Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Finding Rest in Times of Stress

No one can deny that today everyone is taxed with so many challenges that finding rest seems a far off goal. In today’s rush of information, priorities and tasks it is difficult to enjoy a peaceful rest. When we spend too much time focusing on finding or keeping a job in a down economy, it seems wasteful somehow to take time out to for the breaks necessary to restore a balance in our lives. The challenges seem overwhelming.
Sleep seems beyond our reach. Adrenaline flows so constantly that it becomes a toxin for us. Constant stress induces an unhealthy mindset. We choose not to exercise. We consume comfort food and drink that adds to the stress; particularly alcoholic beverages that only anesthetize us for a brief time. Comfort food is the least healthy for us. It adds empty calories that result in weight gain, clogged arteries, and nutritional imbalance.
God has provided several guidelines for stress reduction: scripture contemplation, commendation of the benefits of exercise, and strategies for changing our thinking patterns.
Scripture contemplation
In the book of Joshua, the Lord recommended to Joshua as he ascended to lead the Israelites that he not just do his leader tasks, but that he also spend time contemplating scripture. Note that in Joshua 1:7-9 God exhorted Joshua to take his role seriously and behave with strength and courage, but alto to not just talk about what He had caused to be written, but to spend time  mulling it over until Joshua could enfold it into his life and leadership.
“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go" (Joshua 1:7-9 NIV).
Benefits of exercise
Physical exercise helps the body clear out toxins that poison a person’s thinking. When toxins build up in our bodies from being continuously overstimulated, the adrenaline and noradrenaline that are at first helpful as we perceive events to threaten our lives, allowing our God-given self-protective reaction of fleeing, fighting or freezing to take place.
When our bodies are in tune, we can more effectively think and react in appropriate ways. There is a time when it makes sense to depart the situation (flee). There is a time to stand and react aggressively (fight). There is a time to hunker down and not react at all (freeze).
“Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives' tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance  (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4:7-10 NIV).
Thinking patterns
When we are stressed, clear thinking departs from our lives. We become victims of stinking thinking! As usual, God has made a way to restore our thinking processes to ones more helpful and purposeful. As we look to the Lord and conform to God’s way of doing things, it simplifies our lives so we can enjoy a lower level of stress. Knowing and conforming to God’s way is the path of least resistance and highest return on our efforts.
“. . .  I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:1-2 NIV).
Read Christ’s invitation in Matthew 11:28-30. He invites us to come when we grow weary and feel inadequate to handle the burdens we face. Then he promises to give us rest for our souls.
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV).
Remember, with God on your side, you can handle anything!