Job 22:21 NIV
Today we don’t just have regular stress, we’ve got cyber stress. Emails multiply like rabbits. Turn your cell phone off for even a couple of hours, and when you turn it back on, it has gained ten pounds from the influx of recent voice mails. Then we have hyper stress. Go to the grocery store and see how much small talk you get from the cashier whose speed and efficiency is being tracked by computer as he or she electronically scans your groceries, calls out your total, and digitally sweeps you out the door.
In a five-year study of three thousand salaried and hourly employees, 88 percent said they work “very hard.” Sixty-eight percent said they worked “very fast.” Sixty percent said they “still don’t get all their work done.” And 71 percent said they felt “used up.” Even ministers aren’t immune. Almost half eventually resign, and when asked why, 80 percent cited the negative effect of pastoral ministry on their family lives.
So what’s the solution to our stress? Peace! And where can you find peace? The Bible tells us, “Submit to God and be at peace with him; in this way prosperity will come to you.”
Here’s how it works: When you know that God loves and accepts you unconditionally, it sets you free to do the same for yourself. As a result, you’re no longer driven by a need for acceptance, acquisition, and achievement. Yes, when you live by the principles clearly laid down in the Bible, you can have peace and prosperity!
Soul food: Exo 12:1-14; Matt 26:17-29; 1 Cor 11:20-34; Ps 49
2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV
Death. The thought of dying is something that can make many of us fearful. If we’re being honest, it isn’t something we really want to think about, so we push it to the deepest corner of our minds. But with all of our fears, it help to bring them into the open and tell God how we’re feeling. And God doesn’t want us to be fearful of death, because when we believe and trust Him, death doesn’t mean the end for us.
When Jesus’ good friend Lazarus was sick, his sisters Martha and Mary sent a message to Jesus to let Him know. By the time Jesus got to their house, several days had passed. Lazarus had died and had been lying in a tomb for four days. But Jesus told Martha ‘the one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die’ (John 11:25-26 NIV). He asked her if she believed this, and she replied ‘I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God’ (v.27 NIV). Later, Jesus went to the tomb and called to Lazarus, who came out wrapped up in his grave clothes, but fully alive.
Just like His own death and resurrection later, Jesus showed that He has power over death for those who believe in Him. So we don’t need to fear death, because just like Lazarus emerging from the tomb, it’s a new beginning, and we’ll be reunited with God. ‘God has not given us a spirit of fear’ (2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV), so whatever fears we feel, let’s take them confidently to God, and trust Him to replace them with His peace.
2 Kings 4:42-44; Mark 6:30-44
Job 4:14 NKJV
Health. Fears about health can take different forms. We worry about the health of those we love. We might be fearful because we’re currently unwell and we’re scared of what could be wrong, or we’re afraid of getting a particular illness at some point in our lives. It’s great to be informed about different illnesses and what we need to look out for, but the downside for some of us is that we can be tempted to jump to the worst possible conclusion whenever we experience a symptom.
In Job 4:13-14, Eliphaz says: ‘In disquieting thoughts from the visions of the night…fear came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones shake’ (NKJV). It’s often in the middle of the night, when we’re alone with just our own thoughts for company, with plenty of time for our imaginations to run wild, that our fears can increase and take us captive.
But God wants to bring us out of that fearful place to a place of His peace. Jeremiah 17:14 says, ‘Heal me, LORD, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise’ (NIV), and Psalm 30:2 says ‘O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you restored my health’ (NLT).
God can and does heal people from illnesses. But sometimes His healing takes a different form. He might not always physically heal us, but when we cry out to Him, He’ll soothe our minds by taking our fears and replacing them with His peace. We don’t know why He doesn’t physically heal everyone, but we can be sure that whatever health problems we might experience, He won’t let us face them alone.
Job 15-17; Matt 23:23-39; Ps 19; Prov 8:6-7
Romans 15:13 NCV
God has promised that we can have a sense of peace and joy in every circumstance we face. Jesus said, ‘I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete’ (John 15:11 NIV). So how can we hold on to joy and peace and not lose them?
Paul tells us, ‘I pray that the God who gives hope will fill you with much joy and peace while you trust in him. Then your hope will overflow by the power of the Holy Spirit’.
The word ‘trust’ in that verse can also be translated as ‘believe’. So the key to keeping hold of our joy and peace, even through tough times, is to keep trusting God and believing He’ll come through for us. It’s okay for us to have questions, and to wonder how or when God’s going to move, but if we start doubting His love and goodness, or thinking He can’t or won’t help us, we’ll also start to lose our hope.
One thing to remember during these times is that we don’t necessarily need massive amounts of faith to see God move. Jesus said: ‘If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you’ (Matthew 17:20 NIV). God can take our tiny bit of faith and turn it into something that breaks through the biggest obstacles.
When we feel ourselves slipping into a place of doubt, let’s move back into a place of trust, joy and peace by thinking of all the things He’s done for us through our mustard seed-sized faith.
Jonah 2; Luke 11:29-32
Philippians 4:6 CEV
Rachel and Jim owned a commercial building, half of which Jim used for his dental practice. For fifteen years they had no difficulty renting out the other half, which provided extra money to pay their bills. Then they lost their renter, and a real estate agent told them, “Forget about advertising for a while – absolutely nobody is renting.”
To ease her stress, Rachel started swimming laps at the local YMCA pool. One day when she was feeling especially anxious, she decided to pray as she swam, using the alphabet to keep track of the number of laps. She focused on adjectives to describe God, starting with the letter A. “You are Almighty God,” she prayed during lap one. B. “A benevolent God, a bountiful God,” she prayed on the next lap. And then C, “You are a caring, creative, can-do God.” By the time she’d completed twenty-six laps, an hour had passed and her fears were gone. She knew God would provide.
A short time later a physical therapist called to say she’d noticed the “For Rent” sign, and asked to see the office. It was exactly what she wanted, so she and her partner rented the space.
Rachel still prays while she’s swimming laps. “After all,” she says, “I’ve discovered God’s goodness stretches from A to Z.”
Are you worrying about something today? Here’s a better option: “With thankful hearts offer up your prayers and requests to God. Then, because you belong to Jesus Christ, God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel” (vv. 6-7 CEV).
Soul food: Zeph 1-3; John 7:1-13; Ps 104:1-23; Prov 24:26-27