Luke 6:28 NKJV
Night after night, Mary was beaten by her father when he came home from the bar in a drunken rage. So the first chance she got, she left home. Given time, most physical scars begin to heal, but emotional scars can last a lifetime. They can keep you stuck in the pain of the past and cost you valuable relationships. Even the people who love you can grow weary and despair that you’ll ever get better despite their efforts to help you. Do you know someone like that? Are you that someone? Do you want to move toward healing and find joy? You can. Mary found it when she decided to forgive her dad and start praying for him. That’s when she started to become spiritually and emotionally whole. And she kept on forgiving him and praying for him until her old memories no longer held her prisoner. Jesus said, “Pray for those who spitefully use you.” The word “spiteful” implies you did nothing to cause or deserve it, that your offender hurt you for reasons you may never understand. That’s why Jesus prayed on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34 NKJV). That doesn’t let your offender off the hook. They will live with the guilt of what they did, and unless they turn to God for forgiveness they’ll have no peace. But you will have peace! When you decide to forgive someone and pray for them, you take back your power and reclaim your life.
Soul food: 1 Chr 7:20-9:44; John 8:31-41; Ps 30; Prov 25:13-17
Matthew 6:31-32 NLT
If God lives within you, shouldn’t it be obvious? How can you say you trust Him and then worry obsessively about your health, your kids, your job, and your finances? Concern is one thing, but worry is an affront to the God who has never let you down. Paul writes, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace” (Philippians 4:6-7 NLT). Pray or worry – those are your options. Why did Jesus say, “Take no thought for tomorrow”? (See Matthew 6:34). Because when you take thought you try to take control. And when that happens peace goes out the window! Worry is like a snowball; it starts small, and as you keep rolling it forward it becomes big enough to bury you. All that’s necessary to keep a stationary train from moving forward are two six-inch blocks of wood, but once it builds up a head of steam it will crash through a six-foot-thick wall. So stop the worry train before it leaves the station! God says, “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV). God will give you only what you need for today; that way you have to keep trusting Him for tomorrow. The Bible tells us Jesus is the Good Shepherd who “calls his own sheep by name and…walks ahead of them” (John 10:3-4 NLT). How wonderful. He’s already gone ahead of you to arrange everything. Knowing that should help you face tomorrow, confident that God will take care of you.
Soul food: Ezra 1-2; John 6:25-34; Ps 98; Prov 24:15-18
Psalm 55:22 NIV
When we feel stressed, we can try and find distraction and comfort in things that might actually make our situation worse, such as food, back-to-back TV shows, endless scrolling through social media, and making ourselves really busy. All these things are used to take our mind off what we are feeling, but they don’t deal with the problem. But God doesn’t want us to live our lives crippled by stress. So what can we do when we are feeling stressed out? Firstly, we need to take it to God. The psalmist writes: ‘Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you.’ To make it through times of stress we need to let God sustain us. He knows we are going to feel stressed and weak sometimes, and He promises to give us the strength we need. Instead of struggling alone with the burden, let’s share it with the burden-bearer and let Him strengthen us. Secondly, we need to remember that we are not God. Sometimes we can think that everything depends on us, and that causes stress. But we are not called to fix every situation or be everything to every person. We are called to put God first and let Him direct us. Thirdly, we need to be prepared to make some changes to our lifestyle. It might mean taking a temporary break from social media, scheduling in some more times to sit in God’s presence, writing gratitude lists to help us focus on the positives, or asking for help in the areas where we are struggling. Even the smallest change can make a huge difference. So let’s not allow stress to rule our lives, and instead bring it to the One who can bring peace, strength, and life to us.
1 Tim 4-6; John 5:31-47; Ps 126; Prov 24:10
Matthew 11:28 NIV
If the load we are carrying is too heavy for us to bear, Jesus didn’t give it to us. Others may have, or we may have taken it upon ourselves, but Jesus had no part in it. He said: ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, 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’ (vv. 28-30 NIV). The final stress management principle Jesus taught us is: Give your stress to Him. We will never enjoy complete peace of mind until we develop a relationship with the Prince of Peace. Jesus didn’t say, ‘Come to Me and I’ll give you more guilt, more burdens, more stress, and more worries,’ even though that’s what a lot of us can begin to think He said. Some people teach that we have to do more and be more, but that only creates pressure rather than relieving it. In essence, Jesus said, ‘I want to give you rest. I’m the stress-reliever. When you get in harmony with Me I’ll give you inner strength.’ Only Jesus can transform our lifestyle from stressful to satisfied. The greatest source of stress comes from trying to live our lives apart from the God who made us, trying to go our own way and be our own god. If we have never committed our life to Christ, we need a transformation. We need to give Him our lives with all the stresses and say, ‘Lord, please give me a new life. Replace the pressure I feel with the peace You offer. Help me to follow Your principles of stress management.’
1 Sam 4-7; Matt 26:30-46; Ps 52; Prov 21:17
Psalm 118:6 NIV
You’ll always have to deal with fear in one form or another. And your fears will be different at different seasons of life. Once you accept that, you can make progress. For example, Julius Caesar conquered the world but he was terrified of thunder. Peter the Great of Russia cried like a child when he had to cross bridges. The celebrated British writer Dr. Samuel Johnson wouldn’t enter a room left foot first. If he accidentally did, he backed up and reentered with his right one. (Talk about putting your best foot forward!) If you let it control you, fear will keep you from living to the fullest. Fear breeds inaction, inaction breeds lack of experience, lack of experience breeds ignorance, and ignorance breeds fear. It’s a cycle, and if you’re caught in it here are some Scriptures that can help you: (1) “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee” (Isaiah 26:3). (2) “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). (3) “When a man’s ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him” (Proverbs 16:7). (4) “In God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me” (Psalm 56:4). (5) “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). Personalize these Scriptures in prayer, stand on them, and don’t yield an inch to fear.
Soul food: Lev 5-7; Luke 20:27-33; Ps 72:1-11; Prov 9:1-6