27 Sep Times of Stress 2
In the last issue we looked at two Old Testament men and the difficulties they faced; and we learnt from their experiences. This time we will look at some New Testament characters and we will see what they have to teach us.
The first bunch of people I want you to consider are the disciples on a stormy night on the Sea of Galilee (Luke 8:22-25).
It was not just mental stress; their boat was being tossed about like a cork. Matter and energy seem to have conspired to tear their vessel apart and send them floundering to a watery grave.
What thoughts would they have had? What thoughts would you have had? We should not have followed this carpenter man. Doubt. Perhaps we should not have come on this trip. Doubt. When the storms of life assail our boat, waves of vicious doubt are sure to come pounding down. Where is the Lord in all of this? Doesn’t he care? Or maybe He is not in our boat at all; He is standing safely on the shore shaking an angry finger at us!
The disciples are not the first ones to try and wake up the ‘Ancient of days’ who neither slumbers nor sleeps! About a thousand years before them the sons of Korah tried to do the same thing in Psalm 44:23 ‘Wake up, O Lord! Why do you sleep?’
The Lord had only one thing to say to them, “Where is your faith?” Note that He did not say, ‘You nitwits, you have no faith.’ He said, ‘Where is your faith?’ Bring it out, exercise it, and hold up your shield!
Most often, it is not ‘work’ that makes us tired and stressed out; it is ‘doubt’ and ‘lack of confidence.’ It could be anything – a programme, a client we have taken on, or even the work we are currently engaged in. Nagging doubts drag us down. Should I be in this place? Should I have operated on this patient? It’s like driving with your handbrakes on; like driving with only some of the cylinders in your engine firing. There is something pulling you back and everything becomes a drag!
That is why it is so important to do what David did . . . ‘Enquire of the Lord.’ You will find that he did this again and again before starting his campaigns (2 Samuel 5: 19, 23).
Before you start something pray long and hard over it; wait on the Lord for guidance. If you have assurance about what you are doing, then when doubts come you are better prepared to handle it. If you breeze into something impulsively without a prayer, then doubt will add to your stress when the going gets tough.
The next person I want you to consider is our Lord Himself. He had a lot of stress; at several points in the ministry He did not even have time to eat. But in relation to stress I want to reinforce the fact that Jesus was selective about taking on projects. He knew when to say ‘No.’ In Luke 12:14, somebody wanted Him to chair an arbitration committee. Jesus said, “Man, who made me a judge or an arbitrator over you?”
In John 7:3-5, Jesus’ brothers tell Him, and I paraphrase, “You are not going to become famous sitting in this hole. You’ve got to go to Jerusalem. That is where all the action is. And let us give you a piece of advice – do it during the big festival. You’ve got to catch the attention of the crowds.” Jesus said, ‘NO.’ Here is Dr Ida Scudder’s prayer:
“Father, whose life is within me, and whose love is ever about me,
Grant that this life may be maintained in my life today and every day,
That with gladness of heart, without haste or confusion of thought,
I may go about my daily tasks,
Conscious of my ability to meet every rightful demand,
Seeing the larger meaning of little things
And finding beauty and love everywhere.
And in the sense of Thy presence may I walk
Through the hours, breathing the atmosphere of love
Rather than anxious striving.”
You will notice that she says ‘every rightful demand.’ There are some demands on us that are unreasonable. Every need is not a calling!
The last person we can learn from today is St. Paul. In 2 Corinthians 11 we read about his trouble-filled life, his sufferings and his anxieties.
If anybody had stress – he did! One of the shipwrecks he endured is recorded in Acts 27:18-19. I would like to point out one or two things we can learn from this passage. ‘We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard. The third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands.’ The sailors lightened the ship by throwing out the things that were not necessary. Difficulties give us an opportunity to reconsider our ways. Are we doing what God wants us to do? The answer may help us change direction or it can reconfirm a calling.
You might remember the lithotripter I spoke about and what it does to inflexible stiff-necked calculi. If we don’t change we might crumble to pieces like the kidney stones that crumble under the stress of shock waves. How did Paul come through this shipwreck and so many other troubles? He tells his fellow passengers on the deck of that doomed ship, “Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong, and whom I serve, stood beside me.” The God to whom I belong. That is the key. Paul was not his own. He was always lost in the love of God, always lost in that great presence . Paul had no agenda of his own; neither the ship wreck was his idea nor the viper that bit him when he came ashore. Galatians 2:20 puts it so well; “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” ‘My old self has been crucified with Christ.’ These words which he lived out moment by moment were the secret of his irrepressible life.
When our old self rules our life we want our way.
We want to avoid suffering.
We want things to fit into our timetable.
We feel everything depends on us.
No wonder we feel stressed out when a bend in the road is not on the map we have drawn up for our day.
“The life that I now live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.”
He loved me and gave himself for me! When troubles befall us what matters is that God still loves us. We can be out of His will sometimes but we can never be out of His care! Through all the storms of life if only we can continue to believe that God loves us, we are safe. The love of God was the bedrock on which Paul’s faith rested; and when all else swayed and shook around him it held secure.
That’s why he could say in Romans 8:35,37 – ‘Who can separate us from His love, yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.’ When the stress and strains of life threaten to drown you hold on to this one thing – God is faithful, He loves you, and he always will. Jeremiah 31:3 says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.”
About the Author:
Dr Oby is an urologist working in Christian Fellowship Hospital, Ambilikai,TN.