Joy. It’s a popular word this time of year.
It’s printed on pillows, formed into stocking hangers, and a common refrain in Christmas music.
We want joy. Yet many of us lament we don’t feel joyful during December.
I wasn’t sure I wanted to “share.”
I knew the tears would well up in my eyes. (Insert cursory feminine joke about mascara here.) And I haven’t known these women for very long, so tipping my emotional cards felt (extra) risky. We were discussing hypocrisy in the Christian life and how our social masks put an intimacy barrier between us and others. My story was relevant to the topic and even illustrated the point, all while pressing on tender parts of my heart.
Summer is hard. Wonderful, but hard.
I find myself frustrated by needing to accomplish the same things I do during the school year days (client deadlines, etc.), but wanting (and needing) to spend the time with the kids. Result: this productivity junkie is getting very little done.
After reading multiple articles on how crippling perfectionism is to productivity, I’ve had to coach myself to use the 20 minute gaps of time interspersed within my days because I won’t have two uninterrupted hours. Instead of waiting until I have “enough time” to do something well (read: perfectly), I need to do what I can with the time I have.
Sometimes my actions defy logic.
Any man reading this would probably attribute that statement to the absence of a Y chromosome. Ha!
Given that I’m a linear thinker who relies on logic to make decisions, allocate time and [try to] parent my children, ignoring logic seems foolish. And it usually is. I’ve recently been studying Gideon’s story in the book of Judges. This meek man’s time as God’s chosen warrior depicts beautifully that His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). It has caused me to re-examine the areas of weakness in my life, temperament and faith. I didn’t have to look far to find the most glaring of weaknesses: my need for control.
Do not be anxious.
Easy to say, isn’t it?
Harder to do.
I wouldn’t normally say I’m a person given to anxiety. I would, however, freely admit that I get overwhelmed. Perhaps they’re not entirely different.
God’s Word speaks about anxiety and how He wants us to handle it:
…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6 ESV)
The Greek word translated “anxious” is mérimna. It has some of the meanings we’d expect, such as worry, fear or care. But it also carries the connotations of being drawn in many directions, fracturing a person’s thinking into many parts.
The first few weeks of 2015 have been–to put it mildly–a bit bumpy. I don’t have permission from the people involved to share the whole story with you, but what I can say is this:
I found the sweet part of what’s been such a bitter taste in my mouth.
I’ve cried. I’ve prayed. Both in equal measure. I’ve felt like a novice swimmer trying to escape a torrent of ocean waves, pummeled as I try to reach the safety of shore. Because of the delicate nature of what we’ve been facing, the need for privacy has forced us to maintain a “nothing’s wrong” posture in the rest of our lives. Which is exhausting in it’s own special way.
Yet the desperate quality of my prayers (and tears) has acquainted me with the suffering of others in a way that my regular, less-than-perfect-but-better-than-I-deserve kind of life doesn’t. I have found myself praying for those in my circles who are also suffering more frequently, and with much more heart, than I customarily do. I am attuned to their needs in a way I normally am not simply because I can’t bring myself to leave the foot of the Cross.
Constant struggling against the overwhelming waters may well be the biggest reason for not being able to cope with life.
When a child learns to swim, one of the first skills instructed is floating. Being able to float on the water is a singularly valuable tool for a swimmer to cope with a crisis. Too often, however, this skill is neglected… disposed of after learning strokes. I suspect the same is true for the overwhelmed Christian who neglects rest in his or her life.
When the waters of life feel like they’re closing in, there is a way to stay above the rising tide.
The account of Jesus walking on water never bothered me. He is God and has full authority over the natural laws (Matthew 14:25). The part where he calls Peter out onto the waves, however, has long perplexed me. Particularly in this metaphor of coping with the perpetual feeling of overwhelmed-ness. Let’s look at it again:
They may not be spiritual, but they are essential to helping us stay above water.
When I find myself overwhelmed by my responsibilities, I always have to take a step back and take inventory. I ask myself a series of questions to help me identify the root of the problem. From the answers, I can often navigate my way to shallower waters or even dry land once again. So jot these down and then sit with the Lord to see how they might help you cope:
I’m confident they’ve been trained.
Fire alarm batteries know how to strike with the precision of Seal Team 6. Their needy chirp to be replaced always occurs in the dark of the night. When it’s cold. And when my husband is out of town.
When you’re already overwhelmed (and trying to sleep), this is not a welcome noise.