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Stress and Distress

October 31st, 2017

When Life is not easy God’s grace is sufficient

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

My thoughts and comments today are about,

“stress and distress.”

You and I live in a world of unceasing and increasing stress. Stress is harmful. Stress does a lot of things, none of which are helpful. Stress accelerates your heart rate, increases blood pressure, manufactures anxiety, creates mental and emotional exhaustion, steals peace of mind, and destroys health. Stress is from the emotions you feel when the pressure seems overpowering. Hurry and worry result.

The eventual consequence is distress. Naturally, everyone would prefer no problems. No worries. No uncertainties. But no troubles equal no growth and result in little or no faith. Written years earlier, these lyrics provide a faith perspective about problems, “If I never had a problem, how would I know that God could solve them; I’d never know what faith in God can do. But through it all, I’ve learned to trust in Jesus; I’ve learned to trust in God. I’ve learned to depend upon His Word.” (Through It All, Andrae Crouch).

The Psalmist, David wrote, “As pressure and stress bear down on me, I find joy in your commands.” Psalm 119:143 NLT. God’s Word and truth is where you find wisdom. Don’t wish your problems away. Learn from them. Learning brings enlargement. The truth you learn by personal experience is truth that you will not soon forget. Life is better when you experience truth firsthand rather than trusting secondhand opinions from others.

Whenever David experienced distress, he also discovered something more about his God. God was there and His love did not wane, nor were His grace and power diminished. In the New Testament, the Greek word translated as, “distress,” describes, “pressure or narrowness of room.” Trouble narrows your view, appearing to lessen your options and exaggerating your distress.

The Psalmist cried out to God, “When I call, give me answers. God, take my side! Once, in a tight place, You gave me room; now I’m in trouble again. Grace me! Hear me!” Psalm 4:1 MSG. A more current expression would be this, “between a rock and a hard place.” Today, we call that stress. You won’t find rest and understanding until you turn to God. Why does it take us so long before we look to the only One who is all-knowing and always has sufficient grace and power?

Could there be times that God does not quickly deliver you from your distressing situation but allows circumstances to grow increasingly uncomfortable and confining until you will look to Him, and listen to Him, and embrace and obey His good will? “Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect His will really is.” Romans 12:1 NLT.

Even when in distressing times or circumstances, be confident. God can enlarge you in your distress. “God, You have freed me when I was hemmed in and enlarged me when I was in distress.” Psalm 4:1 AMP. His grace can give you needed relief, providing room to breathe and believe again. His power can push back the realities that press too tightly upon you, allowing you room to recover and regroup.

Life is not fair, but God is eternally loving and just. When life is not fair, God is righteous.  God promises, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Read 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV. When life is not easy, God’s grace is sufficient. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken. We are perplexed, but we don’t give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 NLT.

Today, I pray for you to call on God in your distress and lean on Him in your weakness.

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Distress

November 8th, 2011

“O God . . you have relieved me in my distress.” Psalm 4:1 NKJV

“In distress, you have to do something that holds some hope of helping; try God.”

My thoughts today are about “distress.”

How would you describe distress? Distress is a disappointment, concern, or difficulty taken to its emotional extreme. It can describe an emotional state of uncertainty and pressure. Distress is a big deal. Distress is the emotional anguish you experience from unwelcome necessities that impose upon you, leaving you uncomfortable and more than a little troubled.

Paul knew the feeling. “We have this treasure in earthen vessels . . we are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4:7-9 KJV. Other translations of “distressed” in this verse substitute the words, “crushed, or hard pressed.” Stress is inevitable, but distress, one of its after effects, is not – “troubled, yet not distressed!”

Distress is like trash; it is quite normal to generate it, but if not disposed of properly, it will overwhelm your life. Distress is unhealthy when prolonged – either mentally, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, or even physically unhealthy. There will be disconcerting times and difficult situations – even unfortunate encounters with people – that cause you distress. Those feelings happen when you cannot find relief or resolve the circumstances that are disquieting.

One of the Greek words for distress is defined as: “to be pressed, as in a narrow place.” Have you heard the expression about being “between a rock and hard place?” Sometimes life will place you there, at a time when you feel you have limited options and none of those seem very good. Could that describe where you are walking right now?

You cannot simply ignore such moments, nor successfully pretend them away. You have to do something, and that something has to hold some hope of helping. There is an inclination to a mental and emotional paralysis when distressed. I found this practical quote interesting, “When you commit to action, to actually doing something rather than feeling trapped by events, the stress in your life becomes manageable.” Greg Anderson. The Bible gives you an action that brings hope, even when you know nothing else to do: “Don’t be anxious about anything, pray about everything! Tell God what you need and thank Him for all He has done.” See Philippians 4:6-9. That works; doing nothing doesn’t!

Stop struggling; stop stressing. “When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get His help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought.” James 1:2-5 J.B.Phillips New Testament/The Message.

Take your distress to God; here’s what you too will find, “O God . . you have relieved me in my distress.” Psalm 4:1 NKJV. Bring it all to Jesus!

My prayer for you today is that you let your distress push you to God.

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Distress

October 13th, 2011

“You . . enlarged me when I was in distress. Psalm 4:1 NIV

“Life is not fair, but God is righteous. Life is not easy, but His grace is sufficient.”

My thoughts today are about “distress.”

“Life is not fair!” I have heard it said to me many times in counseling. No one promised you that life would be. And when life is not fair; when things do not go as you planned or occur as you hoped, life will not be easy either. Everyone would prefer ease and comfort: no problems, no worries, no troubles. But then there would be: no growth, no faith! Distress has an upside; you learn the sufficiency of God’s grace.

Andrae Crouch wrote these lyrics, “If I never had a problem, how would I know that God could solve them; I’d never know what faith in God can do. But through it all, I’ve learned to trust in Jesus; I’ve learned to trust in God. I’ve learned to depend upon His Word.” Learning brings enlargement. That kind of learning is not from what others tell you; enlargement is personal, from your own experience with God.

Sometimes your distress is because of choices you, or someone else, has made that turn matters in directions God would not have chosen for you. Sometimes stuff happens and distress is because of the fallen nature of the world around you. Things that happen  are not always as God designed or desires them.

The real question in your heart at those times may be, “Where is God?” What can He do, or will He do? The Psalms speak frequently and honestly of the distresses common to us all. Every time David experienced distress he also discovered God; He was there and His love, grace, power, and purpose were not diminished in the least.

In the New Testament, the Greek word translated as “distress” describes “pressure/narrowness of room.” Today, we call that stress, when something is squeezing you in ways that are very uncomfortable. Distress is what you feel when the pressure seems too much to bear, when life’s situations seem limiting, until you turn to God. Why does it take us so long before we look to the only One who always has sufficient grace and power?

Could there even be times that God does not quickly deliver you from your distressing situation but allows circumstances to grow increasingly uncomfortable and confining until you will look to Him and listen to Him, and embrace and obey His good will? “Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect His will really is.” Romans 12:1 NLT. The Psalmist cried out to God, When I call, give me answers. God, take my side! Once, in a tight place, You gave me room; now I’m in trouble again. Grace me! Hear me!” Psalm 4:1 The Message.

Be confident even when in distressing times or circumstances. God can enlarge you in your distress – your vision, your faith, your understanding, your peace. His grace can give you needed relief, giving room to breathe, and believe again. His power can push back the realities that press too tightly upon you, giving room to recover and regroup. David found the door into such enlargement was, “When I call . . “ Often you are waiting for God, when God has been waiting for you to call out to Him! That same door into enlargement is waiting for you and it offers, “Welcome!”

Life is not fair, but God is righteous and just. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Genesis 18:25. Life is not easy, but His grace is sufficient. “My grace is sufficient for you.” 2 Corinthians 12:8.

My prayer for you today is that you will call out to the Lord in your distress.

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Returning to Peace

March 15th, 2011

“And whoever will not receive you . . let your peace return to you.” Matthew 10:13

“Leave your hurt; return to your peace.”

My thoughts today are about “returning to peace.”

A difficult, hurtful situation can leave you with more than you can handle at the time, and then you sometimes carry away the “emotional leftovers” as well, even if you don’t intend to do so. That’s what you often allow to happen when emotional, relational, or spiritual circumstances steal your peace and leave you burdened.

Why hold onto emotional distress that you don’t want or need, and choose to carry that around endlessly? It serves no good; it never improves nor profits your life. Why don’t you lay them aside? People stumble under the needless weight of regret about things they cannot change, worry over matters they do not control, guilt from mistakes they can’t undo, and relational hurts they hold tightly. You may struggle needlessly with things of your past that are only as relevant as you continue to permit them to be.

Sometimes, leftovers just need to be left! “And whoever will not receive you, let your peace return to you, when you depart out of that house or city.” Matthew 10:11-14. Jesus was forthright with His disciples, reminding them that life would not always be as they assumed; people would not always receive them as they should. In those times, they should regain their peace and go their way unencumbered.

No one can take your peace from you, unless you surrender it to them. Does life still hurt? Of course! Would you rather that had not happened to you? Sure. But it does hurt, and it did happen; now what are you going to do? Leave your hurt; return to your peace.

When I was in college, I became confused at school, lacking peace about the direction of my life. I wrote my Dad about my feelings, wanting to come home. I still have that letter with his words of wise counsel written many years ago. Dad advised me, “Lay aside your feelings of the moment and go back to the place in time when you last had peace with God’s will for your life.” That’s where I found peace again.

Here’s practical advice: “If it be possible, as much as rests with you, live peaceably with all men.” Romans 12:18. But everything isn’t up to you alone; simply do everything that you can to live peaceably. When you can’t just leave an unpleasant situation, still remember these two things. There is nothing God doesn’t know or care about, that happens to you. Jesus identifies with your hurt and disappointment. There is nothing Jesus will not redeem for His glory. “Blessed are you when men shall . . say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake. Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad for great is your reward in Heaven . .“ Matthew 5:11-12.

There is peace for you and the promise of, “beauty for ashes, oil of joy for mourning, and praise (in place of) heaviness.” Isaiah 61:1-3. And most of all, there will be extra mercy, strength, truth, and a sufficiency of grace that you will carry you forward with joy and peace, along with a greater, personal revelation of Who God is and what He will do.

My prayer for you today is: have a priceless peace, without the debris that clutters life.

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Joy and Peace

April 20th, 2010

“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace.” Isaiah 55:12 NIV

“God’s will is accompanied with peace; God’s peace is accompanied by joy.”

My thoughts today are about “joy and peace.”

The world is a troubled place, and in such a world there are situations troubling to both heart and mind. Trouble disrupts peace in general and persons in particular. Trouble disrupts in many forms: financial worries, disagreements, family strains, stress at work, health challenges, relational conflicts, uncertainty about today and tomorrows, and comes in other disguises – things the Bible calls “the cares of this life.” Mark 4:19 NKJV. Trouble worries and wearies you, distracting thoughts, confusing emotions, and magnifying distress. God’s peace makes the difference whatever the cause of your distress.

A dear friend, Campbell, often spoke of a different source of unrest in a person’s heart, one that is a blessing rather than problem. What I describe is the word “dispeace,” not commonly used nor much understood. As I understand the word, dispeace describes the nagging absence of inner peace – the almost silent disquiet of heart that tries to tell you with the smallest of whispers that something is not as it should be. His counsel was that I never ignore that inner dispeace. It is a caution God gives a pure heart.

Here’s the problem for many: if you have never really experienced a wondrous and sovereign, peace of heart and mind, you may not as easily recognize the absence of that. God’s will is always accompanied with peace, and God’s peace is accompanied by joy. You may not have perfect understanding of every detail of God’s will, but you should expect a profound sense of inner peace when walking in God’s will. You may not be able to answer every question your mind asks, but your spirit simply knows your heart is secure in peace.

The Bible explains this experience this way, “Always be full of joy in the Lord – rejoice! . . don’t worry about anything . . pray about everything. If you do this you will experience God’s peace . . The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Jesus Christ . . and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:4-9 NLT/NIV. Peace in your heart becomes the setting for a joyful spirit.

The Bible context of God’s peace is greater than the euphoric absence of problems; peace is not about being trouble free. The promise of peace is most prized in the midst of things about which you would otherwise be anxious and concerned, when you hear God whisper to your heart that you need not be. That’s the promise of today’s verse, “You will be go out with joy and be led forth in peace.” God’s peace will lead you through any trouble and into joy!

My prayer for you today is: do not ignore the still small voice of God offering peace.

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