that just pushed me to work harder. Now, I honestly believe I am allergic to stress. I’m not sure that’s an actual ailment. However, if I took the time to investigate, I would probably be able to locate a research funded by a government grant that verifies my suspicion.
Even though I have taught lessons on managing stress, I still have a difficult time putting my words into practice. So, what should I do when stress is threatening my physical and mental health? How do I continue to be a productive and loyal employee when all I want to do is run yelling and screaming out the front door?
One morning as I was preparing my heart for some quiet time alone with the Lord, I just asked him what he wanted to say to me that morning. As difficult as it is for me to sit in silence, I forced myself to just sit and listen. (You will be amazed what happens when you really do listen.) A soft voice whispered to my heart, “Read Psalm 46.” I read the following passage in the New English Translation:
1 God is our strong refuge;
he is truly our helper in times of trouble.
2 For this reason we do not fear when the earth shakes,
and the mountains tumble into the depths of the sea,
3 when its waves crash and foam,
and the mountains shake before the surging sea. (Selah)
4 The river’s channels bring joy to the city of God,
the special, holy dwelling place of the sovereign One.
5 God lives within it, it cannot be moved.
God rescues it at the break of dawn.
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms are overthrown.
God gives a shout, the earth dissolves.
7 The Lord who commands armies is on our side!
The God of Jacob is our protector! (Selah)
8 Come! Witness the exploits of the Lord,
who brings devastation to the earth!
9 He brings an end to wars throughout the earth;
he shatters the bow and breaks the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
10 He says, “Stop your striving and recognize that I am God!
I will be exalted over the nations! I will be exalted over the earth!”
11 The Lord who commands armies is on our side!
The God of Jacob is our protector! (Selah)
When I read verse 10, I felt as if the Holy Spirit was yelling at me, “Stop your striving and recognize that I am God!” Now, if that wasn’t enough, I picked up my devotional for the day, and Psalm 46 was the key passage in my devotional!
I looked up at the ceiling and yelled, “You have got to be kidding me?” At this point, the dog thinks I’m talking to her and gives me a rather quizzical stare.
How do I describe the mixture of emotions that I felt in that moment? I felt a sense of awe that the Creator of the Universe would speak to me in such a personal way. Yet, I also felt like a child being reprimanded for her bad attitude and rebellious behavior. Now, that’s when you know you need to pray.
Many versions of the Bible translate verse 10 as, “Be still and know that I am God.” While the wording may be different, the meaning is still the same. Yet on that particular morning, I needed to hear, “Stop your striving and recognize that I am God!”
I am a perfectionist in my job and in other areas of my life (with the exception of my house but that’s another story for another day). I do not settle for anything less than my best when I tackle a project at work. Unfortunately, I become so focused on perfection, I have a tendency to forget that my strength and wisdom will only carry me so far. I become self-sufficient, escape into my own little world, and forget that my strength and wisdom should come from the Lord. Wanting to run away should have been a red flag signaling that I was striving too hard.
Bible scholars point out that “Be still” or “Stop striving” literally mean, “Take your hands off! Relax.” Now, do you understand why I felt like a little girl being reprimanded?
I am a hands-on girl. I have trouble delegating and even more trouble letting go. My Heavenly Father knows me well. He loves me in spite of my faults and frailties. He wants me to learn to relax in his love and grace. He wants me to stop trying so hard to impress him or others.
If you go back and read Psalm 46, notice that the entire passage is encouraging us to look to God as our refuge and strength when the world is falling apart. Is your world falling apart? Do you feel as if everything around you is spinning out of control?
It’s time to stop striving. It’s time to stop trying to fix everyone and everything around you. You are not God. You may need to stop long enough to take inventory of your life. Ask God to show you what he wants you to do, where he wants you to go. Maybe it’s time to start saying “no” more often. Maybe it’s time to set healthy boundaries. Maybe it’s time to change jobs or careers. Maybe it’s time to downsize that expensive house. Maybe it’s time to talk to your husband or children about sharing more of the chores at home. Maybe God is trying to change you instead of your circumstances. You cannot know what he has for you unless you ask him.
Before God spoke the worlds into existence, we were already in his heart (see Ephesians 1:3-4). He had already mapped out the paths we would take in our journey with him (see Ephesians 2:10). He knows what is best for us. He wants a relationship with us. He wants us to live a life dependent on him. This can be a hard lesson for most of us to learn. Unfortunately, I’m one of those individuals that need reminding every single day, sometimes every second of the day.
“Stop your striving and recognize that I am God.”
Kathy Garrett McInnis