Dr. Aryn Ziehnert
Scripture is clear that our lives will face multiple challenges. Sometimes, they come in rapid succession; and we feel overwhelmed. Other times, we don’t get a break in between. When we add this to the existing pressures of daily life, we may feel the squeeze of being “pressed on every side,” as the Apostle Paul describes.When we consider the tone of Paul’s letter to the early Corinthian church, it seems that he is counseling modern-day believers who experience the crushing weight of anxiety and stress. Jesus, however, makes it clear that soul rest and safe haven are found when we exchange the burden of striving with life challenges for what He calls easy and light (Matthew 11:28-30).
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. – 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, NIV
The Lord desires fellowship that provides respite from the anxiety and stress that a frazzled life can produce. His Spirit nourishes us with newness in His Presence when we find ourselves stranded in life’s deserts.
When we prioritize our time with Him, we encounter more than a temporary reprieve from anxiety and stress. The Holy Spirit’s wisdom equips us to embrace a flow that eases our lives with peace and joy. In doing so, He makes us like a well-watered garden that is sufficient and sustained by the true Living Water (Jeremiah 31:12; John 4:10).
“But whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” – John 4:14, NIV
Habits for spiritual success.
As believers, we can agree on the necessity of prayer, personal worship, practicing solitude, and other habits that bolster our spiritual development. It is in these oases that we encounter the refreshing presence of the Holy Spirit. Spending time with God is not simply about spouting off requests and walking away without pausing for His insights and encouragement.
We may not always pause long enough to practice it regularly, but prayer involves listening. When we attune our spiritual ear to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit, we can absorb what He shares from the Father’s Heart.
For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. – 1 Corinthians 2:11-12, NIV
We are busy on the outside with overstuffed schedules. We are busy internally, as our souls are often cluttered with the excess baggage that anxiety, stress, and worry deposit in the recesses of our minds. Despite it all, God hasn’t abandoned faithfulness to the covenant He has established with us.
He has never changed and forever will remain constant and true to the character He’s demonstrated in His Word and throughout our lives. He earnestly desires to ease us of our burdens, yet we must be willing to surrender them and take the steps to do so.
Set aside a sabbath.
Though we may not intend to do so, we cannot afford to offer God the default amount of what’s left, that is, if anything remains at all. Yet, if we don’t prioritize offering God our first and best, we will deplete strength and focus. Finding our rhythm through a sabbath or set time of rest gives us a holy pause where we encounter the joy of abiding in Him as our sanctuary or safe haven (Ezekiel 11:16).
God went first, offering us the example of turning aside from the labor of creation to experience rest, not because He was tired, but finished (Genesis 2:1-3). He modeled this for us, and invites us to follow suit, giving our minds and bodies a place within our weekly rhythms to simply be and to do it with Him.
Although our relationship with God is the most important relationship we can have, we don’t always treat it as such. Sometimes, God floats to the bottom of our priority list. We stack other pursuits, possessions, and people above Him until we find ourselves pinned under boulders and burdens. Then, when we are overrun with the stress of life, anxiety, and the pressure of worry, we wonder where God went.
He has always remained, just as Jesus promised. He desires to help us approach our lives and our time differently, affording deliberate soul care and replenishment for what will fulfill us and glorify Him.
Seek soul rest.If we cram our schedules, filling every available opening with obligation, we set ourselves up for disaster. A life without margin isn’t sustainable and it wasn’t intended to be. Invariably, we will sacrifice something concerning the health of our relationships, or our physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional well-being.
We need to create space for soul rest, to play and enjoy ourselves and the people God has placed in our lives. When we devote time for both passive and active rest, we replenish and make our bodies stronger, minds more agile, and emotions more resilient. This isn’t restricted to seasons of challenge, but it can be useful for navigating the common stressors that surface in everyday occurrences.
As we move throughout our days, we can embrace mini-vacations that don’t compromise our budget or time away from responsibility. This soul reset costs nothing but intention and a few moments of redirected attention. Whether through deep breathing, closing our eyes, or moving every few hours when possible, we permit ourselves to reset our perspective.
The act of changing what we view in both natural settings and also in spiritual surroundings retains the power to alter what we see and what we will experience as a result. When we look again at Jesus, amid our challenges, we re-envision the victory He secured for the war waged on the battlefield of our human hearts and minds.
It is essential to recognize the subtle craftiness of our enemy and not allow him to gain a foothold in our lives (Ephesians 4:27). When anxiety and stress wedge themselves in between us and Jesus, the Person and Prince of our peace, we tend to sacrifice time in the places we need to guard.
To accommodate the margin being consumed by the list of growing demands, we don’t consider removing an activity or commitment. Instead, we trade our time with God and moments needed for our soul care, offering that as the first place where we forfeit the time intended for stillness and refreshing.
Notice where you can move items around in your schedule, seriously considering subtracting, delegating, or repositioning a commitment. Rearrange one area that isn’t serving you by detracting from your joy, time with loved ones, and passion for pursuing your divine purpose.
Re-imagine what’s needed with the Lord, offering Him the prime real estate, not only in your heart but also in your day. Cast off the false religious notion that your time with God has to appear a certain way, based on what someone else is doing. Instead, embrace the time of listening and talking with the Holy Spirit to hear the Father’s Heart and speak from your own.
Next steps for overcoming stress and anxiety.
Sometimes, the peace lacking in life is attributed to the missing piece of soul rest. Without it, you can experience
weariness in wilderness places where God wants you to receive refreshing and flourish as a well-watered garden.
Take inventory, noting the areas where you may be burdened and overwhelmed by the weight of stress and anxiety. Search the resources and schedule an appointment to access the counseling support available on this site. Your soul will find a safe harbor and learn to abide and thrive in the sanctuary of the Lord’s presence.
“Cross”, Courtesy of Josh Eckstein, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Ancient Church”, Courtesy of Katie Moum, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Sunlight Through the Clouds”, Courtesy of Tom Barrett, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Morning Reading”, Courtesy of Aaron Burden, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
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