I've recently been reminded of how poorly my mind and body handle stress.
I'm a very busy Lisa Bee: I work full-time, go to seminary, try to work out a few times a week (major FAIL), and do some writing on the side. I'm struggling balancing my time between church, relationships, responsibilities, and down time. Unfortunately, I haven't been very good at time management lately; I find myself wishing I could wash my hair more often and read Entertainment Weekly, like, weekly.
I’m pretty sure my tolerance for stress is lower than the average bear’s. Outwardly, I generally don’t convey a high-strung demeanor or uptight tendencies, but I am easily overwhelmed by busyness, deadlines, confusion, and strife. Last week, I let the stress take over. I lost my appetite (the bulk of my food intake was a Girl Scout cookie here and there. Yeah, yeah, I know…don’t yell at me). Exhausted each night, I’d try falling asleep but would toss and turn into the morning, waking up a couple of hours later, starting each tomorrow more exhausted than its yesterday. Overwhelmed, my nerves sometimes caused my body to tremble uncontrollably. A heavy, hot ball of panic churned in the pit of my stomach. The dearth of sleep, peace, and nutrition helped me catch a head cold, too, so that was awesome.
It's times of stress like this that make me realize how much I covet feeling in control. I love when Everything Is Fine. The less unknown factors in my life, the better I am able to operate. Problem is…Life is unpredictable. We live in a changing, unstable, moving world, full of imperfect people, less than ideal circumstances, and unanticipated situations. The times that I am able to find a false sense of momentary security or comfort in feeling in control are so fleeting that I often fall on my face trying to chase after them and hold on to them.
Why do I let stress and fear paralyze me, drive my decisions, and destroy my body? God has been reminding me that the reason my mind and body are so burdened by stress and anxiety is because I’m not designed to harbor them. God tells us to cast all our anxiety on him because he cares for us. (2 Peter 5: 7) Wait…all of it? Are you sure, God? Can you handle it? Are you sure your grace is sufficient for me?
There is one good thing about all this stress—it reminds me of how helpless I am without God. My heart is so prone to wander away from God's truths, yet he is the one source of real strength and power, of peace and comfort.
No matter how often my heart does wander, my shepherd will always, always draw me back to a place where I can set my heart at rest (1 John 3:18). I feel lighter just thinking about how sovereign and in control he is. And how extravagantly he loves us…how extravagantly he loves me.