Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah (Psalm 62:8 ESV)
The Advent Season may not be an automatic time for us to think about pausing; after all, this is the season of dashing through the malls and jingle belling through parties, concerts, and holiday celebrations. Perhaps those are the very reasons why we should consider pausing and reflecting. One of the central persons of the Christmas story did exactly that; Mary, we are told in Luke 2:19 pondered these things in her heart. Pondering definitely implies pausing.
So what if this Christmas, we intentionally decelerated the pace with which we experience the miracle of Jesus’ birth? For some, that may have happened beyond your control due to circumstances in your life; for others, the idea of slowing down may cause immediate panic.
It has become cliché to talk about remembering “the reason for the season” as year after year, we are swallowed up in the trappings of commercialism. And for yet another year, we grumble that Christmas time is a particularly stressful time.
So have you abandoned the idea of trying to change the Christmas status-quo?
Let’s acknowledge that some do have bona fide reasons for the holiday blues; it may be the case of a painful anniversary, the recent loss of a loved one or a remembrance which is exceptionally difficult at this time of year. Most church communities provide resources to support those affected and I would urge anyone in those situations to avail themselves to those services. However, for most of us, the factors that contribute to our Christmas stress are within our control to change.
Are you willing to set aside some time to reflect on what may be contributing to your stress this Christmas and the one thing you can do to reduce that stress?
Is it the expectations of others, your own unrealistic expectations, and the pressure to keep up with others or with society’s false images?
Beyond the annual Christmas stress though, we face other worries throughout the year and an ability to cope will be useful 365 days of the year because contrary to the belief of some, Christians were never promised a stress-free life. In fact, the exact opposite is true as seen in John 16:33 when Jesus Himself said that “in this life, you would have trouble”. It would have been horrifying if Jesus had ended His words with that statement but thankfully; He went on to assure us that we can take heart because He has overcome this world. Can you feel the relief in your soul KNOWING that you belong to the One who has OVERCOME and because of that, you too are an overcomer!
Yet I believe we experience a different kind of assurance in the James 1:2-4 verses that explain the purpose for our trials – “…for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything”. I don’t know about you but when I know the purpose of something painful, it makes all the difference in my attitude and ability to endure.
That said; I doubt that any of us enjoy having “challenges come at you from all sides” (to use The Message’s paraphrase). Seriously! I imagine that no one has a James 1:2 magnet on their refrigerator as their all-time favourite verse. If you do, please post a picture in our comments and share the story behind it with the rest of us.
Stress comes from a variety of sources and none of us is immune from it. A recent study conducted by “The Stress Institute®” showed that almost half of the respondents said they had more stress today than five years ago and that one in five described experiencing extreme stress. We only have to look around us to understand those statistics. Yet, the results of this study should not disturb you as much as the general statement that the Institute makes which states that “the greatest threat to our lives (today) is our lifestyle”. Let that sink in with you for a minute – our stress is caused by something we consciously do to ourselves.
And I believe that just like we created this stress; we can also as easily make the necessary lifestyle change to fix it. Yes, I said easily because I believe it to be true.
Don’t quit reading yet.... I will show you how the Bible is the basis for that belief.
The Bible tells us that we can have peace in the middle of our circumstances. In Psalm 34:19, God promises to deliver us from our many troubles. But I believe that far too often, we are so hurried that we barely have time to pause and allow God to do the work that we so desperately need Him to do in us.
Though there are a few translations for the word Selah that is used in many of the Psalms, the one I like the most is that it is a Hebrew musical term that means to “pause”, “reflect”, or “think on these things”. As the Psalms are poems intended to be sung, the idea is that a pause (Selah) allows the band to continue playing while the audience (you) reflect on the lyrics of the Psalm.
It is my hope that as you read this post, you will take time to reflect on your hectic lifestyle & think about what you can do to make a meaningful change that would result in a reduction of your stress.
Not to over simplify the issue but I believe that what causes the most stress in our lives can be narrowed down to two things - time and money.
Contemplate that in the context of your own life.
The fact is that our days are numbered and our lives are critically out of balance; if we choose to do nothing, the consequences could be costly to us personally. Psalm 90 was written by Moses who spoke face to face with God (Exodus 33:11) – talk about a close relationship! And in Psalm 90:12, Moses prays that God would teach him to number his days aright. I believe that this ought to be our prayer today as we ask God to help us have a proper perspective on life.
How can we put Matthew 6:33 into practice on a daily basis and seek God first and trust Him to add all the other things to us?
For starters, we can keep our hearts set on heaven and lower our expectation of earth. Too many of us are overly focused on creating heaven on earth and that was never God’s intention.
And we can consider living with a sense of purpose and urgency. What might that look like for you?
Discovering the “good works” that God prepared in advance for you to do (Ephesians 2:10 ) would be a worthwhile place to start. Because when you discover your purpose, life begins to have new meaning as you live in your “sweet spot”, focusing on your mission and prioritizing the things that contribute to it while gradually saying no to the other things that don’t contribute to furthering your purpose and not feeling guilty about doing so.
This Christmas, let us purpose to live in alignment with what we believe - that God’s way is perfect, His plans for us are for our good and for a future, His timing is always right, and He desires to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine
Jesus offers us so much more….more than a better now; He offers us a better place! (John 14:1-2)
Immeasurably more! Can you allow your gaze to be fixed on that?
Yolande Knight – firstname.lastname@example.org