Recently I found myself having the symptoms of a heart attack. I was pretty sure that wasn’t what was going on, but after several scary nights, I decided to go see my doctor. My doctor told me that my body (or brain) thought I was having heart attacks, but it was just probably stress and anxiety mixed with a little depression. Tests showed my heart was fine.
Stress, anxiety, and depression.
The Bible says in Philippians 4: 6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” I believe that God’s Word is true. I know that He provides for our needs, so what is going on?
The problem for me is sin.
My source of stress and anxiety is that I have allowed myself to become over committed. In our society today, the demands on our time and attention are never ending. The devil is using distraction and busyness to make us no longer useful to God’s kingdom. We think that if there is a need and we can fill it, that we are obligated to do so, but that is not always the case. An article I recently read about Christians experiencing “burnout” reminded me that not every need is meant to be filled by one person. God did not put us in this world alone to accomplish all of His purposes. I’m suffering in the sin of pride when I think that every need is my call. We all play a specific part in God’s plan, but we are not meant to play EVERY part. We each do our part the way God intended and work together with others God has called for purposes different than ours. Romans 12:4-5 “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”
Another source of anxiety in my life is my choice to put myself in the role of savior and depend on myself to do what I am called to do in my own strength. This is a real struggle for me. I am a pretty creative and resourceful person, but my resources only go so far. Sometimes the reason we are overwhelmed is because we have cut ourselves off from the source of our strength. (John 15:5) “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” We have vines growing in our yard and if we don’t prune them every year, they grow out of control. If they get too far away from their roots, they won’t bear fruit. You can be in the Word and allowing God to fill you up, but if you are stretched out too far in too many directions, you’re going to stop bearing fruit. Our work should be joyful if we are allowing God to fill us for His calling in our lives. “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” Isaiah 40:29
Am I also adding things to my life that are not what I am supposed to do? How many times do I say yes to something without spending time in prayer asking God if this is truly something He wants from me? When we agree to do things without seeking God first, we sometimes take on things that were meant for someone else. We think, “Well, it needs to be done and no one else is doing it, so I guess I should.” The things we were called to do suffer because none of us have more than 24 hours in a day. Yes, we should use good time management skills and organization, and there’s nothing wrong with being tired and spent at the end of the day. It’s when you wake up in the morning already feeling defeated because you know there is no way you will accomplish what you need to that day (especially if it’s in your own strength) that there’s trouble. When you get to that point, it’s time to step back and take a look at your life.
I love teaching and I know that it is what God has called me to do. No matter what I have taught, from third grade to high school, I have found joy in teaching. When my joy starts to fade, I must find rest and reevaluate the things in my life that are causing the stress and anxiety. It is time for me to let go of some of the extra things that are stealing my time from my family and my teaching. Letting go of things is not easy to do. When we start saying no to really good things, it is hard. People also have to adjust to us not always saying yes. We have to accept the fact that things may go undone if no one else steps up to do them. That is not our burden to bear if it is not something God is telling us to do. His resources are limitless and He will accomplish what needs to be done. We don’t need to figure it all out for Him.
If you too are experiencing anxiety and stress in your life at unhealthy levels, take time to sit at the feet of the Father. Let Him help you and equip you for the things He is calling you to do.
Matthew 11:29-30 “Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”