I wanted to write about this incredible sermon I heard at Saddleback two weeks ago. I think it is so helpful. Rick Warren’s message really resonated with me and I thought I would share it.
There seems to be a recurring theme in the things I am reading and hearing lately: if you’re stuck, give the problem over to God and let Him sort it out. This is not something I would have believed in the past. This idea, to the old me, seemed like a refusal to take responsibility. It is anything but. In talking it over with God, you must be open to the possibility that YOU ARE THE CAUSE of your problem. If this is the case, you must be willing to fix it. It actually takes more trust and responsibility to acknowledge when you are out of your depth and hand the issue over. I think that most often we are, and our attempts to fix the situation only make it worse.
7 Spiritual Habits That Reduce Stress
1. Look to God for all my needs. I can look to someone else, but I will be disappointed when that person fails me, and the person will be frustrated at the impossibly high standards I have for them. Looking to another flawed human being to fix your problems is never going to work. All of our needs are the same, and God will meet them all. If this is where you are struggling, try this prayer: “I trust God to meet my needs.” Perhaps after enough repetition, you will believe it!
2. Obey God’s Instructions About Rest. God created us to need sleep. Quite a bit of it, in fact. We sleep through 1/3 of our lives. He created us to need rest, and He modeled it during creation on the seventh day. Jesus rested frequently with his disciples after a long day of healing the crowds. This brings up the importance of maintaining a Sabbath day. In our busy lives, we probably do not take an entire Sabbath day. I know, for me, I do not find any one day of the week to be more restful than other days. This is a mistake; I am running my battery to empty without it. On our Sabbath day we need to: 1. Rest our bodies 2. Refocus our spirits 3. Recharge our emotions. If we can’t do these things, we won’t be much use. It doesn’t have to be Sunday; it can be any day you choose. Rick Warren also emphasized that not keeping the Sabbath isn’t just a bad idea; it’s a sin. The problem is that we feel so overwhelmed with things that beed to be done. This is where trust comes into play: we need to trust God to take care of our needs if we take care of ourselves. If you are struggling with resting, pray this: “I trust God by resting.”
3. Recharge my soul with beauty. We live in a beautiful world, and that is no accident. The world is beautiful for our enjoyment, God’s glory, and our health. Are you inside all day? If so, you’re missing out on the importance of the natural world. Interestingly, Warren says that music and art are major arguments against evolution. They serve no purpose save for our enjoyment, and yet they persist, even thrive, in human civilizations. We love beauty. We are most like our Creator when we are creative. Beauty is a stress reliever. How often have you looked to music to soothe you on a stressful day? For me, it’s my son’s beautiful face that always calms me.
4. Go to God for Guidance. Indecision causes stress. That is a pretty obvious statement, and yet I think we ignore the gravity of it. Turn decisions over to God and relax in the confidence that He will help. This requires trust and faith, again. Pray: “I trust God to guide me at the right time.” It may not be your time, but it will be the right time. So pray and wait.
5. Trust God in Dark Valleys. When you turn your back on the shadows, you gaze on the light. The Bible tells us to “fear not” 365 times. One for each day. Fear is a matter of perspective. When you are in a dark valley, you can choose to fixate on the shadows, but you don’t have to. The two responses are grief or fear. Grief is good. Grief is a productive emotion. Fear will do nothing for you.
6. Let God be my Defender. Little people belittle people. My critics are the least important people in my life. Conflict, opposition and criticism cause stress. The choice, then, is clear: choose not to participate. The human instinct is to strike back when attacked, but this will only draw you in deeper.
7. Expect God to Finish What he Starts in Me. If God saved me, it is His job to keep me saved. I didn’t save me, so I can’t lose me.
The verse that was floating in my head through this whole message was the one that Rick closed with:
Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Matthew 11:28-30 RSV
At first this passage was confusing to me: I have burdens, so I should set them aside and take up your yoke? Trade one burden for another? But it is something I would not understand without knowing about yokes and oxen. When two animals are yoked together, they share the burden. One can be stronger or more experienced, and that animal will guide the other, taking more of the weight that the other cannot hold. It’s actually a quite beautiful metaphor. To be side by side, as equals, but with one carrying more and gently guiding the other…
See if that makes you feel any better in your times of stress.