Tag Archives: stress

Shutting down and shutting out

I shut the door to my son’s room to muffle the sound of his screaming and crying from the other side, promising me he’d be a good listener if I would just please not send him to bed early.

I shut off the light in the kitchen so I wouldn’t have to see the sink full of dirty dishes and the stack of recycling waiting to be taken out.

I shut the lid to my laptop, deciding the 65 unread messages would have to wait another day and the blog post I’d been working on for days would go another night unfinished, unpublished.

I walked into my bedroom and shut the door on the unvacuumed floors, and unfinished science fair projects scattered from one end of the room to the other.

Then I lay on my bed and shut my eyes, wanting to shut out the day, the world.

And I heard a whisper deep within my soul “don’t shut me out, too.”

Here’s the thing: sometimes my day-to-day life feels like too much for me to handle and all I want to do is shut-down and pull the covers over my head. This week was one of those weeks. I felt like I was drowning in a sea of dirty dishes and conference calls. By Wednesday I was too tired to keep my head above water. That was the night I shut my bedroom door and, with tired body and depleted soul, collapsed into bed, hoping to escape from everyone and everything on the other side of that door.

But in those first moments after my head hit the pillow and I started to slip into self-pity, I heard God’s voice: “don’t shut me out, too.” And it was then that I realized I had not let God into my week. I had been so caught up in the long list of “to-do’s” I had failed to invite God into my messy kitchen, or cluttered family room for a visit. I didn’t ask Him to look at my full calendar or flooded inbox and give me guidance. Honestly, I don’t know if it was because I was so caught-up in my own “stuff” that I forgot to seek Him or if it was because a part of me felt like these little daily stresses were not important enough to take to Him. Maybe a little of both. But I can tell you that as soon as I realized what I had done, I felt a bit foolish.

In Isaiah chapter 41 God says, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand…For I hold you by your right hand—I, the LORD your God. And I say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.'” (Isaiah 41: 10, 13, NLT)

Don’t you just love the imagery of God’s very words to His people? I read these verses and I can just feel Him by my side, wanting to be there and to comfort me.

I feel like I’m drowning in chores and work and parenting demands and God says “I will hold you up.” I feel like I am weak with fatigue and worry and He says “I will strengthen you and help you.” I am lost and unsure what to do next or how to get it all done and He says come, I will “hold you by your right hand” and lead you. I want to shut out the world and pull the covers over my head and He whispers, “Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.”

Isaiah 41:13

We are taught in Sunday school that there is nothing too big for God to handle, but we must remember there is nothing too small for Him either. He wants to be invited in to our messy house and our messy life. He wants to sit next to us and have a good long look at that “to-do” list and help us prioritize. He wants to hold our hand and help us take deep breaths when our children are throwing temper-tantrums.

My friends, whatever you are struggling with, whatever has you feeling drained and bested, don’t hide from it behind closed doors. I encourage you to invite God to come along side of you. Because there’s nothing He can’t handle…even dirty dishes.

What is your Goliath?

I wrote earlier this week about how my Sunday morning didn’t get off to a good start. Thankfully, with some Godly intervention, I was in a much better frame of mind once worship service started. A good thing for me because it was one of the best sermons I’ve ever heard. We’ve been studying 1st and 2nd Samuel this summer at GCC North, and most recently the story of David. This Sunday the focus was on 1 Samuel 17 which chronicles the well-told story of David and Goliath.

David and Goliath is probably one of the best-known stories in the Bible. It’s the original under-dog story, and Hollywood should thank Samuel for providing the plot line for 50% of all movies ever made. But honestly? I’ve never really found it all that applicable to my life. I mean, it’s a great example of putting your trust in the Lord, but I’ve just never been able to relate to the young shepherd boy who defeated the giant warrior with nothing but a slingshot and a prayer. This Sunday, though, my friend and Pastor, Lee Reams, managed to give us a fresh view of David and Goliath as well as some practical application.

Lee set the tone for the sermon by presenting David and Goliath…MLB style! Check out these awesome trading cards he made for our antagonist and hero:

goliath_front goliath_back
david_front david_back

On paper, David might seem an unlikely foe for the colossal warrior. But David never had any doubt he could beat Goliath. His faith was so strong, and his trust in the Lord so steadfast that he almost seemed matter-of-fact about the whole situation when speaking to King Saul. Lee broke it down into five things (a metaphor for the five smooth stones David picks up before going to the front-line) that equipped David to feel this way. They were: Perspective, Experience, Identity, Knowledge, and Child-like Faith.

Perspective – “David asked the soldiers standing nearby, “What will a man get for killing this Philistine and ending his defiance of Israel? Who is this pagan Philistine anyway, that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Samuel 17:26). David’s faith in God allowed him to be able to look at Goliath with a different perspective. He saw him simply as a mortal man defying an all-powerful God.

Experience – “I have been taking care of my father’s sheep and goats,” he said. “When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock, I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from its mouth. If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death” (1 Samuel 17:34-35). David’s experience as a shepherd gave him strength and confidence to battle Goliath.

Identity – “He picked up five smooth stones from a stream and put them into his shepherd’s bag. Then, armed only with his shepherd’s staff and sling, he started across the valley to fight the Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:40). David rejected the armor Saul offered him. He knew he was a shepherd, not a soldier, and relied on the tools of his trade.

Knowledge – “And everyone assembled here will know that the Lord rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is the Lord’s battle, and he will give you to us!” (1 Samuel 17:47). David knew that God was in charge of the situation and would protect him.

Child-like Faith – “As Goliath moved closer to attack, David quickly ran out to meet him” (1 Samuel 17:48). David didn’t hesitate, or weigh the pro’s and con’s of fighting Goliath, or try to plan out a detailed strategy. He just ran straight to the battle-line with complete faith that God was in control.

While all of the above are valuable tools that God has equipped us with, the one that stands out the most for me is perspective. How often in my life have I experienced challenges, struggles, hurt, or conflict that could have been avoided if I had simply altered my perspective of the situation?

Then Lee asked us to think about what “Goliath(s)” we were facing in our lives. What are those things that we feel are too big, too unbeatable? It could be an illness, a broken relationship, an addiction — anything really. I wrote down four: stress, lack of patience, the future, and my health. What startled me about my list is that it’s all me. My adversaries are all internal and they are things that (with God’s help) I can change or overcome. Do you know what that means? I am my own Goliath! And for at least the first three of my items, a little perspective could have a HUGE impact. So to help me maintain that perspective, I decided to create my own trading cards and keep them in my Bible as a little reminder. Here they are:

Jelise's trading card
Scary Jelise trading card

Stressed and impatient Jelise is not a pretty sight, huh? She’s my Goliath…looming large and scary, seemingly undefeatable. But the reality is that God has equipped me with all of the tools I need to beat her.

What is your Goliath? How can a little perspective, knowledge, experience, identity, or child-like faith help you to defeat your biggest, scariest struggles?

 

[A very big thanks to Lee Reams for allowing me to steal his sermon and use his trading card images for my blog!]