by Julia Bruce

Part 13

“Whatever you do in word or in deed,
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”

–Colossians 3:17

There are times where we are not able to change the stress, but we do have the ability to change ourselves by changing our expectations and attitude. God created us with the ability to make choices and we make them every day. We can choose to fume, honk our horn (loudly) and be a road bully in a traffic jam or we can choose it see the disruption as an opportunity to spend some time with God by listening to a sermon on the radio or a Christian music station. We can use the time to meditate on a scripture we read that morning. We can use the time to pray (with your eyes open!) for each of the people on the road with us, car by car. Reframing your stressors to a more positive perspective can help lower the stress you experience when stress raises its head.

You also have a choice to examine the big picture and determine if the stressor is something to sweat over or if you need to focus your time and energy somewhere else. To do this, think about how important the stressor will be long-term. Will it still matter next week, in a month or a year from now? If it isn’t, then why get worked up over it now? Instead, choose to release it to God and ask Him to work His perfect will and plan through what you are experiencing. We often pray and ask God to remove difficult situations from our lives…but sometimes being fully surrendered to Him means that we be willing to go through the difficult time. As Jesus faced the cross He prayed, “Abba, Father! All things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me. Nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.” (Mark 14:36) If Jesus had not honored God and gone through the extreme stress of the cross, where would you and I be today? Looking at the big picture helps us bring the stress into the view of God’s lens and be surrendered to His plan.

We can also choose to adjust the standards we have set. While some standards should not be bended, such as the Word of God, other standards are set by us and we determine what is “good enough.” People who tend to be perfectionists actually set themselves up for failure by demanding perfection from themselves. The only person who was perfect was Christ. For the rest of us, the Bible tells us, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23). None of us are “good enough.” Setting standards of perfectionism is unreasonable and unattainable…whether you set those standards for yourself or someone else. Galatians 1:10 says, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” God and His Word should be the only standard we use. There is no room for perfectionism or pleasing ourselves or others if we are going to be servants of Christ. He is the only person we need to please.

Another choice we have when stressed is to choose to practice gratitude. In a moment of stress it is much easier to focus on what is causing so many problems in our lives. Instead, choose to take time to praise God for all His many blessings, including the uniquely and wonderful way He chose to make you. Praise Him for your positive qualities and the gifts that He has given you.

Seek His wisdom. We can choose to take time to seek wisdom from God for the situation we are facing. James 1:5 says, “Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him.” There is no better source for wisdom than our omniscient, loving Father who knows what’s around the next corner and how the stressful situation we experience today to prepare us for what’s to come tomorrow. Trust Him and trust that He only has your best interest in mind. So we can fully rely on Him to give us wisdom to know the best way to handle any stressor.

Recognize the strengths and gifts He equipped you with to see you through this trial. When God called you to the ministry position to which you serve, He equipped you with every gift you needed to see the job through. Isaiah 40:10 says, “See, the Lord God comes with strength, and His power establishes His rule. His reward is with Him, and His gifts accompany Him.” Rest in His strength. Know that he rules over every difficult situation. Look to see how the strengths and gifts He gave you will help you solve the stressor you are dealing with. In Romans 11:29, we find that God’s gifts are gracious and the calling he has given us is irrevocable. In 2 Timothy 3:17, we find that the man (or woman) of God is completed and equipped for every good work. It is the strengths and gifts God has given you that was completed and equipped you for the ministry assignment He has given you.

Recognize that it is in the stressful, difficult moments that we learn to totally rely and depend on God. Use this time to deepen your faith and love for God. 1 Peter 1:7 says, “These [trials] have come so that your faith of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Paul experienced stress that caused Him to rely on God. In 2 Corinthians 1:8-11, he wrote, “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.” As we learn to rely and depend on God, we can also remain steadfast and obedient to Him. 2 Corinthians 2:9 states, “The reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything.” We can choose to rely on ourselves and walk away from the calling of ministry or we can choose to rely on God and be obedient in everything He has called us to do.

Remember that God created you with the ability to make choices and when stress comes calling, identify the choices you have and make choices that are positive, God-honoring, and healthy. Being able to make those choices begin with making sure we are not conforming ourselves to the world’s expectations, but that we are constantly being transformed by the renewing of mind so that we are able to discern what God says is good and pleasing to Him (Romans 12:2). Choose to honor Him. Colossians 3:17 tell us, “Whatever you do in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” It is very difficult to both stress and give thanks at the same time!

This blog is part 13 in a series. Be sure to begin with part 1.

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