On this Thanksgiving Day (for my American friends) I just wanted to sit and write out some things I've been thinking about concerning stress and joy. Three books I've been reading came together all at one time to challenge me on the same thing. When that happens, I'm pretty sure it's God talking.
The first was the Bible, specifically Psalm 100. These phrases stood out to me:
- Shout for joy
- Worship the Lord with gladness
- Come before Him with joyful songs
- Know the the LORD is God
- Enter His gates with thanksgiving
- Enter His courts with praise
- Give thanks to Him
- Praise His name
Then I've been reading Crazy Love by Francis Chan. I know this quote is a bit long, but believe me, it's worth reading:
"But then there's that perplexing command: 'Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!' (Phil. 4:4) You'll notice that it doesn't end with '.....unless you're doing something extremely important.' No, it's a command for all of us, and it follows with the charge, 'Do not be anxious about anything' (v. 6).
"That came as a pretty staggering realization. But what I realized next was even more staggering.
" When I am consumed by my problems -- stressed out about my life, my family, and my job -- I actually convey the belief that I think the circumstances are more important than God's command to always rejoice. In other words, that I have a 'right' to disobey God because of the magnitude of my responsibilities.
"Worry implies that we don't quite trust that God is big enough, powerful enough, or loving enough to take care of what's happening in our lives.
"Stress says that things we are involved in are important enough to merit our impatience, our lack of grace towards others, or our tight grip of control.
"Basically, these two behaviors communicate that it's okay to sin and not trust God because the stuff in my life is somehow exceptional. Both worry and stress reek of arrogance. They declare our tendency to forget that we've been forgiven, that our lives here are brief, that we are headed to a place where we won't be lonely, afraid, or hurt ever again, and that in the context of God's strength, our problems are small indeed.
"Why are we so quick to forget God? Who do we think we are?"
Ouch! That hurt! Oh yes, the truth hurts....."I think the circumstances are more important than God's command to always rejoice." "It's okay to sin and not trust God because the stuff in my life is somehow exceptional."
And back to Psalm 100. WHY should I rejoice always? Because:
- the LORD is good
- His love endures forever
- His faithfulness continues through all generations
(Mind you, I do believe during stressful times it might be time to take a look at my life, eliminate a few things, get some exercise, say "no" when necessary, ask somebody to help with tasks, etc. Stress can also be caused by fatigue so what do I need to do to get enough sleep, to spend time with my family, to have time with God, etc.)
The third book I've been reading is Chuck Swindoll's devotional book, Living Beyond the Daily Grind. This particular chapter focused on Psalm 100. The author, as an exercise, asks us to "Define gratitude". My definition was, "Acknowledging that the good things in my life are from God and thanking Him for them. Acknowledging that the difficult things in my life are allowed by God for my good and my growth and thanking Him for them even when I don't understand them."
Swindoll also challenges the reader to write a blessing list and this is what I came up with. I didn't spend a lot of time on this, so I know it could be a lot longer!
Blessings at home:
1. A faithful husband who is always good to me and who loves the Lord more than anything.
2. Children and their spouses who are walking with the Lord.
3. That aforesaid children have jobs.
4. A quiet house with all the "stuff" that we need (and probably more than enough!)
5. A car that runs well and gets us there.
6. Plenty of food and no worries about where we will get food tomorrow.
Blessings at church:
1. Freedom to worship in a mostly M*sl*m country
2. A place to meet after the flood, even if it is only a tent
3. People from so many different countries coming together to worship every Sunday
4. Having a Bible study at our house
1. Good health
2. That God has given me an even temperament to handle some of the stuff I've had to do since August
3. Parents who have given me a godly heritage
Hard things I need to praise God in:
1. Separation from our kids.....especially hard on days like Thanksgiving
2. No internet....affects the communication, John working on his research, etc.
3. So much work. It really seems like a lot some days.
So those are some of my thoughts on this Thanksgiving Day. This is how God has been challenging me the past two weeks. Am I focusing on Him and His goodness or am I so focused on my tasks that I'm stressed, upset, and worried?
No pictures this time because of the lousy internet! Oh wait, I'm complaining again!!!