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As pressure and stress bear down on me, I find joy in your commands. Psalm 119:143 (NLT)

20140825_073143My family and I love to camp. One of our favorite spots to spend a few days is in extreme northern Minnesota. Just miles from the Canadian border, we are without electricity except for our camper batteries, have no cell phone signal and are 50 miles from the nearest hospital. We enjoy taking the boat out, playing games, taking naps and just getting away from all the stress of the ‘real world’ in our hidden paradise.

The only connection we have with the world outside is a weather radio that we listen to each morning so that we know what to expect weather-wise in regards to going out on the lake or taking hikes through the forest.

Last summer, on the day before we were going to leave, we listened to an ominous forecast on our weather radio. Severe weather was bearing down on us from the west. There were reports of damaging winds, funnel clouds and torrential rains. Maps we had with us verified that we were in the path of the oncoming storm.

Knowing the storm was at least an hour away, we made sure to put away anything that might become destroyed and packed away everything we could in preparation for the oncoming storm as well as our journey home in the morning. Then20140824_195154 we climbed up on a rock and watched the sunset and approaching clouds.

We were nervous. The unknown frightened us. We made contingency plans for the possibility of having to evacuate the camper due to severe weather. Fortunately, the worst of the storm went south of us and we got nothing but plenty of loud thunder, bright lightning and heavy rain.

The oncoming storm reminds me of stress. Stress is, I believe, really as symptom of other emotions. We become stressed when we worry about financial struggles. We become stressed when we are discouraged about the doctor’s report. We become stressed when we fear the consequences of poor choices or relational breakdowns.

We see the storm clouds on the horizon. We know the possibilities of disaster even though, in reality we are uncertain of the exact outcome. We take every precaution we can and then do the only thing left: wait.

When the uncertainty of life bears down on us and we are unsure of the outcome or whatever it is we face, we have a place where we can go for cover. That place of refuge is God’s Word and his many promises to us.

Sometimes, when people are stressed they look for temporary fixes. That’s why airports often have bars close to the gates. Alcohol doesn’t take away the fear, but it deadens it for a while. For some new relationships, shopping, taking a trip or watching porn is an escape. There can be all sorts of things you can do to try to deaden the impact of stress on your life. But they are all temporary fixes.

Dealing with stress

  1. The next time you are stressed, take some time to reflect on exactly what the basis for your stress is. Is if fear? Is it guilt? Is it worry? Is it procrastination? What is the cause of stress in your life.
  2. Secondly, go to God’s word or, if you are unfamiliar with God’s word or don’t know where to start, find someone who can help you in this area.
  3. The third step to dealing with the storm of stress is to give over whatever is stressing you to the promises of God.
  4. Lastly, seek Godly wisdom on how to deal with the storm. Sometimes it’s just a matter of waiting to see what happens, like we did in our camper that night. Other times there may be things you need to do like confess a sin, re-focus your lifestyle, ask forgiveness, etc.

True joy comes when we rest in the promises of an all-loving, all-powerful God whose desire is for each of us to live in peace. Jesus said “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27(NLT)

PRAYER: Jesus, I thank you for the many promises you have given us through your word, the Holy Bible. I thank you for the fact that you know exactly what I’m going through and for the promise that you not only know the outcome, you will walk me through it. I give this stress over to you based on the promise of peace you have given me. Amen.

Have compassion on me, LORD, for I am weak. Heal me, LORD, for my bones are in agony. Psalm 6:2 (NLT)

I love plants, but I am not even close to what some may call a person with ‘a green thumb.’ In reality, if my plants could talk they’d probably describe me using the words ‘abusive’ or ‘neglectful’. Not intentionally of course, but the plants I have sit silently every day and quite often go unnoticed until their leaves droop. When that finally catches my attention I water them and hope they ‘come back’.

The Psalmist describes himself as being weak. That phrase ‘for I am weak’ may be better rendered ‘I am as one who droops’. That phrase gives the word picture of a plant in drought conditions…or a plant in my living room from time to time. The ground beneath it yearns for water. The leaves droop under the stress of trying to grow with no nourishment.

We get that way from time to time, don’t we? For some of us it’s not an occasional thing but a daily condition. The burdens of the day weigh us down. We yearn for even a little respite from the agony of worry, the fear of failure, the shame from poor decisions, and the demands of addiction.

We walk (on the inside) like the little boy I saw in the mall the other day. Obviously done with a long day of shopping and wanting to be carried he drug himself down the hall, arms drooping, head down, staggering under some unseen load, and moaning “I’m tired. Carry me.” (You can add the drama according to where you are today!)

In Old Testament times ‘for my bones are in agony’ didn’t refer to the skeletal system that upholds us. It referred more to the emotional make-up of the person. Not only did David feel like he was drooping under the pressure of the day, the pain went to his very soul. He was tired physically and that fatigue went all the way to the very heart of his being.

Another Old Testament author, Jeremiah, voices a similar plea when he says, “O LORD, if you heal me, I will be truly healed; if you save me, I will be truly saved. My praises are for you alone!” (Jeremiah 17:14)

There are times in our lives when we feel like my plant in the corner. We keep doing the things we do, we keep giving, serving and tending to our daily routines, but in the midst of the activity there’s a whole lot more going out than coming in. We can feel unappreciated, unnoticed, neglected or even abused.

That’s when we come to the Father for the refreshment we need from his spirit. Like the woman at the well, we come to the one who promises us water, refreshing water that lives within us to encourage us along the way. His healing is eternal and available regardless of the reason for our stress.

PRAYER: Lord there are times when the stress of my day seems to overwhelm me. Like David, the pain seems to go to my very soul. Heal me with the refreshing water of your Spirit. Help me to find my strength in you when the demands of life seem too great. Amen.

All of us were like sheep that had wandered off. We had each gone our own way, but the LORD gave him the punishment we deserved. Isaiah 53:6 (CEV)

Jesus wants each of us to know two things, we are all sheep and we’ve all wandered. It doesn’t matter if you are the CEO of a major company or a Single parent living in low-income housing. You are a sheep. It doesn’t matter if you are a teen struggling to get through school or a leading professor in a major university, you are a sheep. It doesn’t matter if you have a bank-roll the size of Rhode Islandor are unemployed and living on welfare and food stamps, you are a sheep. It doesn’t matter if you are on your sixth marriage (and it’s in trouble) or are celebrating your 75th wedding anniversary with your high school sweetheart, you are a sheep.

Before you conjure up in your minds the picture of a cute little lamb drinking from a bottle and looking all cute and cuddly, take a look at some sheep facts.

  • Sheep have to have a leader to follow. Experiments with sheep have shown that usually one sheep is the dominant one. If that sheep is taken from the flock and the sheep are sent out to the same pasture they’ve gone to a thousand times, they will become confused. Some will lie down. Others will wander aimlessly or simply stand in one place and not know what to do.
  • Sheep are crowd followers. They rarely think for themselves. They’d just as soon have someone else do that for them. As long as they are fed and comfortable they are happy.
  • Sheep become very stressed with change and when separated from their friends. When danger comes they tend to panic and flee in different directions without thought of the consequences.
  • Sheep tend to be closest to those who are ‘related’ to them and don’t interact well with sheep ‘of another color’ so to speak.
  • Although not considered intelligent at all, sheep do tend to remember faces and voices very well and can differentiate between a familiar voice and an unfamiliar voice.

Consider, for a moment how many times we react like sheep in our daily lives, in our relationships with others and with God and during times of stress. Remember…we are ALL sheep.

Secondly, we have all wandered away. When I was young I remember hearing testimonies of men and women who had been delivered from the most horrendous lifestyle imaginable. I often wished that I could have a great testimony like that. One that speaks of God’s deliverance from terrible things. Of course, since then I’ve learned two things. One is that I’ve made enough blunders of my own to qualify. Secondly, in God’s eyes we are all sheep (have I mentioned that?) and we have all wandered. It doesn’t matter where we’ve wandered or how far or why. We have all wandered away from God. We all have stories of his deliverance.

It’s no wonder then that Jesus refers to himself as the good shepherd. The good shepherd knows the struggles sheep have. He knows they depend on him for protection, guidance and companionship. He knows their ways and they know his voice. Even though we, as sheep, wander we have a good shepherd who constantly looks after us to guide comfort and forgive.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus. Thank you for being the good shepherd. Thank you for forgiving me, being patient when I wander and seeking me out when I stray. Help me to follow your voice and not the other voices. In your name, Amen.

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. Hebrews 13:20-21

One of the great cripplers of society is stress. Stress seems to attack us at ever opportunity, robbing us of our joy, our physical health, our self-image and our relationships with others and God. Divorce, financial ruin and a whole lot of other issues can often be directly or indirectly attributed to stress.

Stress is a complicated issue dependent on each person’s circumstances, perspective and background. However, one of the causes of stress in our lives is our desire to get what we want. Who can fault us for wanting a nice home; for providing for our children or retirement; for having as successful business? But too many times the desire to attain those things leads to spiritual, physical and emotional turmoil…or stress.

The writer to the Hebrews closes his letter with a prayer for his readers and for each of us. He prays that God’s peace would be at work in us. It’s an easy prayer to make. Our Heavenly Father’s purpose for sending Jesus, for raising him from the dead and promising us present blessing and eternal life was to provide peace for us.

Many times, in the dark, honest moments of our lives we need to ask ourselves this question: “Am I doing all this for my good or for God’s good?” God wants to give us things to relieve our stress. God wants to give us peace. God wants to equip us for a successful life. His equipping is so that the things we do are for His glory and not our temporal earthly comfort. Those things may come as a result, but they are not a prerequisite to God’s good work being done through us.

What does God want for you? Peace. Peace gained through doing the things he wants us to do with the gifts he’s given us for his glory. It may be as a pastor or a server at the local coffee shop. The important thing is that you are doing the right thing for the right reason with the gifts God has supplied for you.

PRAYER: Father God, stress seems to be an ever-present part of my life as I strive to survive and succeed in life. I pray that you would help me to use the gifts you have given me for your glory and not my comfort. Place me where you want me so that I can do the work you have for me. Remove the obstacles that cause unneeded stress in my life. In Jesus name, Amen.


“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9

Recently I took a trip from the Midwestern USA to the California. Most of the trip was taken with clear skies allowing us to look out the window to the earth some 4 miles below us. We saw the beauty of the plains with lakes and rivers. We saw the mountains and the desert. While I was reminded of the vastness of the world and its beauty there were some things that were undistinguishable from my vantage point.

For example, I couldn’t tell how deep the lakes were; I couldn’t tell how hot the desert was; I couldn’t determine how high the mountains or hills were, nor could I tell how low the valley’s were. From my perspective it all looked pretty close to the same.

I thought of that flight when I read the words from Isaiah. God’s thoughts are not like our thoughts. We are made in God’s image and because of that we have the ability to think, reason and remember just as He does. But our thoughts are limited to what we can see in a very small segment of time and space.

We may be able to remember the mistakes and abuses and turmoil of our past. We may be able to anticipate or guess what lies ahead. But in reality, we can’t even see one second into the future! Our Father in Heaven, on the other hand remembers all the way back to our birth and sees all the way to our death (and all eternity as well!).

The things we see as major obstacles are but a blip on the screen to God because He knows the outcome. From His vantage point He knows that even though you may be struggling with something that is devastating to you, He sees the whole picture of how this event will work out.

There’s one weakness to my analogy of the plane-window-view of life and God’s view. From my vantage point I saw no people whatsoever. I didn’t see how those below me were struggling. I didn’t see the tears being shed. I didn’t see the victories being enjoyed.

That’s not true with God. He sees from beginning to end. The things we see as major obstacles aren’t seen that way by Him. But God sees each of us individually. He is able to see the deepest corners of our minds, our thoughts, our feelings and our pain.

Right now you may be going through some struggle that seems unbearable. It could be health related, financially related, relationship issues or a whole list of other things. Whatever it is that is troubling you may have led to anger, frustration, guilt, worry or doubt. Remember that God knows how things will work out. Don’t forget that He also understands Your pain, or whatever other emotion you are feeling right now.

He may not remove you from your situation, but He understands your heart and anxiously waits to comfort and strengthen you. Your Heavenly Father loves you. The more you grow in relationship with Him the more you will sense His love and strength.

PRAYER: Holy God, I can’t comprehend how your thoughts can be so vast that you can see the entire world and so intimate that you can see and understand my deepest emotions. I praise you for your greatness and your willingness to comfort me in my deepest need. As you know, I struggle with my faith in You or myself. Empower me with your Spirit to see things Your way and to trust you when the issues of my life scream at me to doubt. Thank you for loving me the way you do. Amen.

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February 2023
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