A lesson I’m still learning, but understand more clearly now, is that fixing my circumstances is rarely the answer to reducing stress.
For many years this was what I said to myself: When full time parenting is over … when all my kids are grown and on their own … then I’ll be so much more relaxed, have more time to myself, and will feel a lot less stress.
It seemed so reasonable, so logical.
The “whens” were a repeated refrain for me for decades. Life will be so much easier when she sleeps through the night, or when the littlest one is out of diapers, or when he can tell me what he needs and wants, or when they are all in school, etc, etc.
There was always this horizon just ahead which I assumed would mean smooth sailing. It took me a long time to understand it’s not just circumstances that bring stress. The bigger problem was that my heart wants heaven on earth.
Yet Jesus was very clear: “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). Another verse, “man is born to trouble” (Job 5:7) is also not my favorite. Is it yours? Probably not.
“Happily ever after” is what I’ve always wanted and even tried to achieve in our little family in our little corner of the world. But even our best efforts resulted in more pain and difficulty than I ever imagined. Why? Because our world is infected by sin, which is the cause of the trouble and stress which plagues the planet.
God also knew the bubble of peace and paradise that I longed to create but couldn’t would have left me without a need for a Savior and therefore with no hope for heaven.
Today I’m no more eager to welcome trials and difficulties than I was 20 years ago. But I am wise enough now to know God always wants to produce good even in my days of feeling stressed. Miraculously, as only God can do, He takes all the ugliness and brokenness of my life and weaves good, strong, and beautiful threads to create worshipful wonder.
And now, in this empty nest season, the state of my soul can still know stress. A little poem I found summarized well the feelings of our common stress.
Pressed out of measure and pressed to all length;
Pressed so intently it seems beyond strength.
Pressed in body and pressed in soul;
Pressed in the mind till the dark surges roll;
Pressure by foes, pressure by friends;
Pressure on pressure, till life nearly ends.
Pressed into loving the staff and the rod;
Pressed into knowing no helper but God.
Annie Johnson Flint
Do you relate to feeling stressed? Have you too been surprised with how difficult life can be?
God wants the normal and supernatural stresses of life to press me into Jesus. Therefore pressure can be good. Trusting God doesn’t change my circumstances. It changes me. And that is what God desires most for me, that I become more and more like Jesus!