Yes, that Scripture reads, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full", but yet STILL we, for some reason, believe in our day to day life that living has to include stress, worry, fret, anxiety, and burdens. I think we typically pass these off as something everyone has to deal with--it's just a "given" we will feel this way. It's even "okay" to feel this way about things happening around us. It's what shows we are concerned with something right? I mean, come on, if we are stressed about something our heart must be burdened for that thing and therefore we are being examples of Jesus Himself when we are stressed or worried about something, right??? Sorry, folks, that is twisted truth, which is unfortunately a lie. Some people even thrive off of stressful situations so much that when life is calm and peaceful they either seek out a new stress or even create a new stress just to feel normal again. I'm NOT making that up-I've been around them--heck, I probably was one of them a while back! But is this the way our lives are supposed to be? Is that the life Jesus came for us to experience? Is that the abundant, full life Jesus is talking about in this passage above? Did Jesus die on a cross for our days to be full of stress, worry, anxiety, and burdens or did he come for us to have LIFE--a peaceful, enjoyable life?
Honesty, a few short weeks back I was floored by the simplicity of these thoughts being discussed in my class on prayer at our church. Maybe you are feeling much of the same right now. Why hadn't I ever thought of it this way before? Saying those lines in the beginning of this post seems remarkably wrong doesn't it? The Truth is Jesus did not come for us to be stressed. He did not come for us to worry. He did not come for us to carry burdens. He did not come for us to fret about life. It seems silly to even think/type those lines. It seems plain ole "wrong". When we see them before us so black and white it seems simple to understand and easy to know the Truth. So why, oh why do we not believe it? Why, oh why, do we not live it? Why, oh why, do we still spend SO much time consumed with the very things that keep us away from truly living the way God intended us to live? Why do we allow ourselves to live our day to day life out of stress, anxiety, worry, fret, and burdens?
I can honestly say I have "come a long way baby" in the worry and stress department. I used to be a walking ball of it all. Tight muscles, stern look permanently etched in my brow, avoiding all things risky if I could, fearful of the worst in every situation, grinding my teeth at night, having my chest disease flare up. I could go on and on. I was a worrier with a capital W. However, through the grace of God and His goodness in showing me who He has always seen me to be, as well as through my husband's example, I have slowly been changing to a person much more at ease--a person at peace and enjoying life. Don't get me wrong, I am a work in progress so don't go thinking I don't ever worry about anything anymore and I allow things to just bounce off of me with a smile. Notta. As always, ask my hubby and he will tell you I am s.l.o.w.l.y. getting it, but the point is NOT in how long or short it is taking me--the point is I AM getting it. And because I am getting it, I am loving it!
Micah (my hubby) is quite the opposite of me in this area. He is remarkably at ease about everything. This was not always seen by me as a virtue. To be honest, it used to annoy the crap out of me. I would be all worked up about something and he would be reading a magazine. I would be stewing about something someone said that I just KNEW I should be reading between the lines about and he would be rolling his eyes as he got ready for bed. I would be obsessing over whether I was saying the right thing at the right time to the right person and he would be saying his thoughts without worrying whether it might have effected them negatively. I would be grinding my teeth at night and he would be smacking me to try to stop the madness so he could simply get a good night's sleep. Looking back, I was frustrated with him merely because I took his unruffled way of life to mean he just didn't care about anything, which couldn't be further from the truth. Over time, and with much communication and understanding, I have seen my frustrations turn over to admiration. In those moments when I'm still letting something get under my skin to a point of consumption, I think of how Micah would be responding and it inspires me to let it go and back off. His example inspires me to breathe, let things settle a bit, and allow something or better yet, Some One, to handle things better than I am obviously doing at the time. It is moments like this where I see God's hand in placing me with this man...God uses my husband as a great example for me to follow.
Besides Micah, God has also whispered to my worried self through His Word, through the circumstances of life, and even through my health. It's as if He keeps gently reminding me in my moments of chaotically clinging to some sort of false control, "Sweetheart, I've got this. You don't have to worry about it. I am good and I'm going to stay in control of everything. Would you just leave it in my hands and go enjoy life for a change?" Doesn't that just wash you over with good feelings? Isn't that what we want someone to tell us!?!? In the moments of relationship miscommunications, don't we just want to hear, "Don't worry about this. I'll talk to each of you and figure this all out. Go enjoy a cup of coffee with her/him instead." Or when we are stressed out about an upcoming project at work, don't we want to hear, "Just do your best and get a good night's rest. I'll be with you and together we can do this thing!" Or when we are hoping we worked enough hours this week to cover the bills, don't we want to hear, "Well done, hard worker! You did everything you possibly could do and I'll make sure it's enough. Now, go enjoy the weekend with the family--you earned it!"
Well, obviously, I'm not the voice of God, but I want to bet He is saying things like this to each of us if we would only allow the volume of our worry, stress, anxiety, and burdens to be muted long enough to hear them. There are going to be experiences or situations in life where our human tendency is going to be to get worried or stressed or filled with anxiety or feel burdened. It is not that God said life would not include things that are hard. In John 16:33, Jesus says, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” You see, we will have trouble in this world, but that was not what Jesus offered...that is the world. Jesus offered peace, but it is attainable only though Him. He sent His Son as a gift to us to shoulder that burden...but we have to let Him do that. No where in the Bible does it say that God sent His One and Only Son for us to have stress, friends. We need to believe that today. Stress, worry, anxiety, and burdens are of this world...I can guarantee they will not be in Heaven. Life is too short, too important, too enjoyable to be bogged down with them. The life God intended for us to live here was not consumed by things of this world--it was to be consumed with things of Heaven with Him right at our side to help us along the way.
So, what are you worried about today, friend? What are you stressed about? What burdens are you carrying that are weighing you down? What are you fretting about? What is causing you anxiety? Would you be willing to take the hard things of this world and trade them in for the peace that Jesus is offering you? Would you be willing to give them over to Him so that you can experience LIFE, and life to the full? That is a choice I have decided to make and renew daily if I have to until it becomes my nature to turn to Him for my help instead of trying to control life by myself. Every time I catch myself getting stressed out about something...even if it seems little...even if it seems enormous...my desire is to remember the question, "Did Jesus come so that I may have stress or life?" Let's use our time, passions, and concerns for much more useful things than worry...for things that matter in the Heavenlies and not so much in the world.
If you remember above, I said God has also been showing me through His Word what He thinks about all of these things...worry, stress, burdens, fret, anxiety. I thought I would share them with you here too. If you have gotten nothing out of my words, please allow His Words to do the talking today...they are more important and life-changing anyways...
"When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul." -Ps 94:19
"So then, banish anxiety from your heart and cast off the troubles of your body, for youth and vigor are meaningless." -Ecc. 11:10
"Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety." -Ph. 2:28
"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.' -I Peter 5:7
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?" -Mt. 6:25
"Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life ?" -Mt. 6:27
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin." -Mat. 6:28
"So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them." -Mt. 6:31-32a
"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." -Mt.6:34
"Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit" -Mk. 13:11
“When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.” -Lk. 12:11-12
"Moses heard the people of every family wailing, each at the entrance to his tent. The LORD became exceedingly angry, and Moses was troubled. He asked the LORD, “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their forefathers? Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death right now—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.”
The LORD said to Moses: “Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the Tent of Meeting, that they may stand there with you. I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take of the Spirit that is on you and put the Spirit on them. They will help you carry the burden of the people so that you will not have to carry it alone." -Num. 11:10-17
"Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. Selah" -Ps. 68:19
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." -Mt. 11:28
"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.” Mt. 11:29-30
"Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them." -Lk. 11:46
"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." -Gal. 5:1
"This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith." -I Jn. 5:3-4
"Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture." -Ps. 37:1-3
"Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes." -Ps. 37:7
"Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil." -Ps. 37:8
"Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of the wicked, for the evil man has no future hope, and the lamp of the wicked will be snuffed out" -Pr. 24:18-20